From the moment Chris Judd made his sickening landing on the hallowed MCG turf on Saturday all footy fans knew what it would mean – that would be the last time that arguably the greatest of the modern era would take the field.
It’s not the way we expected, wanted or hoped, but nevertheless it is the last time great man took our breath away.
The retirement announcement came on Tuesday morning, but it was one that was inevitable given the circumstances.
After all, the way that the injury happened there seemed to be no other result.
Contesting a mark with Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield, Judd landed awkwardly on his left knee before collapsing to the ground and writhing around in visible pain.
Slow motion replays only compounded the severity of the injury, graphically illustrating the twisting and jarring of his knee joint.
Scans soon confirmed what everyone feared, the Carlton champion had ruptured the ACL in his left knee and requires reconstruction.
Judd says that lying there on the field in agonising pain, is where he came to the realisation that it was practically a certainty that his career would not continue from that moment forward.
“I thought 99 per cent once I hurt myself it was an ACL and not for a second did I think I was going to play another game of footy once that news was confirmed,” Judd said at his retirement media conference.
Heartbreakingly the 31 year-old only decided late last year to play on this season, but facing the prospect of a long lay-off and difficult recovery, retirement was his only option decision.
There was a possibility that the dual-Brownlow medallist could attempt return later this year, if he elected to undertake LARS reconstructive surgery, but the pragmatic champion has always been one to look for the future rather than minimal short-term glory.
With the end of what has been his life up to this point thrust upon him, Judd was understandably melancholy, but he knew that difficult decision of calling time on his sensational 278-game career was necessary.
“I couldn’t say it was an easy decision, just to walk away from something that has almost been my life’s passion, was challenging,” Judd said.
“You don’t get to write your ending but it’s been an incredible fortunate journey. Not a magical ending but a still very special 14 years.
“I knew the end was coming so in that sense it hasn’t been a huge surprise. But, I guess, the suddenness of it has caught me off guard.”
In his magical 14 year AFL career, Judd has captured the hearts and admiration of football fans right across the country.
With a resume that reads: dual-Brownlow medallist, five-time club champion, six-time All-Australian, two-time players MVP, a Norm Smith medal and even Captain of premiership, the great man has certainly done it all.
Leaving him with a legacy that immortalises him as not only one of the best of the modern era, but one of the greatest the game has ever seen.
Fellow superstar of the 2000’s era and former Brisbane Lions captain, Jonathan Brown describes him as a “modern-day legend”.
“He’ll be one of the modern-day legends. We saw ‘Plugga’ Lockett (last week) — I’m sure in 20 years’ time, the great Chris Judd will go in as a legend,” he said
“He’s also been, and this has been quite underrated, a big-game player. He’s got an amazing record in big games, obviously evidenced by the Norm Smith medal.
“But there’s been a lot of other big games that he’s carried them across and he’s really carried Carlton over the last few years.”
Whether he was using his blistering pace to accelerate out of packs in his early days at West Coast, or winning the ball in bullocking fashion later with his time at Carlton, Judd was able to impose a mark on the game that was unique and unforgettable.
This imprint on the game is why it feels wrong to imagine Judd’s career ending in any other fashion than his grass stained body being hoisted up by teammates to be chaired off, surrounded by a guard of honour with an upstanding crowd giving him the final ovation he thoroughly deserves.
Instead we are left with the excruciatingly vivid image of his face overwhelmed by pain.
The only consolation Judd, Carlton fans or any of the footy loving public has, is that our modern champion went out as a warrior, on his shield in front of the coal face where he spent his entire career.
By Juan Estepa @EstepaJ