Chris Judd’s passion for playing football is something he says he never lost throughout his playing career.
Judd is what can be termed the ‘thinking person’s footballer’. While loving the sport and his time playing it, he is the first to acknowledge it has been just one part of the bigger picture of the person he is.
Rob Wiley agrees, adding that Judd’s legacy is of someone who leads by example with a strong work ethic and says the ability to have had the career Judd has is a testament to the man he is more than the player he was.
Wiley is a close friend and former member of the coaching staff at both Carlton and West Coast – the clubs with which Chris Judd played his 14 year career.
“When I think that he never swayed, he spoke his mind. The legacy of what I’ve seen in the last three years of the impact he’s had on young players has just been enormous. He has great morals and values but also really good ways to be able to go about improving yourself," Wiley told The Huffington Post.
“He worked harder than anyone. You can have talent, and Chris had obvious talent, but it was the work ethic that he was able to be really successful and sustain that ability over a period of time,” he said.
(Carlton Asst coach Rob Wiley (L) sitting with Mick Malthouse (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images))
In reflecting on his career, Judd simply says he knows he has been very lucky; meeting many amazing people and taking away many important lessons from his time in football.
He believes strongly in a whole world approach to life and staying true to one’s principles. He knows the way he survived the highs and lows of an AFL career – through injury, the media spotlight and performance ups and downs – was to keep a strong sense of perspective: something he believes is important to pass on to young players in the modern era.
With the advent of social media, camera phones, more expansive broadcast coverage and bigger crowds, the challenge for those who are essentially still kids when they’re drafted, is big. But, as Chris Judd points out, they also have more support from the clubs and the competition as a whole.
“There is only a certain amount that clubs and the AFL can do to help young players – there still has to be buy-in from the young players and there has to be that understanding that footy – in the big scheme of things – plays a very small part of what’s happening in society and they can realise that and have some interest outside of footy: to be interested in things that are going on in the bigger wider world as well -- I think that’s really important for young players," he told The Huffington Post, reflecting on these aspects of his life at the launch of his autobiography titled ‘Inside’, last week at the MCG.
This sense of perspective served him well during his time at West Coast in the reportedly turbulent times around the 2006 season.
Recently re-emerging in the news, the issue of a drug culture among the Eagles playing group at the time has Judd reflecting on the role of the media more than the extent of the situation which existed.
He is somewhat critical of the media’s tendency to tell the juicy story rather than the positive one and that players are subjected to a lot of scrutiny.
Judd returns to the notion of perspective.
“At the end of the day, the list is made up of 45 players; some of them go to church every Sunday, some of those guys have
finished MBAs, some are running small businesses and a small number have battled with habituate drug use, either during their footy career or after,” he says.
“The nature of media is to write a story … about the couple of guys that are struggling, and that’s not to say that should be washed over or not treated as a serious issue because clearly everyone at the club acknowledges that things could have been done better, but at the end of the day, it’s also important to keep a perspective.”
Chris Judd is not the first footballer to write a post-career book nor will he be the last. But he says this was about getting his thoughts on paper in quite a personal way, telling about lessons learnt and his impressions of the world which had been the major focus of his life.
“I felt I had a lot of thoughts about my career and to have the chance to document all the things I’ve learnt and what I was thinking about things that were going on around me,” he said.
His retirement this year was, some would say, not unexpected but the way in which it unfolded was sudden and ultimately a sad end to a champion's career.
Going down with a ruptured ACL mid-season was the final straw for the then 31 year old who had consistently battled with injury throughout his football life.
Now working in the area of ethical investments in the private investment management industry, Judd says he has returned to being just a fan of the game enjoying being able to sit back and watch what unfolds without reading too much into it.
There is no doubt that while Judd’s years in football gained him both supporters and the occasional critic, he will be remembered as one of the great exponents of the game and one of the great men of the sport.