How did Carlton manage to sink its gaff into Chris Judd, the biggest catch in AFL football?

Simple. First, the Blues spent months planning and preparing for former West Coast captain Chris Judd’s return to Melbourne, having heard on the grapevine he wanted to come home. They then lost their last 11 games of the season which secured the all-important No.1 draft pick.

Then the club rolled out the man who speaks the same language as Judd – an eager green – environmental hot gospeller and one-time Presidential candidate Al Gore, to help the Blues’ schmooze.

And, finally, when the club got to meet the superstar face-to-face a fortnight ago, Carlton president Dick Pratt not only served Judd a banquet at Raheen but promised him post-career security in the form of a well-paid posting with an environmental bent at Visy, the modest packaging and recycling concern Pratt owns.

And that irresistible mix of burley and bait helped the Blues land Moby Dick: perhaps the best player of his time.

Or so we surmise. In piecing together various elements of the Judd chase, we bring you a tale of intrigue, chicanery and not a little knavery. And not that we’d ever dabble in scuttlebutt and innuendo, but who’s to say it’s not true?

It is believed Carlton first got wind of Judd’s desire to return to Melbourne about May. The West Coast midfielder had revealed to confidantes he was unlikely to extend his contract beyond this year. The Bluebagger’s hierarchy, impatient for success, swung into action, forming what amounted to a Get Judd committee.

The committee went to work, searching for the strongest tackle and juiciest bait to land their catch. There is even a suggestion the club sounded out Judd’s coach at West Coast, John Worsfold, who was once an assistant to David Parkin at Optus Oval, to see if he’d be interested in taking over the reins in 2008. With Worsfold in place, it was reasoned that Judd would find it a lot easier to plump for Carlton.

The plan also involved losing games, lots of games. The Blues won their round-11 match on June 9, against Port Adelaide, then managed to lose the last 11 in a row. A masterstroke. If they had won any one of those games, they would have forfeited the right to the No.1 priority draft pick.

Armed with that all-important pick, the Blues are expected to draft Northern Knights ruckman Matthew Kreuzer or, possibly, Kreuzer’s teammate Trent Cotchin. That then frees up their draft pick No.3 to offer to West Coast, along with various permutations and combinations of goodies, in the hope the Perth club signs off on the Judd deal.

The next part of the plan to lure football’s monster from the deep involved Gore, pipped at the Presidential post by butterfly ballots and hanging chads in 2000. Judd shares the same passion for the environment as the American, now an award-winning film-maker and poster boy for the global warming movement.

And it is said a meeting between the two was arranged during Gore’s visit to Melbourne a fortnight ago – which just happened to coincide with Judd’s visit from Perth to talk to various AFL suitor clubs. Judd was a lunch guest at Raheen, Pratt’s Italianate mansion in Kew, on Thursday 20 September. Gore the star attraction at a meet and greet over breakfast at Raheen three days later. At their meeting, perhaps Gore handed over his business card to the footballer and said: “You’ve got an open line to my office, Chris. Give me a call any time”.

So, all the ingredients were in place. The line was dangled, the bait gobbled and the Blues had landed their prize catch. (With a heavily front-loaded contract worth more next season than any footballer has been paid before). President Pratt? Captain Ahab more like.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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