The greatest game you didn’t see Chris Judd play

Judd bids farewell to football at the MCG. Photo: Getty

Judd bids farewell to football at the MCG. Photo: Getty

Over time, the story of Chris Judd’s first game of senior footy has gained almost mythical status in Perth.

Judd, who announced his retirement on Tuesday after a devastating knee injury, arrived in Western Australia as an 18-year-old after playing for Sandringham in the TAC Cup competition.

He was taken with pick three in the 2001 National Draft, and although he was highly touted there were concerns over his shoulders, both of which had been operated on.

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Despite his big reputation, West Coast coach John Worsfold opted to leave Judd out of his Round 1 team to face Fremantle in 2002 – leaving him available for East Perth and their Foundation Day derby with West Perth.

The possession count varies – his coach that day, Tony Micale, put it at 25. Micale’s rival Darren Harris remembered it at as being in the high 30s.

Judd and Cameron Ling were frequent combatants. Photo: Getty

Judd and Cameron Ling were frequent combatants. Photo: Getty

Was it eight tackles? 12? 15?

The numbers grow with each passing year, but what is sure is that Judd absolutely dominated and thrilled the 3896-strong crowd at Leederville Oval.

He kicked four goals, was clearly best-on-ground, and was never sighted in an East Perth jumper again.

Micale, who was in West Coast’s match committee meeting, said he was stunned to have Judd at his disposal for the match.

“At the risk of being critical of my colleagues, which I don’t want to be, I must admit I pinched myself when we walked out of match committee knowing they didn’t select Chris,” Micale told The New Daily.

“If I’d been coach at the time I would have played him. I just couldn’t believe my good luck.

“Chris walked into the club, the team meeting the night before the game, and that was the first time he would have met our playing group.

“We have a trophy presentation after the game, all the members stay back and have a drink.

“You give trophies to the best players and obviously Chris won best-on-ground that particular day.

“As I introduced him I said: ‘have a good look at him guys, because we’ll never see him again’.”

There were rumours East Perth had auctioned off Judd’s jumper that night, but Micale put that to bed.

“That’s not true – I’ve got it,” he said.

The Judd family after Tuesday's retirement announcement. Photo: Getty

The Judd family after Tuesday’s retirement announcement. Photo: Getty

“I’ll just keep that and hand it down to my kids.”

While Micale has fond memories of the game, his West Perth counterpart that day, Harris, has less rosy recollections.

It was Harris’ first game in charge of the Falcons, and his side were put to the sword.

“I had blokes like Dennis Cometti etc come down and get involved pre-game, so we had a massive build-up – and lost by 76 points,” Harris said.

“From memory he had about 39 possessions, 14 tackles and kicked four goals.

“There was a piece of play on the outer wing where he sidestepped about four or five of our players, as he would go on to do many, many times, and kicked a goal.

“He just completely dominated.

“I just remember thinking that an 18-year-old kid could tackle like he did, run like he did – he’d had two shoulder ops. He was just phenomenal.

“I played some pretty mature bodies on him, Phil Smith had been on an AFL list, I played a few players [on him], tried to just shut him down, but nothing worked.”

West Perth captain Steve Trewhella said Judd was on another level.

Judd bids farewell to football at the MCG on Saturday. Photo: Getty

Judd bids farewell to football at the MCG on Saturday. Photo: Getty

“I played that game predominantly down in a back pocket, and he was on the wing – so I had front-row seats to the Chris Judd show,” he said.

“The thing that stood our for me was his tackling.

“Some of the stuff he did, his ability to run and carry the ball and just go around guys like they weren’t even there.

“He made me look silly, in one play he made me look like I was standing still. I remember that clearly.”

Harris would later link up with Judd when he became an assistant coach at West Coast.

“I was just lucky a few years later I got to team up with him at the Eagles, it was much better when he was on your side,” he said.

Both Micale and Harris had long associations with Judd, and both said his speed, skill and professionalism were something to behold.

“I can remember training (at West Coast) where we had to change drills or put Chris in a different position, particularly around stoppages, because he was the only one that would get the footy,” Micale said.

“As a young player working his way up, his efforts at training, the way he used to train, we used to stand on the track at times, gobsmacked with some of the things he could do. He was freakish.”

Harris said Judd was a “true professional, self-driven and set a great standard for everyone”.

“He was great in the gym, he was great on the track … it didn’t matter where he was, he was trying to be his best.”

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