Last week, Chris Judd joined the likes of Glenn Archer, Brett Kirk, Robert Harvey and Lenny Hayes as a winner of the AFL Players’ Madden Medal, for outstanding achievements on and off the field. Since hanging up the boots midway through the year, the 32-year-old has had time to reflect on the opportunities footy provided him with, as well as the techniques he used to navigate through the challenges of an AFL career.
Chris Judd’s remarkable 14-year career was littered with highlights – but if there’s one sour moment that sticks in his mind, it’s the abrupt ending that occurred during the Blues’ Round 10 clash against Adelaide.
Judd fell awkwardly in a marking contest early in the match, tearing his ACL and announcing his retirement soon after, having previously committed to 2015 being his final season.
It ended one of the most decorated careers of the modern era, with Judd playing 279 games for the Eagles and the Blues and claiming numerous accolades, including two AFL Players’ MVP Awards, two Brownlow Medals, a premiership, a Norm Smith Medal, the captaincy of both clubs, and a fistful of club best and fairest awards and All-Australian selections.
Speaking about his autobiography on 3AW Mornings program on Tuesday, the dual Brownlow Medallist said immediately knowing his career had ended following the incident was hard to deal with for two reasons.
“I wasn’t comfortable handing over control of my emotions to journalists I didn’t know, who largely didn’t know me.” – Chris Judd
“I think the worst pain I had was the 20 seconds after I tore my ACL in my last game. Firstly because it was incredibly painful as the nerve severs and secondly, knowing that was it pretty much straight away,” Judd said.
“After 20 seconds there was no pain so, once that nerve severs, you don’t feel a thing, which is unusual but initially that was pretty severe.”
Judd’s recollection of this painful moment made for typically fascinating listening.
The 32-year-old has built a reputation as a measured and insightful public speaker throughout his time in the game – but he admits, from early in his career, he avoided the media wherever possible.
After being drafted with pick no.3 in the 2001 AFL ‘superdraft’, Judd was asked about the weaker aspects of his game. He often responded, kicking was an area in which he could improve. Soon after, stories emerged suggesting Judd’s kicking skills were poor.
But it wasn’t just the negative stories that influenced his attitude towards the media.
“I did really go out of my way to avoid consuming any media,” he said.
“I remember when I was 18, I had an article written about me that was really complementary and [left me feeling] really good. [I remember] thinking ‘if a positive article can make me feel good than the inverse of that is a negative one can make me feel bad.’ I guess I wasn’t comfortable handing over control of my emotions to journalists I didn’t know, who largely didn’t know me.
“So I made an effort to avoid all media. If a story came on about West Coast or, later on, Carlton, I’d just change the channels for a few minutes, wouldn’t read the papers other than the financial review where footy wasn’t overly prevalent, but I changed that in the last couple of years of my career and was more comfortable.
“It was just a control strategy. Just like if you’re a problem gambler, you don’t walk into a TAB. What’s more powerful is being able to read something and not let it bother you, but in those early years I was probably pretty highly strung and chose to avoid it.”
Since entering retirement, Judd has enjoyed life outside the AFL world. He began working for a private investment group in the property funds management area. But Judd hasn’t ruled out making a return to football sometime in the future.
For now, he remains firmly fixated on his business ventures – so much so that wife Rebecca commented on SEN radio last Friday that he’s almost busier now than when he was playing.
“a lot of players think, ‘I’ll have a year off and do some travel.’ Then one year becomes two or three and , before you know it, all they’ve done is play a bit of local footy and done a few sportsman nights.” – Chris Judd
Judd said being proactive and pursuing outside interests has been the key to coping well with life after football.
“My initial thought was I’d have six months off until the end of the year and reassess what I wanted to do, but I just found myself getting a bit stir-crazy at home.
“I think a lot of players think, ‘I’ll have a year off and do some travel.’ Then one year becomes two or three years and, before you know it, all they’ve done is play a bit of local footy and done a few sportsman nights.
“I think a lot of doubt creeps in as to if they can cope in the workforce, so for me to get presented with an opportunity for a really good company with some smart people and to get busy was important.”
Finishing in the top three of his clubs’ best and fairest count on 10 occasions, Judd believes he’s fortunate to have been able to do what he loved for so long.
He said playing in the AFL is a rewarding and unique career, and he’d be happy if his son, Oscar, wanted to go down the same path.
“Those feelings of comradery, being competitive and that feeling of relief you get 15 minutes after a win are things that are almost impossible to replicate. The friendships you form are very special.
“If he [son Oscar] wants to, I think it’s a great career – but only if he wants to. There’s really no pressure on him to play footy, whatsoever. He loves it at the minute and he’ll be at Auskick in the next year or two. He loves Nic Naitanui.
“I think footy’s a wonderful career and a wonderful teacher. It’s been incredibly good to me.”
Judd’s autobiography, ‘Inside Chris Judd’ is available now. Click here to order your copy.