The AFL draft period has in recent years evolved into one of the most fascinating, if slightly unsettling, parts of the football year – especially if you support one of those teams who have finished the season with few wins and even fewer signs of improvement. It is the footy equivalent of market day where club officials throw up players for trade, as if they are farmers in gumboots doing nothing more than hawking their prize hogs.
But, in light of Chris Judd’s decision to return to his hometown of Melbourne, this year’s instalment of trade week shapes as being the most riveting yet. Judd’s announcement yesterday to leave West Coast, where he was captain and had forged a reputation as the game’s leading player, has really set the cat among the pigeons. Or the headless chooks, which is what most of the Victorian clubs have been reduced to, as they flail around trying to piece together the winning deal.
With the exception of Geelong, Western Bulldogs and the Kangaroos, the other seven Victorian clubs will right this minute be working on deals to try to entice Judd to their club, while appeasing West Coast with the requisite draft picks and player trades. It shapes as an unseemly scramble where anything and everything will be offered up as bait. Don’t like that, West Coast? Well, we’ll throw in a set of steak knives. Still, not good enough? But wait there’s more…
Carlton shapes as the most likely fit for Judd, only because the Blues have got the most to offer West Coast, starting with draft picks No.1 and 3. But you can rest assured Richmond, Collingwood, Essendon and the other heavyweights will be in there punching away, as well. Expect any day now Eddie McGuire to turn on the schmooze, and player-delegations being organised by clubs to try and woo Melbourne’s prodigal son over a barbecued sausage and beer. Or fatted calf perhaps.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
What this all means is virtually no-one is immune from trade. Almost every player is expendable, if the price is right. And given that the price is Chris Judd, well, clubs will willingly dig deep into their playing lists. If, for example, you were Carlton’s gun full-forward Brendan Fevola, you mightn’t be feeling hugely secure about your future in Melbourne right now. So high are the stakes, someone of that stature could well feature in any Judd trade.
From the moment Mike Sheahan blew the lid on the Judd move in Saturday’s Herald-Sun, it has been football’s great talking point – notwithstanding the Kangaroos’ courageous semi-final win on Saturday night. As non-finals stories go, it’s as big as it gets. Stand by now for the squalid hog-trading to begin.