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FORMER Carlton coach Mick Malthouse has paid tribute to retired star Chris Judd, saying he knew the midfielder was going to be a rare player from the day he watched him debut from the opposition coaches box.
Malthouse, who was sacked by the Blues only two weeks ago, coached Judd for his final three seasons but had a different view when the dual Brownlow medallist played his first AFL games as an 18-year-old.
It was round two, 2002, and the record-breaking coach said he immediately realised Judd would be a nightmare for opposition coaches.
It led him to ponder post-match if it was Judd's first game or his 50th.
"I remember thinking, 'I've got to keep an eye on this kid, because he could actually change the course of this game'," Malthouse told AFL.com.au.
"I don't think young players coming into the game have a great bearing on where their team finishes, but there are exceptions and I reckon he's one of the very few exceptions I've encountered.
"From that moment, I had an interest in how he went and as he got more momentum, he changed the game considerably."
Malthouse described Judd as a "true champion" who epitomised professionalism and could change the course of a match in a split second.
He was a player who should be remembered for being as great off the field as he was on it.
"I don't use the word very often at all but I think he's a true champion," Malthouse said.
"You just knew when he was in the team, he could change the course of a game in a split second and maintain that for any length of time that he was near the footy."
Malthouse, who coached a record 718 AFL games, said it would not be right to rank the best players he had coached but it was right to say Judd was "in the top echelon, both as a bloke and a player".
The trait he most admired in Judd was his ability to fight on through relentless tags right through his 279-game career.
As a leader, Judd retired as one of the game's most admired players.
"He was admired for his training efforts, he was admired because of his assault on the football and he was admired because he makes no excuses whatsoever for good or bad performances," Malthouse said.
"He was admired because he goes about his football to be the best and that is leadership."
West Coast premiership coach John Worsfold also paid tribute to Judd on Tuesday, saying: "I haven't seen too many players do what he's done, ever".
"In terms of his ability and talent, [it was] pretty freakish. He's right up there," Worsfold told SEN.
"I played a couple of hundred games alongside Peter Matera and they could do similar things.
"'Juddy' was just that super talent that could get in and win that hard footy with blokes hanging off him, but then burst out and create something from nothing.
"His leadership was around not saying 'I am the most talented', but ‘look how hard I work and get onboard'."
Bit of a sad day today, but a big thank you to this lot and everyone else for the memories along the way. pic.twitter.com/sU1R6iONxn— Chris Judd (@cjayfive) June 9, 2015
Chris Judd in full flight for West Coast during his first season in 2002. Picture: AFL Media