Chris Judd: Emotion trumps bare pragmatism

Chris Judd said goodbye on Tuesday, and for the perfect player it was perhaps the perfect farewell.

Judd has built a reputation as a pragmatist, the rare player who has openly stated he’s not interested in football beyond his career. It’s a trait that has bled through in the Carlton  half of his career. He couldn’t be the Road Runner blitzing the opposition Coyotes of the West Coast Brownlow and Flag days , for his own physical capabilities and the diminished supporting cast he now had, so he adapted to use his explosiveness in close and won a Brownlow that way. The ‘Chicken Wing’ tactic was borne out of the percentage play of tackling an opponent’s one arm – much more obvious to an umpire that he isn’t disposing the ball legally if he only has one arm pinned.

It’s a ruthless pragmatism that symbolises the way it ended for him. You can come back from major knee injuries at 31 but what was it going to achieve?
He summed up dryly in his farewell press conference that in hindsight clearly he shouldn’t have gone on. Why not? “Well I didn’t play in a win and I have to have a knee reco.”

If  we don’t hear Judd on football again it will be a shame, as his pragmatism has the ability cut through the bullshit that can surround AFL like a hot knife through butter. He made some pointed comments about community and media expectations on footballers compared to society and he has a cachet that will offer the chance to speak his mind on a number of topics if he chooses.

There has almost been a mythology built up around Judd over the years to do with this pragmatism. The fact that he had no interest in football media, the fact that he didn’t seem to be a football junkie, that he was more interested in environmental issues that footy, the oft-repeated “I only read the Financial review” quote.  It played into a caricature of Judd that stood him apart, perhaps by design.  Mixing his intelligence with an air of ambivalence towards the whole footy circus, it built an extra level of armour and mystique around the man and the player.

It was a mystique that worked for Judd, the media and the public  saw his football with awe and we looked on at the man in a sense of awe, in that he had no interest in the footy bubble, he had more important things in his mind that the average punter didn’t really comprehend. He was hard to criticise, for while we never admit it, criticism is less likely if we don’t think the person would even consider it.  However the sense of Judd the outsider was never forced or arrogant, it was natural and he was loved. And so born was a general consensus that Judd would leave footy on his own terms, that they’d be no farewell tour, that one day he’d be gone when we least expect it and he wouldn’t pander to the romantics.

Bob Dylan sang on his crusade for jailed boxer Reuben ‘Hurricane’ Carter;  “It’s my work he’d say and I do it for pay/ And when it’s over I’d just as soon go on my way.” There was a feeling that maybe Judd didn’t really love footy like so many do.

Whether the coolness was manufactured or natural, Judd’s retirement press conference gave us a new perspective. He spoke about footy being part of his life since a child. How footy had been part of every life decision from the age of 16 onwards. His voice quivered and cracked and he fought back tears as he spoke about his last moments on a field as opposition fans gave him a standing ovation,  he knew that was unprecedented in footy and the reverence had moved him.

Judd the ultimate footy pragmatist, performing the ultimate pragmatic retirement, revealed that the game stripped bare made him sentimental like the rest of us.


  1. Brutus,
    I am no expert on human behaviour, but I would suspect that Judd’s “coolness”” would be very hard to manufacture.

  2. Dr Goatboat says

    And I believe his “matriculation” (showing my age), TEE or whatever it is, put him in the top echelon of school leavers….I seem to recall score of 99 or equivalent…(it was As and Bs etc in my day)

  3. I thought the Adelaide fans standing for Judd when he left the ground was magnificent. Well done them.

    Jud spoke very well in his press conference and in a few interviews I heard. He is a class act. Dwayne Russell asked his usual inane rubbish but Gerard Healy on 3AW got Juddy talking about matters in some depth. I reckon we are going to hear a lot more from C. Judd in the commercial world.


  5. Andrew – I think he can do better than that.

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