Career : 2008 - 2015
Debut : Round 1, 2008 vs Richmond, aged 24 years, 194 days
Carlton Player No. 1110
Games : 279 (145 at Carlton)
Goals : 228 (90 at Carlton)
Last Game : Round 10, 2015 vs Adelaide, aged 31 years, 271 days
Guernsey No. 5
Height : 189 cm (6 ft. 2 in.)
Weight : 85 kg (13 stone, 5 lbs.)
DOB : 8 September, 1983
Brownlow Medal 2010, 2004 (at West Coast)
Best and Fairest: 2008, 2009, 2010
All Australian: 2008 (C), 2009 (VC), 2010, 2011 (VC)
Club Captain 2008 - 2013
In years to come, Carlton families will tell their children about the euphoria that swept Princes Park on October 11, 2007 - the day that former West Coast champion Chris Judd ended weeks of speculation by joining the Navy Blues. Widely regarded as the greatest AFL player of the first decade of the 21st century, his recruitment was a triumph for the Carlton Football Club, and came after some of the most traumatic years in the club’s history.
Judd had created a media frenzy when he told West Coast that he intended returning to his home state of Victoria after the Eagles ended 2007 with a Semi Final loss to Collingwood. That news sparked a scramble for his signature among half a dozen clubs, but Carlton was always his most likely destination, given that the Blues were best-placed to provide the Eagles with a viable trade offer.
A big, (189 cm) brilliant, ball-winning midfielder, Judd had originally been drafted by West Coast at pick 3 (priority selection) in the 2001 National AFL Draft. In 134 games over six seasons with the Eagles, he had collected just about every possible honour, including the 2004 Brownlow Medal, the 2006 Norm Smith Medal (when captain of the Premiership team) and All Australian in 2004 and 2006. He had kicked 138 career goals, and had led West Coast as captain for two seasons.
After intense negotiations, a deal was struck that saw Carlton’s promising young key forward Josh Kennedy (number 4 in the 2005 National Draft) plus Carlton’s selections 3 and 20 in the 2007 draft, traded to West Coast for Judd and pick 43 in a huge fillip for the Carlton Football Club. In mid-November at a press conference announcing a new three year sponsorship deal with Hyundai, it was confirmed that Judd would wear guernsey number 5. And such was his standing in the game, he was appointed as the 47th captain of the Blues before he had even worn his new colours in a game for Premiership points.
The only reservation about Judd’s future concerned a groin injury that he had carried through most of his last season with the Eagles. It had clearly hampered him for most of 2007, so he was scheduled for specialist surgery prior to taking over as skipper of the Blues. Supporters everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when the pre-Christmas post-op reports all came up positive, and membership sales boomed into the new year.
The Carlton masses’ excitement hit fever-pitch when “Juddy” made his Carlton debut against Richmond under lights at the MCG in round 1 of 2008, on a balmy Thursday night. With every one of his 22 possessions (including two in the first minute) the crowd roared with excitement, although the Tigers eventually spoiled the celebration and won by 30 points.
As the season progressed it was obvious that Judd was taking longer than hoped to reach peak fitness, even though his class shone through week in, week out. He celebrated his first victory as Carlton captain in the round 4 clash against arch-rivals Collingwood, and missed just one match (because of concussion) all year. Although the Blues wound up only eleventh on the ladder, afterwards there was plenty to be optimistic about. The Blues had beaten Collingwood twice, taken revenge on Richmond in the return game, and scored impressive victories on the road against West Coast and Port Adelaide. But definitely the team’s best effort for the season came when the Blues over-ran Premiership contenders the Western Bulldogs at Docklands Stadium in round 17 – coming from 37 points behind late in the third quarter to win by 28. Judd was superb in a Best on Ground display, which saw him collect 32 disposals, and three of his 16 Brownlow Medal votes for the year.
Thus 2008 was yet another great season by the AFL’s outstanding player – a year in which he led the competition for contested possessions and hard ball gets. As a consequence, there was no surprise when Carlton proclaimed him as Best and Fairest, nor when he was named All Australian captain. By any measure, that was a phenomenal effort by Judd, in a season where he had next to no real preparation, took time to recover from major groin surgery and - it was later revealed - carried a shoulder injury from round 3 onwards. An undisputed champion of the game, he had proved all the doubters wrong in the most emphatic way.
Judd began his second season at Carlton very differently from the first. Although he went under the surgeon’s knife again over the Christmas holiday season to repair his damaged shoulder, he was able to complete a full pre-season program – and even packed some extra kilos onto his powerful frame. Carlton’s marketing department came up with a catchy slogan for 2009; They Know We Are Coming, using Judd as the focal point. It was a bold idea that gave Blues’ supporters real hope that our finals drought could be ending at last, and attracted record membership numbers for the second year running. But it also placed enormous pressure on Judd as captain of a team that was undeniably talented, yet young and inexperienced.
The season began sensationally when the Blues smashed Richmond by 83 points in the opening round, and Judd gave fans a preview of what they could expect for the remainder of the year with another Best on Ground display. Although the team suffered a heavy blow when versatile big man Jarrad Waite wrecked a knee in round 9 against Adelaide at AAMI Stadium, key victories over Collingwood, the Western Bulldogs and flag favourites Geelong eventually saw Carlton claim a longed-for chance to play on into September. By finishing seventh, the Blues booked an Elimination Final clash against Brisbane at the Gabba on the first weekend of the finals.
Carlton enjoys strong support in the northern capital, and on another warm Brisbane Saturday night, the ground was packed when Juddy led his boys out to rapturous applause. Confident after accounting for the Lions in both of their home and away clashes, the Blues seemed to be in control of the match at the last break – only to fade badly, and Brisbane surged home to win by 7 points in a hugely-disappointing end to a season of real improvement.
Further bad news came after the game, when the AFL match review panel cited Judd for ‘unreasonable and unnecessary contact’ to the face of Brisbane’s Michael Rischitelli – a mystifying act that cost Judd suspension for the first three rounds of 2010. Even so, that incident couldn’t take any real gloss off another superb season by the Juddanaught, who won Carlton’s Best and Fairest in a landslide, retained his place in the All Australian team as vice-captain, and finished runner-up to Geelong’s Gary Ablett in the Brownlow Medal – doing no damage at all to his reputation as the most influential player in the game.
Carlton’s 2010 was an almost mirror image of 2009 – with one huge exception. Although devoid of their inspirational captain for the first three matches, the Navy Blues began the year well, only to fall into a form slump mid-season. A couple of big wins over traditional rivals Essendon and Richmond - followed by disappointing losses to Geelong and Fremantle in the last two rounds - saw the Blues hang on grimly to eighth place, and book another Elimination Final berth - this time, against the Sydney Swans at ANZ Stadium in the first weekend of the finals. In shades of the previous year, the Blueboys surged back into contention after looking shaky at half-time against a steadier Swans combination, and lost a spine-tingling contest by five points. Three crucial, gettable, running shots on goal by Jarrad Waite, Judd himself, and Jeff Garlett - all missed, and the Blues fell at the first finals hurdle again.
A fortnight after that bitter disappointment, Chris Judd’s career broke new ground when he was a clear winner of the 2010 Brownlow Medal – polling 30 votes to turn the tables on Gary Ablett (26 votes) and the hot favourite; Dane Swan of Collingwood (24). What made Judd’s win so remarkable was that after he returned from suspension in round 4 of the season, he was voted Best on Ground in five consecutive games - rounds 4 to 8 inclusive. An achievement he shares with only two other players, Justin Madden and Brent Harvey. Juddy also joined a select few who have won the game’s highest individual honour at two different clubs. And just to top off another stellar season, he was voted Carlton’s club champion and John Nicholls Medalist for the third straight year.
In 2011, the Carlton Football Club continued to push toward a 17th Premiership. Only a cruel run of mid-season injuries to key big men Jarrad Waite, Matthew Kreuzer, Shaun Hampson and Michael Jamison prevented the Blues from progressing past the Semi Finals, but as compensation there was a marked improvement right across the list. Six Blues; Judd, Murphy, Scotland, Walker, Betts and Garlett; played every game, while seven others missed six matches or less.
Once again, Judd was magnificent in leading by example, and it was generally agreed that he had an even better all-round season than 2010. In June, Chris and his wife Rebecca (and indeed the whole Carlton community) welcomed their first-born son; Oscar Dylan, and by late August, one betting agency had already paid out to punters who had backed the Carlton captain to win his third Brownlow Medal. That decision seemed vindicated when he was the runaway winner of the AFL Players Association Best Captain and Most Valuable Player awards, as well as being named vice-captain of the All Australian team – the sixth time he had been selected, and fourth in succession.
However, as usual on Brownlow night, there were plenty of surprises. After the first 11 rounds were counted, the Juddanaught had polled just 7 votes and was seemingly out of contention. Then, in a grandstand finish, he collected three best on ground votes between rounds 17 and 20 to end the night with 23 – 11 behind the emphatic winner; Dane Swan of Collingwood, who reversed the result of 2010.
When the 2012 season commenced with crushing wins over Richmond, Brisbane and Collingwood in succession, the Navy Blues leapt into outright favouritism for the flag. But the following week’s surprise defeat by Essendon was made doubly traumatic by injuries to Andrew Carrazzo, Jeremy Laidler and Chris Yarran – all of whom would not fully recover before season’s end. From that point on, Carlton’s injury list just kept growing, while the team’s confidence just kept eroding.
By early July, Carlton was out of the top eight (although coming off a surprise win over Collingwood the previous weekend) when they met North Melbourne at Docklands in a Friday Night Special. In a game where the Northerners displayed sensational accuracy (finishing with 24.5 to Carlton’s 14.12) they were getting right on top in the second quarter when Judd was involved in a bizarre incident. He grabbed and appeared to twist the arm of North’s Leigh Adams in a “chicken-wing” tackle, and all hell broke loose. Later charged by the Match Review Panel with bringing the game into disrepute, he was found guilty and suspended for four matches in a mortal blow to Carlton’s finals aspirations.
Eventually, the shell-shocked Blues staggered to a twelfth-place finish by losing the last two games of the season. Senior coach Brett Ratten was then sacked and replaced by former Collingwood Premiership coach Mick Malthouse for 2013. Meanwhile, Judd - despite being absent for five games through injury and suspension - continued to underline his enormous on-field influence. Yet again, he collected more votes than any other Blue in the Brownlow Medal, before finishing third behind Heath Scotland and Eddie Betts in the 2012 John Nicholls Medal.
In December, conjecture swirling through the football media was followed by a club announcement that Judd had asked to be relieved of the captaincy. “It has been a tremendous privilege to captain this footy club, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the past five years,” he said. “However, I have decided I want to step down and hand the job over to someone else, and with a new coach, it seemed like the right time for a fresh start at the club. At this stage of my career, I am looking forward to getting back to enjoying the essence of footy, and not having as much responsibility around the club as I have had in previous years. I certainly won’t be pushing any less hard to bring success, and will still have an active role. However it just won’t be in an official leadership capacity.”
Although relieved of the burden of captaincy, Judd’s season in 2013 was much the same as 2012. In 20 matches he averaged 22 possessions and 5 clearances per game, even as the cumulative effects of a long career continued to take toll on his body. No longer could he explode out of a pack the way he used to – but when his team needed a lift, the Juddster could still summon a quarter or two of exceptional football.
Carlton began the year with losses to Richmond, Collingwood and Geelong respectively, with Judd averaging 26 possessions per game. In round 12 against Hawthorn, he was credited with 29 disposals in his 250th career match, before he damaged his left knee in a shock loss to the Western Bulldogs at Docklands Stadium in early August. Post-match prognosis ruled him out for the rest of the season, but a fortnight later, in an extraordinary sequence of events, Essendon was disqualified from the finals. Carlton then beat Port Adelaide by a point in round 23 to snatch the Bombers’ place, and booked an Elimination Final clash against traditional rivals Richmond the following week.
Although he had been actually been mothballed by the club, Judd convinced his coaches to select him for the clash against the Tigers, and thrilled a great part of the enormous 94,000 crowd with a vintage performance. Trailing by five goals late in the second term, the Blues mounted a counter-attack and eventually overwhelmed the hot favourites by 20 points. Judd was instrumental in the fight-back – particularly in the third quarter - and his last-term sealer on the run was greeted by an emotional roar that will stick in the memory forever.
When a physically and emotionally-drained Carlton team lost the following week’s Semi Final to the Sydney Swans, the Carlton faithful were left with conflicting emotions. The harsh facts were that the team had yet again fallen short of expectations, and only qualified for the finals in unprecedented circumstances. Furthermore, it had become ever more evident that the curtain was about to come down on the Judd decade at Carlton. Approaching 31, and with his battered body under assault in every game, Chris was expected to retire when his contract expired after one last season. That expectation gained traction when he suffered tendonitis early in 2014, and didn’t play a senior game until round 5. Carlton beat the Western Bulldogs in that encounter on a Sunday afternoon at Docklands, but Judd tore a hamstring in his first few minutes on the ground and was sidelined again for eight weeks.
In his absence, Carlton’s season went from bad to worse. By the time he was welcomed back into the side for round 13 against Hawthorn, the Blues were languishing in 12th spot on the ladder, and things didn’t improve much after that. Carlton won only three more matches, and fought a draw against Essendon in round 23 to finish 13th. Meanwhile – to the surprise and joy of the Navy Blue masses - Judd’s form in the latter part of the year was a revelation. Back to something like his scintillating best, the Juddster averaged 22 disposals, 5.5 clearances, 4.3 inside 50s and almost 4 tackles per game, before giving the club’s fan base a much-needed lift by extending his contract for one more year.
In hindsight, that decision was a mistake, because there has surely not been a more bleak season in the 150-year history of the Carlton Football Club than 2015. It began with three straight losses, reached rock bottom when senior coach Mick Malthouse was sacked after seven defeats in eight matches, and plumbed new depths when Judd wrecked his left knee in round 10 against Adelaide on a Saturday afternoon at the MCG. A shockwave of disbelief washed over the stadium in the minutes after he fell to the ground in pain, and when it was later confirmed that a full reconstruction was required, his decision to end his magnificent career was not a surprise.
So, how do we sum up Chris Judd’s enormous contribution to the Carlton Football Club, and the game overall? On Tuesday, June 9, 2015, shortly after the Juddanaught confimed that his career was over, the following passages were included in a tribute penned by club historian Tony De Bolfo, and published on the Carlton website.
"There’s a certain futility in trying to draw comparisons with Judd in an on-field context, for he was a generational player the likes of which is rarely, if ever, seen - and yet in the context of the period in which he played, thoughts turn to a Carlton champion of a bygone era.
Horrie Clover represented Carlton in two more senior appearances than Judd, plying his craft at Princes Park as a centre half-forward through 11 seasons from 1921. A returned serviceman, Clover gave his all to the club through the longest Premiership drought in its largely illustrious history. Clover came and went in those 23 barren years from 1915, but such was his virtuosity that he almost singlehandedly kept the turnstiles clicking. So it was with Judd, whose second coming at Carlton in late 2007 raised the collective spirits of the tens of thousands who’d lamented the flagging fortunes of a football club which had somehow lost its way.
While it’s sadly true that the much sought after second Premiership eluded him, it could truly be said of Chris Judd that his greatest gift to the people of Carlton was the gift of hope."
FootnotesAmong the many accolades showered upon Judd in the weeks and months after his retirement was the 2015 Madden Medal, presented to him by the AFL Players Association. Named in honour of brothers Simon and Justin Madden, the Medal is awarded each year to the retiring player who has best demonstrated on-field excellence, personal development and community spirit over the course of his playing career.
Milestones150 Games (AFL): Round 17, 2008 vs Western Bulldogs
200 Games (AFL): Round 2, 2011 vs Gold Coast Suns
200 Goals (AFL): Round 11, 2012 vs Geelong
100 Games (Carlton): Round 14, 2012 vs Hawthorn
250 Games (AFL): Round 12, 2013 vs Hawthorn
Career Highlights2008 - Captain
2008 - 2008 Hall of Fame Game: Victorian State Player
2008 - Best and Fairest - John Nicholls Medal
2008 - All Australian Captain
2008 - Most Carlton Votes in Brownlow Medal
2009 - All Australian Vice Captain
2009 - Best and Fairest - John Nicholls Medal
2009 - Most Carlton Votes in Brownlow Medal
2009 - The Age Footballer of the Year
2010 - All Australian - Brownlow Medal
2010 - Best and Fairest - John Nicholls Medal
2011 - AFLPA Best Captain
2011 - Leigh Matthews Trophy AFLPA Most Valuable Player
2011 - All Australian Vice Captain
2012 - Most Carlton Votes in Brownlow Medal
2012 - 3rd Best and Fairest - John Nicholls Medal
2015 - AFL Players' Association Madden Medal
LinksArticles: Before Chris Judd, there was.... | Gibbs & Judd - Related?
Judd - 3 Goals vs Melbourne - Round 5, 2008 | Judd - The Bulldogs - Round 17, 2008 | Brownlow: End of voting Rd 20 -22 | Brownlow: Judd Interview after winning
Blueseum: A summary of Judd's playing career | The Chase for Judd | Judd v Carlton | Judd's Blueseum Image Gallery