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The Age

He went, he saw, he conquered. The Juddernaut is coming home

Author: Caroline Wilson, chief football writer
Date: 18/09/2007
Words: 730
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: News
Page: 3
THE biggest trade in AFL history has officially moved into overdrive. Having dropped his bombshell and said goodbye to the West Coast Eagles, Chris Judd will fly home to Melbourne tomorrow and hold talks with four clubs - Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and Melbourne - before the weekend's two preliminary finals have been completed.

The outgoing Eagles captain and 2004 Brownlow medallist confessed at yesterday's dignified public farewell in Perth that he had virtually decided two years ago that he would end his AFL career in his home town and warned the club of as much when it asked him to take over the captaincy from the errant Ben Cousins. The decision, said Judd, crystallised earlier this season, but was in no way linked with the Eagles' often scandalous social problems.

The self-possessed 24-year-old, whose next contract will command at least $1 million a year in match payments and marketing money, described his decision as "a sad decision" but "a decision I'm content with".

"If the club was the East Coast Eagles I would have signed a 10-year contract under market price a long time ago."

Already financially established with substantial property and market investments, Judd will sell his home in suburb of Joondanna and move home with his West Australian partner Rebecca Twigley, a speech pathology student who works part-time for Channel Seven in Perth, and will take part in that network's Brownlow Medal red carpet coverage next Monday night.

Seven Melbourne's managing director (and former Demons vice-president) Ian Johnson said of Twigley's job prospects here: "If some position comes up we'd talk to her of course" - but stresses negotiations would be all about Seven, not Melbourne. Judd supported Melbourne until he became an AFL player.

Judd is believed to have ruled out several clubs, including Hawthorn, Richmond, and the Western Bulldogs, due to the presence there of Jason Akermanis, who made an unfounded accusation of drug-cheating against Judd's close friend Michael Braun.

Judd's coach, John Worsfold, yesterday declared him irreplaceable. Now it must trade.

Although West Coast does not want to deal with Collingwood, which has no early draft picks and wants to keep its young players, Judd and his manager, Paul Connors, have indicated to West Coast that it must deal with whichever team Judd chooses.

Carlton remains a strong favourite because it boasts draft picks No. 1 and No. 3, a wealthy, imaginative and well-connected chairman in Richard Pratt and potential trade bait in forward Brendan Fevola or the younger promising West Australian Josh Kennedy. The Carlton captaincy would be Judd's if he accepted it.

The prevailing view yesterday was that it would cost an early draft pick plus at least one good player to secure Judd.

Essendon boasts on its list an early pick, along with a group of talented young West Australians but still has no coach to sell the club to Judd.

Collingwood would offer Judd the comfort of an experienced premiership coach in Mick Malthouse, the prospect of short-term success - and world-class rehabilitation facilities.

Judd will visit his surgeon in Melbourne on Thursday and almost certainly undergo an operation for his damaged groin.

Having spent a quarter of his life at West Coast, Judd first broke the news of his momentous decision to teammate Daniel Kerr three days ago at the club's Saturday version of "Mad Monday". "I'm out of here," he told close friend Kerr when pressed.

Kerr said last night he had suspected the decision was coming all season given that Judd's Perth home was an old house and the player had shown no inclination to renovate.

Judd joked that his mother Lisa Engel, who wrote the song Backyard Champions dedicated to the footballer in 2005, was writing another song now titled: "My boy's coming home."

More seriously he added that he was more than just an AFL footballer but "a son, a friend, a brother". Apart from his parents Judd also enjoys a close relationship with his elder sister Lauren.

"On the other side of the country there's a crew of people that are pretty excited about me coming home," he said.

Judd's father, Andrew, told The Age: "What he said today summed it up beautifully and I couldn't really add any more." Was he happy with the news? "What do you reckon?"

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