IF Essendon sent Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher to Wangaratta yesterday as part of its damage control strategy, it worked.
The drug scandal and last year’s botched flight to the North East were distant memories for the Bomber faithful who hovered around Murphy Street hoping for a quick chat or photo with their idols.
Not many went home disappointed either.
Watson and Fletcher appeared far from stressed from the controversy that has engulfed the AFL club as they happily did whatever asked of them by the fans and media.
The pair answered questions and posed for photos for more than an hour before casually meandering their way up Murphy Street and into Reid Street.
The man selling raffle tickets for the Wangaratta Woodworkers also went home happy after Watson and Fletcher produced their wallets and forked out some cash without leaving phone numbers.
Fletcher said he enjoyed escaping the hustle of city life.
“You come to country towns and people up here just love it,” he said.
“It’s good to travel around.
“I have played at Shepparton and Albury over the years and now Wangaratta, which will be good.”
The fact that the clock is ticking on Fletcher’s grand career makes him appreciate every game he plays, with the 37-year-old eager for ground time at Norm Minns Oval tomorrow.
Entering his 21st season and set to take over as Essendon’s games record-holder from Simon Madden later this year, the rebounding backman said he still craves the contest.
“It’s been going well,” he said.
“I would have done 95 per cent of the preseason.
“I can’t do as much as the 20-year-olds but my body is good.
“I’m feeling fit.
“Preseasons are hard, but mentally you aren’t playing games so you get that rest.”
With the exception of 1992, there has been a Fletcher, a Watson, or both, playing for the Bombers in every season since 1967.