Judd to the rescue: Locked-down prospects guided by modern-day great

Two-time Brownlow medallist Chris Judd helped guide Vic Metro’s draft hopefuls during this year’s long-lasting lockdown, offering insight into how players could turn their misfortune into an advantage.

The development of AFL prospects in metropolitan Victoria has been particularly impeded – a complete absence of football last year was followed by a limited season in 2021 – but potential draftees used their added downtime to engage in online sessions with past players, headlined by the 2006 premiership captain.

“He spoke about how, regardless of the situation, there’s an opportunity to gain an edge on your competition,” state coach Jason Davenport told The Age. “He was directly talking to our Vic Metro players as individuals.

Chris Judd had some advice for Vic Metro’s draft hopefuls.Credit:Joe Armao

“The challenge of motivation, training standards, application, all these things, he said this is an opportunity to actually get ahead of your opposition.”

Remaining diligent in the face of adversity was a key theme throughout the session, as Judd, a six-time All-Australian who played 279 games for West Coast and Carlton, explained how upholding training standards in the midst of a lockdown would provide players with a disciplinary edge over their competitors.

“[Other players] might be having those same thoughts about procrastinating or skipping a session here and there, versus the opportunity to be diligent and find an edge, so when your opportunity comes, you’re more ready than the other person,” Davenport said. “I thought that was a really good approach; it was a really effective session for us.”

Despite the sound advice from Judd, there are questions around the development of this year’s draft crop. One recruiter recently told The Age the pandemic has impacted the basic skills of Victorian prospects, but Davenport is confident the program Vic Metro coaches delivered, which focused on fundamentals, will leave prospects well-positioned for AFL life should they be drafted.

“We didn’t focus too heavily on game plan and structure, as important as that stuff is,” Davenport said.

“Particularly through video review and previews for opposition, we gave them a taste of what an elite environment will – and does – look like, but the training focus really came back to the fundamentals of the game.”

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Davenport added that a stronger focus on game plan would have served a limited purpose in any case, considering no AFL club takes the same structural approach.

Quizzed on whether Victorians would take longer to impact at AFL level, the coach said it was important to be realistic about what to expect from first-year players.

“What tends to occur is, we set such high expectations on 18-year-old kids who physically and mentally aren’t ready to perform consistently,” he said.

“AFL clubs are doing the right thing by making sure those opportunities come when that player is ready enough that it’s not a backwards step. They don’t want to diminish their confidence by throwing them out there when they’re not ready.”

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