IPSWICH cricketers have rallied behind their favourite son Shane Watson.
Locals who played alongside the Australian Test vice-captain, as well as former coaches, all described him as a team player.
Watson, who returned home for the birth of his child after being suspended from the team for not completing a performance review, has been accused of letting the Australian team down.
One of Ipswich's leading cricketers, Ben O'Connell, yesterday defended Watson against the accusations.
O'Connell attended Grammar with Watson. The pair later played first grade club cricket together with Redlands. He said Watson always displayed team qualities, even when he was injured.
"Watto couldn't play rugby in his last year of school because he had stress fractures on his back so he volunteered to help coach our under-13's rugby team after cricket season.
"He is definitely a team player."
Mayor Paul Pisasale, who gave Watson the Keys to the City in 2011, said he'd done the right thing coming home from India after the suspension with his wife expected to give birth in coming days.
"Shane Watson is salt of the earth, he's represented his family well, his city well and I see more of him as a person now because he's going to be with his family," he said. "He is a team player. What's going to be more important in life, the game you played or the birth of your child?"
Cr Pisasale said he'd always been impressed with Watson.
"Who's criticising him? I'll bet no one from Ipswich. During the floods when he scored that century in Adelaide he was up here the next day playing cricket with the kids in North Booval and all through the floods he was there."
A former Ipswich junior teammate of Watson, Michael Hillier, thought the Australian vice-captain's suspension was an overreaction.
"Watto has always been a guy who's been pretty straight down the line," Hillier said.
"He was always that sort of dedicated bloke and he would never miss anything.
"I don't think I've ever seen him involved in any sort of trouble or any sort of disciplinary action.
"I just hope he gets back in there and it's all smoothed over pretty quick."
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