Did the West Coast Eagles Just Trade For Chris Judd 2.0?

FORGET the draft picks that swapped hands for a minute and let yourself daydream West Coast fans. With Tim Kelly set to feature prominently in your midfield for the early part of the next decade how many flags can this group win? Naturally, injuries, depth and a bit of luck will play their part, but what’s the number? At least one more? Two? Four? It’s a similar daydream many Eagles fans would have been having in the mid-2000s, when, led by another line-breaking midfield maestro, they made back-to-back grand finals and captured the franchises third premiership. With plenty of footy still left in the tank, there’s a chance that another dynasty has been born by adding Tim Kelly to this Eagles lineup and he may have the same impact that a former club captain did from the day he arrives.

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LET’S quickly break down the in’s and out’s in what could be considered the biggest AFL trade of the decade. We all knew Geelong’s asking price for a player of Kelly’s calibre and smartly, whether they had to overpay or not, West Coast obliged and brought him home. To facilitate the trade the Bombers got in on the action swapping some selections in the upcoming draft, dealing the 37th pick for the 33rd one from Geelong while also sending the 52nd pick west acquiring the 57th one in return. For their star midfielder, the Cats received the 14th, 24th and 37th pick in the 2019 draft, while also netting the Eagles’ first-rounder in 2020. As a return, of course, West Coast landed that 48 gamer who at 25 years old is poised to flourish in the coming years, along with Geelong’s 2020 third-round selection and the 57th pick this year.

SOME West Coast fans may be unhappy with the haul Geelong took from them to land just one player, but this trade opens the door for continued finals success in the ensuing years. This trade is about so much more than just Tim Kelly, who’s homecoming is one of the feel-good stories of the summer after some testing times for his family. Bringing home the former WAFL sensation strengthens West Coast’s already elite midfield and now, opposing coaches are left with the daunting task of trying to find a solution to stop Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo AND the bloke who just finished 5th in the Brownlow.

IF you include the likes of Dom Sheed, Mark Hutchings and Jack Redden in the conversation all of sudden this West Coast outfit looks eerily similar to the one that claimed premiership success earlier this century. A loss in ’05 and a win in ’06 was fueled by club champions of yesteryear including Daniel Kerr, Ben Cousins and Chris Judd, with Tyson Stenglein, Chad Fletcher, Andrew Embley and Michale Braun also integral parts of the rotation (sorry Rowan Jones).

BOTH the mid 00’s midfield group and the one the Eagles will commence 2020 with are imposing units that ooze class with multiple Brownlow Medal threats. Dual ‘Charlie’ winner Chris Judd was widely regarded as the best player not only in blue and gold but in the entire AFL during his time as an Eagle and comparing Tim Kelly to an all-time great seems like a stretch, but it’s not so farfetched when you take a closer look at the numbers. In 2019, Kelly averaged 5.8 clearances a contest, with a current career average just over five through his first two seasons. Similarly, Judd averaged a hair over five clearances a game during his 134 games as an Eagle, often breaking the lines and converting on the scoreboard, scoring 138 goals for West Coast.

A goal a game average is a pretty decent return for a midfielder and much like the superstar before him, that’s exactly what Kelly is managing having kicked 48 goals in his young career to date. With 37 Brownlow votes to his name through 48 matches, Kelly is generating 0.77 votes per game, which, once again, is also close to Juddy’s career average of 0.80. There are more stats that I could throw in your face, but just simply by watching them play, you get the comparisons. Both Kelly and Judd remind me of racehorse’s bursting out of the gates, with their ability to explosively alter the game with ball in hand just one part of what makes them so dangerous.

TKImage from krockfootball.com.au

LET me be clear, I’m not saying that you can compare 279 games of Judd brilliance to two years of TK highlights, but you can see the similarities between their style of play and the success that could be achieved with them on your list. Judd excelled with other noteworthy midfielders around him and while Kelly may be overshadowed by Yeo, Gaff or Shuey, he has all the tools to play a similar role that the champion #3 did in the past. Do I see a Brownlow or club captaincy in his future? Probably not, but could I see Tim Kelly continue to grow into one of the best players in the league and become the star of a premiership side? Absolutely.

WEST Coast is set to be legitimate contenders for the next 3-5 years should things break right and while they can’t engrave their name on a trophy just yet, this trade certainly allows them to keep their flag winning window wide open. There are no certainties in the AFL, but one thing I’m sure of is if Kelly can continue to excel and emerge as a Judd-like figure in their engine room, no one will be talking about the draft picks it cost them to acquire him.

Peace ✌

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