Judd: Deal or no deal?

Sympathy is not an emotion I often feel for Chris Judd.

In fact, I really don’t like the bloke. He’s a sniper, he’s a hypocrite and he’s a bloody good footballer who has a habit of playing well against my mob.

But I must say I do feel for Judd, astoundingly, in the wake of the AFL announcing that his $200k a year Visy sponsorship will have to be counted in the salary or given up.

Now, I don’t think that giving up $200k a year will force the Judd’s to send little Oscar out work as chimney sweep in order to put food on the table. But at the same time, it is money they quite rightly would have thought was coming into the house that is now at risk.

The reason I feel sorry for Judd is that he had a deal, one that was signed off by the AFL, who have now gone back on their word with no explanation and no apparent real course of redress for Judd.

Whether you think the Visy deal was fair or moral doesn’t really matter. The point is that the AFL signed it off and now they going back on that arrangement and leaving Judd high and dry.

That’s simply not fair. He is getting the short end of the stick here. And why other club supporters are gloating is a bit of a mystery: nobody knows who will be caught out next.

I have my suspicions as to why the AFL is doing this.

First and foremost, they are following the basic political maxim – and the AFL is nothing if not a political beast – that one should never waste a good crisis.

With attention largely diverted by the Melbourne tanking inquiry and the ongoing car crash of the Tippet saga, the AFL is taking the opportunity to tie up some loose ends and deal with matters that would have been back page leads if dealt with on their own.

There is of course a bigger narrative at play here: how the AFL squares free agency with its stated equalisation policy.

Free agency by its nature means that clubs that are already wealthy and successful will tend to attract the best players. The AFL doesn’t want this, it wants the proverbial level playing field.

This is why the AFL fought free agency tooth and nail. But in the end was forced to accede to the player’s demands lest it risk the catastrophic situation whereby the draft and/or salary cap were threatened.

Now that the Tippet situation has shown what we all knew was happening – clubs were routinely shonking the system – the AFL, increasingly militant as they are, is determined to act, and put the players back in their box.

Adelaide will get the kind of whack that scares all clubs off engaging in shenanigans for a while at least.

And the AFL will, in the stern moralising tone it does so well when it is covering for its own stuff up, announce that third party deals will now come under the most stringent  of examination.

If players want to have the mobility offered by free agency, they have to play within the rules – this bodes badly for Kurt Tippet who will most likely be made example of. For a season or so.

None of this helps Judd. He didn’t move as a free agent. He worked out a deal that the AFL signed off. Now Carlton has to choose between keeping their captain happy by squeezing his $200k sponsorship under the cap, or risk alienating a player who might just fancy a last payday elsewhere.

If I were Adelaide, with salary cap space opened up by Tippet’s departure and excluded from a few drafts, I’d be asking Bryce Gibbs why he should be denied a pay rise so Juddy’s extra deal can go under the cap.

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