BEFORE Chris Judd started out in the AFL, there were doubts whether his body could hold up for the journey ahead.
So, in an odd way, things had gone full circle when the modern day great made a hobbling exit from the Ikon Park lecture theatre, where he conducted a masterful, emotional, humble and hilarious retirement media conference on Tuesday.
Ironically, it wasn't his dodgy shoulders – twice reconstructed by the age of 17 – but a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament that spelt the end for Judd.
The Chris Judd file: everything you need to know about the game's great
The 31-year-old was the first to admit, in a rare misstep during a near-flawless career, that he went on one year too long at Carlton.
"Clearly it was the wrong decision to go on … but it was very much made for the right reasons," Judd told the packed room after leaning aside his crutch and settling down at the press conference table to bid farewell.
"My motives were pure and the decision-making process was sound. As it turned out, it wasn't a great year, but I'll certainly be left with no 'what-ifs'."
If there had been any slight doubts about Judd's intentions to call it quits on Tuesday, they were soon dispelled by the way the Don Chipp Lecture Theatre was set up for his press conference.
Flanking Judd's seat was a framed No.5 guernsey with a 2009 Brownlow Medal replica, while front-row seats were reserved for his family. Wife Bec nursed son Oscar, wearing his dad's number, on her lap and one-year-old daughter Billie, next to Judd's parents Andrew Judd and Lisa Engel, who the champ flicked his gaze to during a 30-minute goodbye.
'The day I played on Juddy'
"Anyone who is born in Australia wins the ovarian lottery. To be born into a family that is as loving and kind as the one I've got, I genuinely feel I got first division of that lottery," Judd said.
Blues hierarchy past and present – including former boss Stephen Kernahan, incumbent Mark LoGiudice, CEO Steven Trigg and interim coach John Barker – and Carlton's playing leadership group filed into the room shortly before the star of the show.
Camera flashes lit up the room as Judd made his entrance and confirmed what most observers expected the moment he went down clutching his left knee at the MCG on Saturday: his illustrious career is over.
Fair turnout for Chris Judd's presser. Seats reserved for wife Bec and family in the front row. pic.twitter.com/7N5C3EOg0S— Travis King (@TravKing_AFL) June 9, 2015
The only time he choked up was when he thanked the Adelaide Crows supporters' show of respect when he was stretchered from the field for the last time.
"It was a disappointing finish to my career, but I don't lose sight of just how fortunate I've been to play for two wonderful football clubs," said the West Coast premiership captain and Blues champion.
Judd paid tribute to his coaches, teammates and fans – but praised two men in particular; Rob Wiley, an assistant at both his clubs, who helped him settle in at the Eagles when he was drafted with pick No.3 in 2001, and Blues physio Mark Homewood who "put my body back together".
He was blighted by a groin issue towards the end at West Coast, a chronic problem which subsequently hampered his back and restricted his explosive speed.
The man who made Judd
He had been nearly unstoppable bursting from packs and side-stepping opponents with uncatchable ease during his peak at the Eagles, with the then 21-year-old and girlfriend Bec stealing the show on Brownlow night in 2004.
But injury forced Judd to become a different player, a contested-ball animal, at Carlton – albeit one still good enough to enter rarified air as a dual Brownlow medallist in 2010.
"I lost a bit of my speed from my groin and subsequent back issues. I just had to adapt, so I did," Judd said.
"To get 279 games out, (my shoulder) served me pretty well. Particularly the right shoulder has paid a pretty big cost for it."
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
It was with no regrets that Judd, who was handed the Eagles captaincy for '06 after Ben Cousins' infamous booze bus incident, said he overlooked other suitors to join Carlton in '08.
With president LoGuidice nodding along in agreement, Judd detailed how becoming part of a new club was like having a kid: "A little bit of that footy club becomes a part of you".
He'll barrack for the Blues in post-football life, while still feeling a strong connection to the Eagles, but he doesn't feel strongly either way whether Oscar, soon to be four, plays at either club under the father-son rule.
"I think he'll start Auskick next year and I don't have strong emotions if he chooses to play footy or if he doesn't. That will be up to him.
"I told Oscar I wasn't going to play football any more and he said 'That makes sense, I think you should play soccer'. That's probably not going to work either, buddy.
"He knows Nic Nat's (Nic Naitanui) still playing, so he's still excited about that. He knows 'Walky Talky's' (Andrew Walker) still playing, so he's excited about that."
Judd conceded he'll find it "incredibly hard" to let football go, but he's excited about the next phase of his life. He plans to buy a small business down the track, won't work in football full-time and isn't planning to bob-up in the media.
"I'm excited about exploring some opportunities. It's a big old world out there and I'm looking forward to getting busy living that."
One Blues teammate said tears flowed as Judd said goodbye to the playing group, and he admitted it was unlikely they would see him walk through the doors at Ikon Park on a regular basis.
So as he bid farewell to football for now, how did the six-time All Australian, five-time best and fairest and 2005 Norm Smith medallist hope to be remembered?
"Just as a country boy with a heart of gold. Not being from the country, that's going to make it tricky."
Chris Judd's extended family at the media conference. Picture: AFL Media