Sport AFL Why Chris Judd captured minds but not hearts
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Why Chris Judd captured minds but not hearts

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You get the feeling footy will miss Chris Judd more than he’ll miss it when the champ finally calls it a day.

Whenever he tells Mick Malthouse he doesn’t want to be on the AFL merry-go-round anymore, Carlton’s media managers will click into gear, sending round the obligatory email advising journalists to convene at the Visy Park theatrette.

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Judd at the 2004 Brownlow Medal count. Photo: Getty

The place will be packed, heaving with far more bodies than the week of Bryce’s 150th or Jamo’s 200th.

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Bryce and Jamo will no doubt be among the throng, as will Marc. Mick will sit next to the champ and be on his best behaviour for once, saying all the right things about how Judd’s the model professional.

It’s hard to see Judd crying, Simon Black style, or even just getting a bit red-eyed. His old mate Dean Cox’s voice broke and he said telling his teammates was one of the hardest things he’s done.

Even on the nights he won the Brownlow Medal, he looked a touch removed from it all – an inanimate carbon rod next to that luminous red dress.

We know Judd feels – he wouldn’t have elbowed Steven Baker or Matthew Pavlich (which somehow didn’t cost him a second Brownlow), or chicken-winged Leigh Adams, if he was completely immune to emotion.

But there’s always been an air of repose about Judd. Even as a club captain you got the feeling he was one step removed. He’s never seemed like one of the boys.

Like his good mate Daniel Kerr, Judd was obtuse – the antithesis of the manic bloke he replaced as West Coast captain, Ben Cousins.

Cousins, as we now know, is a deeply flawed man. He fought for years to control his Mr Hyde during the football season, and if his teammates were not aware of his spiral, they must have had an inkling.

Yet the West Coast players would have followed Cousins to hell and back. Judd may have captured minds, but never hearts.

His reserved nature is legendary. Even on the nights he won the Brownlow Medal, he looked a touch removed from it all – an inanimate carbon rod next to that luminous red dress.

None of this should surprise. Judd has gone on record labelling footy a “self-indulgent pastime” and said kids who used players as role models without knowing them personally were “silly”.

Last week Leigh Matthews hit out at Judd, saying he lacked “competitive will”.

“He’s a great player, I agree with that,” Matthews said on 3AW.

“I would argue that he doesn’t provide that grunt, that competitive will.

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Odd couple: Judd and Cousins. Photo: Getty

“I’m talking about the (Joel) Selwood type, the Lenny Hayes type you just think these guys have got a will that gets their team over the line.

“I use the names of the players because I think you can visualise what they do … Luke Hodge is another one.”

Reading between the lines, I believe the point Matthews was trying to make – clumsily – is that Judd was never a ‘heart and soul’ player.

After almost seven seasons in navy blue, both parties can consciously uncouple and remember the good times they shared.

This is unfair, as anyone who saw his efforts in the final term of the 2006 grand final – playing out the match with a severely injured shoulder – can attest.

But Matthews just picked up on the general impression Judd has given off throughout his 12-year career: that he could take it or leave it.

He strikes you as the last bloke who’d fall into depression when he hangs up the boots. Whatever his plans are, you can’t imagine a frantic call to the AFL Players Association is on the cards.

While Nick Maxwell and others have weighed in urging Judd to play on, now is the perfect time for him to walk away from Carlton on good terms.

He doesn’t need the humiliation of nursing his body through a season where he can’t impact the way he once did. Play him as a forward, or use him as a sub? Give me a spell. Put him out to pasture, like the champion racehorse he was in his prime.

The stats may say Judd should play on, but his impact was never about racking it up. It was about the moments that took the breath away, scything through packs like everyone else was in quicksand.

People talk about his third quarter in that final against Sydney in 2010, but Judd’s peak came in the blue and gold of West Coast.

His five-goal first-half effort against Brisbane in 2003 (a premiership year for the Lions) was one of the most majestic halves of football ever played.

The trade was win-win. West Coast got a quality key forward who’ll play for a decade (and a blue collar midfield accumulator who lacks poise) while Carlton got the man regarded as the best player in the comp at the time.

Now, after almost seven seasons in navy blue, both parties can consciously uncouple and remember the good times they shared.


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the-gameThe Game is a collection of the best AFL writers and the magnificent moments on and off the field from more than 10 years of AFL. This collection delves behind the statistics, examining the people, teams and emotions that make the game. From Carey to Cousins, Judd to Franklin, Sheedy to Malthouse, the dark days of the Blues to the dynasties of the Brisbane Lions and Geelong, and everything in between, it offers the winning combination of great stories and top-notch writers.

 

 

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