Can a team be on the losing end of trade when the player they receive wins three Best and Fairests for the club and has two Brownlow medals? That is the question that the Carlton Football Club are facing at the moment.
In 2007, Chris Judd declared that he wanted to return to Melbourne. The best player in the league was coming home and every club was falling over themselves to get him. Collingwood and Melbourne came close but in the end, thanks in part to the Pratt family, he chose Carlton as his new home.
West Coast were not prepared to let him go for nothing and in the end ripped pick three (Chris Masten) and pick 20 (Tony Notte) out of the Blues’ hands, whilst giving back pick 46 (Dennis Armfield). Most importantly though, West Coast received Josh J Kennedy. Carlton were reluctant to trade Kennedy, and he was hesitant to leave. But it had to be done to complete the transaction.
Taking Tony Notte out of the equation who did not amount to much, Chris Masten after struggling for a number of years, has finally started to develop into an elite midfielder. Armfield, on the other hand, has also been a solid contributor for Carlton as a lock-down forward and has played every game so far in 2013 winning over new coach Mick Malthouse. Armfield has managed 96 games whilst Masten has played 89. Given the fact that there are 43 draft selections between the two, you would have to say Carlton did very well. Of course, you would take Masten over Armfield but in terms of value for selection, Armfield is well ahead.
Obviously the most important facet of the trade was the exchange of Judd for Kennedy. Firstly, let us take a look at the background. In 2008, the year Judd came to Carlton, the oldest player was Jason Saddington at 28 and the most experienced player was Nick Stevens at 192 games. However, it drops off fairly quickly. 31 out of 38 players on the senior list had played less than 100 games.
The club had been hit with the retirements of Lance Whitnall, Anthony Koutoufides and Matthew Lappin, totalling in 690 games of experience. The club lacked a leader and someone to set an example for youngsters such as Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs, as well as the future of the football club. Judd provided everything the club needed and more.
The key criticism of the Melbourne Football Club at the moment is its lack of leadership and Carlton were no better off in 2007. Carlton, however, got proactive and not only grabbed a captain, but someone to set an example for the rest of the list. There is no doubt that players like Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Chris Yarran and Kane Lucas are better for having his example to follow and now Carlton have one of the deepest midfields in the league. It gets better for Blues fans with gun draftees Troy Menzel and Nick Graham showing very promising signs in the VFL this season.
Obviously hindsight would suggest Carlton are lacking a key forward, players like Levi Casboult and Shaun Hampson are ruckmen that are trying to be moulded into key forwards with little success as of yet. They do however, have two talented key position forwards on their list besides Jarrad Waite. Luke Mitchell has shown plenty of promise in the VFL and will get another opportunity sooner or later. The other is Lachie Henderson who is a natural forward but due to the lack of a second key defender has to play centre-half back, which he has been excellent in this year. The talent is there it is just either developing or being underemployed.
From the Eagles’ perspective, when they took Kennedy he was not a Coleman Medal winning superstar. He was still a developing player so no one could definitively say whether he was going to become a Matthew Lloyd-like figure or a battler. The Eagles have done an excellent job building him into the player he is today and creating a highly dangerous forward line around him including Nic Naitanui, Jack Darling and Mark LeCras. Despite a less than impressive year for the club, Kennedy still leads the Coleman Medal, four goals clear of Jack Riewoldt.
The Eagles have a smorgasbord of tall options which is a scenario most clubs would dream of having. This includes Dean Cox or Nic Naitanui as a resting forward, Jack Darling as a third tall, as well as talented youngsters Callum Sinclair, Scott Lycett and Fraser McInnes waiting for their chance.
Overall, to this point Carlton have probably had the better of the trade as they had the opportunity to bring in a leader that was successful in winning a Brownlow Medal and captained the club for five years. Kennedy will continue to dominate as a key forward long after Judd retires but due to Judd’s effect on the club on and off the field, it would seem Carlton got the better of the trade.