• Jobe Watson to hand back 2012 Brownlow Medal
• 'It hurts a bit', says Watson over medal return

TRENT Cotchin and Sam Mitchell will both be awarded the 2012 Brownlow Medal after a landmark ruling by the AFL Commission on Tuesday.

The pair finished equal second behind Jobe Watson in 2012, but will now receive medals after Watson last week said he would hand back his medal as a result of Essendon's supplements program.

Watson won the 2012 medal on 30 votes, four clear of Tiger midfielder Cotchin and Mitchell, then of Hawthorn but now of West Coast.

• New winners Cotchin and Mitchell feel for Jobe

But once the investigations into the Bombers started the following year, there was always going to be a doubt over whether he would keep the medal in the event of a guilty verdict.

In 2015, the Bombers were cleared by the AFL's Anti-Doping Tribunal, but that was overturned by the World Anti-Doping Authority in a hearing early last year, which left 34 past and present Essendon players suspended for this season.

The players' appeal to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland was dismissed last month, prompting Watson to hand back the medal just days before the AFL Commission was to make its ruling.

AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said the rules surrounding the Brownlow didn't give the League much room to reach any other decision.

• Read the AFL's full statement on the 2012 Brownlow Medal

He said that while it was a difficult decision for the AFL to make and a sad occasion for the League, it was also a day to "recognise and celebrate two champions of the game."

"Sam and Trent are deserving Brownlow medalists because of the quality of their play in 2012. The Commission wishes to pass on the best wishes of the entire football community."

He said the medals would be awarded to the pair at a special ceremony in front of family and friends in Melbourne next month.

League chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the decision was looked at from every angle, but that it wasn't appropriate for there to be 'no winner' in 2012.

He said Cotchin and Mitchell understood the significance of the decision, while they also felt for Watson.

"I think they had mixed emotions," he said.

Tuesday's decision is another step closer to finally drawing the curtain on a sordid episode that has hovered over the game for more than 1300 days, since Essendon self-reported to the AFL.

"That feels it's like the last decision this Commission will have to make," McLachlan said. "I'm not sure if relief is the right word. If there's a silver lining to today, that's it."

Cotchin, 26, becomes just the fifth Richmond player to win the Brownlow, following Stan Judkins (1930), Bill Morris (1948), Roy Wright (1952 and 1954) and Ian Stewart (1971).

Mitchell, 34, joins Col Austen (1949), Robert DiPierdomenico (1986), John Platten (1987) and Shane Crawford (1999) as Hawthorn Brownlow winners. He joined West Coast last month during the AFL trade period.