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CHRIS Judd deserved a better farewell than that.

While understanding that Judd has not yet decided whether to retire following Saturday's devastating knee injury, the chances of him pulling on a Carlton jumper once more are tiny.

A full reconstruction to repair his ruptured ACL means 12 months on the sidelines and if he were to return to the Blues midway through next season, it's not like he will be strengthening a side on the cusp of finals contention.

No. As sad as it is, Chris Judd has played his final game of football, but he deserved to bid the game farewell carried off the MCG on the shoulders of his teammates and not the back of a motorized stretcher.

Of more relevance now is how the Blues move on from here. They could wallow in self-pity with their best player and spiritual leader out of the picture, or they can embrace the opportunity.

The suspicion here – and the hope as well - is that it is the latter, particularly with interim senior coach John Barker a graduate of the Alastair Clarkson "lose a soldier and replace him with another" school.

Not having Judd in the side should compel Barker to give Nick Graham an extended run – which previous coach Mick Malthouse was loath to do.

The same goes for Nick Holman, who has played just one senior game so far. If not now, then when?

Barker could also use this opportunity to give Dylan Buckley more time in the midfield. Is he good enough? Give him four weeks to find out.

The final three quarters against Adelaide on Saturday gave Carlton people a glimpse of what might be to come. No Judd, no Chris Yarran and no Bryce Gibbs. Yet the Blues did well for the most part and absolutely had a crack.

Having Matthew Kreuzer back made a huge difference, while skipper Marc Murphy played his best game for the year.

Adelaide was ripe for the picking on Saturday and ultimately the Blues lacked the polish to get the win. But if they trade Yarran and Gibbs – the Carlton pair most list analysts agree have the most currency – at the end of the year then the silk and class will start walking through the door once more and the improvement and the wins will come.

The other notable aspect of Judd's injury is that it closes the door once and for all on the Richard Pratt era at Carlton.

The late billionaire business tycoon walked into Carlton as the savior in 2007 (the Blues love their Messiahs) and wrought great changes at the club, but three in particular.

He renamed the Princes Park facility as Visy Park, brought Greg Swann across from Collingwood as chief executive and outmaneuvered the Pies when Judd declared when he wanted to return home from Western Australia.

Remember the contentious Visy ambassador's role that for a few years at least sat outside the salary cap?

Judd was the last tangible connection to Pratt.

Swann resigned last year and now heads up the Brisbane Lions, while the facility at Princes Park is now known as Ikon Park.

The Pratt legacy lives on with the impressive administrative and training facility that he helped bankroll, but nearly a decade after his new broom swept the place clean, Carlton is no better placed on the field and not all that much better off it.

The Tigers are biding their time

Richmond won nine straight games last year during its barnstorming run to the finals. But the teams it defeated to make it into September – St Kilda (twice), Brisbane Lions, Port Adelaide, West Coast, Greater Western Sydney, Essendon, Adelaide and the Sydney Swans – had a combined winning percentage for the year of 44 per cent.

The Tigers have resurrected their campaign this year with four straight wins, and this winning streak, while less than half that of last year is already shaping as more impressive. Collingwood, Port Adelaide, Essendon and Fremantle represent four handy scalps and their winning percentage of 62.5 per cent for the year is quite impressive.

Friday night's 27-point win over the previously-unbeaten Fremantle was obviously the best of the lot and raises hopes that not only will the Tigers make the finals, but do some damage once they get there.

Figures from Champion Data suggest the Tigers have become more patient when moving the ball from defence. Whereas they played on from 40 per cent of their marks through the first six weeks of the season, that figure has been trimmed to 27 per cent. They are also kicking more and handballing less.

On Friday night they kicked seven goals from their first eight entries inside their forward 50.

For the match they registered 22 scoring shots from 36 inside 50 entries, which is remarkably efficient and it reflects a trend over the last four weeks where 30 per cent of their inside 50 entries have resulted in goals, as opposed to 23 per cent from rounds one to six. 

And they're converting better as well. They rated 16th for accuracy at just 44 per cent over the opening six rounds, compared to 54 per cent, seventh overall from rounds seven to 10. 

The Tigers are persisting with the Jack Riewoldt-Tyrone Vickery–Ben Griffiths triumvirate up forward and what it is doing is getting Riewoldt on his bike. As the Champion Data heatmaps show, he is moving further up the ground, which causes opposition backlines more concern. Do you lock him down with your number one defender, or stand him with a more mobile, athletic defender?

Moving on up: Jack Riewoldt's possessions from rounds 1-6 this season. Source: Champion Data

Jack Riewoldt's possessions from rounds 7-10 this season. Source: Champion Data

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Riewoldt's movement helps explain why the Dockers were always up against it – and despite the hopes of the Channel Seven commentators – never likely to reel Richmond in, particularly after the hamstring injury to Michael Johnson.

The Tigers have their bye this week, although they're such a momentum side that they'd probably be happy to keep playing. 

It's tighter at the top

Fremantle's Friday-night loss itself was not all that catastrophic, but the bigger loss might have come in the medical room with Monday's news that Johnson's hamstring injury will not keep him out for 1-2 weeks as originally forecast, but for up to 10 weeks.

The Dockers are now without three of their best four key defenders in the medium term – Zac Dawson and Alex Silvagni are also injured – which likely rules out the prospect of Luke McPharlin being spared a cross-country trip any time soon.

Mind you, it would be catastrophic for Freo if McPharlin did get hurt any time soon. And while the midfield continues to hum along – Nat Fyfe probably only earned one Brownlow vote this week – Matthew Pavlich has kicked just three goals from his last three outings and the Dockers need him get the scoreboard ticking over just that little bit more.

West Coast's loss to North Melbourne makes the top eight a bit more snug. The Swans are outright second, but it makes the Magpies-Giants clash at the MCG on Sunday really big (both are 7-3) as will be the Friday night clash at Adelaide Oval between the Power and the Cats, who are both 5-5 and a game out of the eight.

The Kangaroos are back in the finals hunt courtesy of their stirring win in Hobart, but play the Swans next up. It is shaping as one of those seasons where three wins can give a club some real momentum and as we have seen with the Tigers, vault a club quickly up the ladder.

Forecast this season's final standings with the AFL Ladder Predictor 

The AFL's long-held dream is to emulate the NFL's 'Any Given Sunday' motto. We are inching ever closer to similar sort of parity.


Ashley Browne: Firstly, congratulations on having the energy to write in about perhaps the least consequential game of the season to date. Watching on TV, the crowd seemed more engaged in their own private conversations than the game itself judging from the lack of crowd noise through the effects mics. There was no real suspense to this game because the Swans were always going to win and win well, which they did. But it was interesting to note post-match that John Longmire was disappointed that the Swans didn't win by more, while Rodney Eade was delighted that the Suns fought the game out well, particularly after half-time. That's about where it is for Gold Coast at present – fighting performances against the better teams, at least until the injury list subsides.

AB: I don't get it. He surely can't see how the game unfolds when watching from the boundary and even more so when not connected to the coaches watching from upstairs. Hird defended his vantage by saying that he is able to provide feedback to the players as they come off the ground, but given the Dons failed to kick a goal in the first half on Saturday night against the Cats, his words had little effect. It speaks of a dysfunction at Essendon 2015, some within the control of the club and some that is it. At 4-5 and with West Coast and Hawthorn to come, Essendon's season is on a knife's edge.