Comparing Chris Judd with Gary Ablett

BOTH have controversially changed clubs while at the peak of their powers, both are undoubtedly in the top handful of players in the modern era and both are ‘follically challenged’. Of course, I am talking about Chris Judd and Gary Ablett. There is often debate over who is the better player, but for me it is a clear choice.

Judd was forced to move interstate after being taken by West Coast with pick three in the 2001 National Draft. He was always destined to be a star and the only concern from recruiters regarded his troublesome shoulders. The classy midfielder burst onto the scene in early 2002 and possessed the ability to influence matches from the onset. His breakout game came the following year when as a 19-year-old he kicked five first half goals against the reigning and eventual premiers Brisbane Lions at the Gabba. Fast forward just a little over a year and Judd has cemented his status as a superstar of the game after collecting his first Brownlow Medal. Ablett’s rise to the top was a much slower process. He was by no means unstoppable at junior level and many critical followers made the claim that it was his last name that got him drafted. During his early years at Kardinia Park, the player with the shaggy blonde hair resembled a surfer from Torquay more than a league footballer. He showed plenty of flair and skill but needed to find more of the ball and improve his consistency to take the next step. He was subjected to plenty of criticism and faced massive expectations after the high standards set by those that had already represented the Ablett name at VFL/AFL level. Judd has been elite from day one while it took a little longer for Ablett to hit his straps.

Ablett’s true breakout year coincided with Geelong’s rise to the top of the ladder. He emerged in 2007 looking a far more mature footballer and would go on to average over 30 possessions per game in a dominant four years for both himself and the club. During this period he played in two premierships with the club, made the All-Australian side four times, won a Brownlow Medal, won the Leigh Matthews’ Trophy as the AFLPA’s MVP three times, was awarded the AFLCA Champion Player three times and two best and fairest awards for Geelong. Judd’s 2007 season was the beginning of the end for his time at the Eagles. He started the season on fire and was hot favourite for the Brownlow midway during the season. However he began to suffer from a chronic groin injury that would eventually require surgery. At the end of the season he announced his desire to leave Perth and was traded to Carlton. He was immediately appointed captain of his new side and while the groin injury appeared to affect his breakaway speed, his inside game flourished and he remained a dominant player of the competition in his first year at the Blues. Judd won three consecutive best and fairest awards at Carlton, has made the last four All-Australian teams and won another Brownlow medal.

Ablett’s move to the Gold Coast at the end of the 2010 season came as no major surprise. There appeared to be tension between he and coach Mark Thompson during his final year at the Cats and there was much speculation about massive dollars being thrown at him by the new franchise. When Ablett made his much-publicised move to the Gold Coast there were question marks on whether he would maintain his status as a dominant player in the competition. His critics still believed that he relied on others to give him the ball and that he would struggle with a young Suns side that would not be able to block for him. How wrong were they? Any doubts about his ability to lead a side were quashed by the end of the season. After a slow start to the year due to groin problems limiting his pre-season, Ablett was quickly back to his usual self, gathering possessions and will and showing the class that left people in awe of his ability. Without Ablett, it is unlikely that Gold Coast would have won a single game in its first year in the competition.

Ablett faced a much tougher challenge with Gold Coast than Judd did when he arrived at Carlton. He surprised many with his leadership ability but for me, Ablett has always had the ability to lead a side. I will forever remember Ablett’s performance in Geelong’s losing grand final against Hawthorn. Despite being heavily tagged and copping numerous big hits as a result of the Hawks’ plan to play ‘unsociable football’, Ablett almost single-handedly willed his side back into the game. This game highlighted Ablett’s qualities as a leader and there is no doubt the margin would have been worse without his efforts. He was without question the best Geelong player that day and in my mind he should have been awarded the Norm Smith Medal.

Judd is the prototype build for a modern midfielder and has a great ability to win the hardball and dispose of it clearly. He is an inspirational leader on and off the field and can drag his team over the line in big games. But Ablett is the complete package as a footballer and one would struggle to find any weakness in his game. He is a human highlight reel and leaves fans in amazement on a regular basis. In my mind, Gary Ablett is a better footballer than Chris Judd; the little master is the best footballer I have ever seen.

By – Jackson Clark (@JClark182)

About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. Well argued Jackson.

    Ablett’s old man is the best footballer I’ve seen.

  2. I agree with Dips. GA senior is the best i’ve seen in 40 + years of following the game. There was a story in the Age about 2 years ago, i think it was by Greg Baum, a writer whose opinions i respect. It described junior a sthe common, garden variety champion, no slight at all, but the father was in a league of his own. Two greats of the game, maybe the best father-son combianation ever, but the father was unique. At his best he was the BEST I’VE SEEN !!!

  3. Wow…a rare chance for me to challenge both points of view!
    Juddy plays young Ablett on a break.
    Cannot swallow the Ablett snr as an “all time great” hype…

  4. Right on crio.. any hack can kick a thousand goals.

  5. Thanks Pete.

  6. Fair point Crio, but if Ablett snr is not in the pantheon of all time greats, where do you place him?


  7. Ablett > Swan >>>>>> Judd

  8. Skip of Skipton says

    Glen; not a fair point at all. crio trolling.

  9. At West Coast Judd had two stellar midfielders in Kerr and Cousins to play alongside. Cousins(a Brownlow medallist himself) in particular pushed Judd harder than any opponent ever could.
    At Geelong Ablett was the best by a street,at the Suns, he’s the best by a lot more. Judd was great in a great Eagles side but hasn’t done enough at Carlton. Ablett does and did more.

  10. Skip of Skipton says

    Greg, Judd had a Brownlow medallist (Cousins), and a runner-up in the Brownlow (Kerr) taking heat off him during most of his time in Perth. He had licence to create. They were both 2001 draftees, but Ablett was a year younger. Considerin’ all that I would say Judd were slightly ahead as a younger man. Ablett ahead as an an older man, slightly. Judd at Carlton has had to play a more gruntish/coalface role, and has done it brilliantly. He won the ’10 Brownlow, don’t forget. If I had to rate them like horses etc. I would have Judd 100 to Gary jnr. 99.00. Next beast 95.00.
    Ablett wasn’t the best at Geeolng by a street. He was given licence. Corey, Bartel, Selwood, Kelly, Linga! I prefer Geelong without Gary jnr. and Bomber Thompson.

  11. Obviously both great players. On Skip’s rating scale I would have Leigh Matthews at 110. His marking and goal kicking was a string that the other 2 have never had on their bow. And his bruising physicality. All are very hard to tackle. Matthews and Ablett more than Judd. I admire Judd’s ‘grunt’ reinvention in a middling team. Ablett is the better kick.

  12. Skip of Skipton says

    100 is the highest rating, Pete. This aint Spinal Tap or the Ballarat Freeway where you can crank it to 110!


    Gary Ablett Snr 100
    Fabulous Phil Carman 88.88
    Trevor Barker 88.00
    Adrian McAdam 87.95
    Peter Daicos 87.90

  13. Skip of Skipton says

    If you saw Fab Phil strut his stuff for the ‘Pies ‘tween ’75 and ’78 there is no dispute! Olympic Decathlete prefers slumming around Victoria Park! Serious athlete! If he had have concentrated all his energies on football as a young lad?

    Trevor Barker was the total package. Anywhere, anytime!! He played, unfortunately, in a shit St.Kilda outfit for all of his career. A team that never made the finals. He played CHB as a mainstay. Every time the Big V got selected, Trevor was one of the first chosen. Trevor holds the record for most games played without a final, with a St. Kilda team-mate from the same era, Geoff ‘Joffa’ Cunningham. How do you like your wingman? Super-fast? check! Skilled with hand or foot when holdong the ball? check! As tough as all fuck and bite your head off when the ball is in dispute? check! Joffa Cunningham! Those two were always the first couple Ted Whitten would pencil in.

  14. Skip – you obviously like your players with a bit of flair!
    No arguments at all re Feb Phil. I remember seeing him play for Norwood before coming over to Collingwood and he was in a class of his own. Probably the best “mover” I’ve seen.

  15. Dave Nadel says

    I am not sure who is the better player out of Chris Judd and Gary Ablett Jnr but I know who I admire most.

    Gary Ablett, as the son of the greatest player in the last thirty years, carrying exactly the same name, has carried a huge weight of expectation with aplomb and no indication that he finds it a handicap.

    In comparison, Ted Whitten Jnr would be remembered as a much greater player if his name had been Ted Smith or Ted Murphy. Instead he spent his whole career in his father’s shadow. Robert Rose Jnr, before his tragic car accident, had begun to shift his sporting emphasis from footy to cricket, at least partly because sports journalists and Pie fans had been comparing him unfavourably his father Bobby who was a legend of the fifties.

    Most of the great successes under the father/son rule not only have different first names to their Dads, their fathers also weren’t legends. John Scarlett, Sergio Silvagni, John Murphy, Ray Shaw, David Cloke and Bull Richardson were all very good footballers but they weren’t legends and it might have been easier for Matthew, Stephen, Marc, Heath, Travis and Richo to become better players than their fathers.

    Jobe Watson is the son of a club legend but at least he has a different first name. John Kennedy Jnr had the same name as his Dad but his Dad was a legend as a coach rather than as a player.

    I think Gary Ablett Jnr’s achievements are really impressive.

  16. Abblett is much fairer with respect to facial contact of opposition players.

  17. Skip of Skipton says

    Dave, Gary jnr has been a credit to himself and the famous name. It could have been a burden too large to bear, but is water of a ducks back to him, it seems. Nathan Ablett is the flip side. I was happy for both Gary and Bomber to take a hike after the ’10 season. It was to the clubs’ benefit as last year’s flag proved. No hard feelings to either of them. Best wishes etc.

    Ted jnr was a better footballer than most would realise. Another inch or two in height wouldn’t have gone astray. Was it his knees that cut it short for him?

    If John Murphy had have played for a higher profile club, he’d be a legend. Playing for the Royboys and South during his era was a recipe for obscurity.

    Hawthorn were mad trading Josh Kennedy to the Swans.

  18. I think it’s hard to compare. Judd began as the quickest burst player in the comp. In his older days he has transformed into maybe the best inside player. Ablett has been all round since he matured but I dont think he’s ever been the been the best at any one part of the game. The best all round for sure. I pick Judd slightly but am glad I’ve been able to witness both players

  19. Ablett might have better skills but judd is the better player. Won a Brownlow as a outside player got a bad groin injury had to change his game and won a brownlow as a inside player. 5 straight 3 brownlow votes never done. Players hanging off him all day and still gets the ball out to advantage. Freak

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