Harley Reid celebrates a goal against Fremantle in round six, 2024 and (inset) Chris Judd in action in 2003. Pictures: AFL Photos

EVEN before a blistering performance in a debut Derby on Saturday night, it was the AFL story of the year.

A Victorian teenager with a healthy dose of swagger and a copious amount of football smarts taking over not just the West Coast Eagles but the state of Western Australia, and transfixing everyone as he sets out to transform a struggling club.

It's happened before. Harley Reid in 2024 is Chris Judd in 2002.

Different game styles and physiques, same sporting killer instincts that compel teammates to follow.

Judd hasn't met Reid, but loves what he has seen in six matches and can relate to every aspect of his story.


"I don't want this to come across as me inserting myself into his story, and I'm only speaking here because you pleaded, and before we get started my advice for him would be to not listen to people like me!" Judd told AFL.com.au. "There will be a truckload of noise happening there."

Reid was pick No.1 in the 2023 AFL Draft, Judd No.3 in 2001. Reid had a personal breakout game in match No.5, against Richmond two weeks ago; Judd arguably had his in his debut hitout, in round two, 2002.


Both entered West Coast operations at times of historic team lows. For Reid, the Eagles are coming off 17th and 18th-placed ladder finishes; for Judd, it was 13th and 14th (in a 16-team competition).

"If I'm to park the advice to the side for a moment, he is going brilliantly," Judd said. "As a footy fan, he is just great to watch. Nick Daicos was one who burst onto the scene and felt dominant from the start, and Harley looks like that too, albeit in a different way, I mean I can't remember a player coming in …

"Nick was really dominant, through leg speed and running capacity and amazing ball use. Harley's strength at such a young age is very unique and really exciting. I am enjoying it. I assume and am hoping that he is too."

Reid has already transformed a mighty but recently broken Eagles outfit, dragging senior players and coaches along with him as he sets out with a fresh, nothing-is-impossible approach.

There is the strength, the power, the in-game smile, the strut, the preparedness to belt into Brownlow medallists Dusty Martin and Nat Fyfe in consecutive weeks.

Harley Reid tackles Nat Fyfe during West Coast's win over Fremantle in round six, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

There was a statement-making tug of his jumper after his first AFL goal, a set of momentum-seizing pack marks in his first Derby. A heap of crashing tackles. There has even been a beautifully cheeky, yet equally respectful, little on-air exchange with a former gun player he felt hadn't properly given him enough credit.

All of that, and plenty more, has already created the framework for one of the great footy stories.

"It is a pretty similar story for all AFL players entering the system, not just guys who go interstate," Judd said. "(Harley) was going to go and live away from home, wherever he went. There are a lot of different things going on when you are drafted. You've just finished school, it's your first year out of school, there are a heap of life milestones happening all at once.

"But when you're playing really good footy in an AFL system, and the whole state has got your back, it is a nice place to be."

Being Harley Reid: Fame, family and handling the hype


In the pre-season, as West Coast began life with Reid part of its operations, plans were made for the prized recruit to be eased into senior football via a role across half-back, just like Daicos at Collingwood and Harry Sheezel at North Melbourne.

In early intraclub hitouts, Reid looked OK in that position, and he occasionally ventured into the heat of the midfield. Then, the Eagles played Fremantle in a practice match, and he was ineffectual.

Clearly, the club's football department brains trust opted to elevate responsibilities and in an official pre-season match against Adelaide, he was used in a midfield-forward capacity, just as Judd was 22 years ago from the get-go.


No point holding this budding superstar back, even when the natural tendencies of seasoned football people like coach Adam Simpson, CEO Don Pyke, and a coaching staff that includes Luke Shuey, Matthew Knights and Jarrad Schofield would have been wrestling with an apply-the-brakes mindset.

The Eagles have, to this point, brilliantly managed the Harley hype, which has included seemingly daily offerings in The West Australian of Reid depicted as anything from Hulk Hogan to Mr Incredible to being the "golden child" and the Prince of Perth.

Back here in Victoria, for the past two weeks he has been referred to, without tongues being embedded in cheeks, as 'Charlie' (as in Brownlow) Reid. Judd won the first of his Brownlow medals in his third season, having finished third in the Eagles best-and-fairest count in year one, and second in year two.

"That footy team as a whole is starting to look much better," Judd said. "Elliot Yeo's form – I've been amazed how well he has played. He has been a brilliant player, and I can't remember him playing better than what he's done this year. 

"It's amazing how quickly it can change, isn't it? It's not dissimilar to other areas of life. Invariably when there is seemingly no one left who thinks something can be any good, that is usually pretty close to the turning point. That doesn't mean they're about to play finals, but it does look like the turning point is in.

"And yeah, (Harley) is a big part of that, definitely. Winning games. When you are down the bottom of the ladder, or near the bottom, if you're able to win some games and be competitive, internally that feels better, because it helps the story that you are telling, that is an up-curve. I'd imagine they are pretty excited at the minute."

Judd is qualified to give the advice to Reid to block out external views, as he famously did so himself throughout the early stages of his career, almost bragging at times that he didn't watch TV nor read newspapers or online articles.

"I did have a TV, I wasn't a Mormon, but we didn't have free-to-air at one stage, and I don't think we had the footy subscription on Foxtel, either," Judd said.

"It was a simpler time. But yeah, I was able to block it out. It is a pressure cooker over there. When things are going well, it naturally feels pretty good. When things start to go pear-shaped, it can often pay to have some strategy in place.

"It's actually very important when things go a bit pear-shaped. You need to start planning for that when the going is good."


Yeo was adjudged the best player afield in last Saturday night's Derby, narrowly beating Reid to the Glendinning-Allan Medal.

Post-match on radio 6PR, Reid was being interviewed by David Mundy, who had officially voted on the medal and had only given Reid one vote to Yeo's three and Jake Waterman's two.

As the interview was being wrapped up, Reid, who had only three days earlier turned 19 and had just kicked three goals as part of a brilliant 19-disposal game, said: "I don't think Mundy likes me, giving me one."

The previous match saw Reid amass 27 disposals in the Eagles' first win of the year. 

"He looks justifiably exciting, but it's early in the season, and most players in their first season will have a quiet patch, and I remember being bored of footy for a patch in my first year," Judd said.

"I am sure there are different things he will go through this year."

X: @barrettdamian