MONTHS after he contemplated retirement, Chris Judd is in his best physical shape in years, Carlton coach Mick Malthouse says.

Judd, 31, was sensational in his first pre-season game of the year against Collingwood in Bendigo on Sunday, vying for best afield honours with teammate Chris Yarran.

Typically prolific on the stats sheet, the veteran had 23 disposals, but it was his experience and class around stoppages – he had 10 clearances – that made him a game changer.

The dual Brownlow medallist fought injury for much of last season. Pre-season Achilles tendon surgery delayed his start to the year, while his torn right hamstring after just six minutes in his comeback game against the Western Bulldogs kept him sidelined until round 13.

"Physically he is (in great shape). He's always seemed to have something that's held him back, but today ..." Malthouse said after the match, backing up his earlier comments on that Judd could play on for "a number of years".

The Blues coach was pleased with the way his team was beginning to jell in the lead up to the season opener against Richmond on April 2.

Eight players – Andrew Carrazzo, Andrejs Everitt, Bryce Gibbs, Lachie Henderson, Michael Jamison, Troy Menzel, Robert Warnock and Judd – all played their first games for the season.

Malthouse said the Blues expected to welcome several key playmakers, headlined by captain Marc Murphy, for their final NAB Challenge clash with Geelong at Etihad Stadium next Sunday.

"We'll bring in Murphy, (Dale) Thomas, (David) Ellard and maybe (Matthew) Watson next week, which means a few of these (players) will drop out," Malthouse said.

"We want to have 28 to 29 players that we can pick from, not just against Richmond but for the first two or three games (of the season).

"We're in a better position (than last year)."

Malthouse said injuries to Warnock (shoulder) and Bryce Gibbs' (shoulder) were of no concern ahead of the meeting with the Cats.

"He's OK," Malthouse said when asked how Warnock was faring.

"All the blokes are OK. You don't take chances in these games."

Malthouse himself returned to the coaching box for the first time since August last year after missing last week's trip to Mandurah against West Coast to support wife Nanette, who underwent investigative surgery last week.

The master coach admitted a few pre-game jitters.

"You're constantly moving around and thinking about things you don't need to be. And then when the whistle blows and the siren starts the game you get back into it pretty quickly," he said.

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