CHRIS Judd and his damaged brand were last night confronted at AFL headquarters with the harshest and most damning judges that the dual Brownlow medallist has faced in his decorated but tainted career.
Banned from playing football for four weeks, Judd was found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute - a charge he denied - and condemned for unsportsmanlike conduct in illegally twisting the damaged arm of North Melbourne's Leigh Adams.
Leaving the dramatic and often confusing hearing, which lasted more than three hours, Judd apologised to Carlton's members and said he had already apologised to Adams. As he left he appeared to take with him the Blues' slim hopes of playing finals - and perhaps even the coaching career of Brett Ratten.
Judd said: ''It wasn't my intention to hurt Leigh Adams. I obviously expressed my apology personally to him since the event and I'd just like to extend that apology to the Carlton footy club and to the supporters for letting them down.''
He denied his attack on Adams was deliberate and denied the accusation he had behaved in an unsportsmanlike manner. The tribunal, headed by former County Court judge David Jones, disagreed.
He said he was disappointed but accepted the tribunal's decision. Carlton football boss Andrew McKay said the club would consider its options.
If the Blues were seriously considering an appeal they shouldn't. Given the severity of the charge and Judd's priors, he could have been suspended for seven games but instead should return to lead the club against Essendon on August 18.
In the context of recent judgments - Collingwood's Sharrod Wellingham broke Kade Simpson's jaw the previous week in a head-high collision and will miss three games while at the Gabba at the weekend Daniel Rich shoved Clint Jones into the fence and will miss two - Judd's seemed about right if mildly lenient.
But the Blues remained furious at the AFL's judicial system, having only learnt the exact nature of the misconduct charge at 3pm.
Defiant until the last, Judd's advocate Simon Wilson, QC, tried but failed to plead guilty only to the lesser charge of rough conduct.
He said he had acted
recklessly but not deliberately in his savaging of Adams' arm but he showed remorse and wished he had let go much earlier.
The three former players sitting on the tribunal - Wayne Schimmelbusch, Wayne Henwood and Emmett Dunne - were told to take Judd's contrition into account along with his poor record.
This was a malicious, unusual act never before judged in an AFL context and the term ''chicken wing'' did not do it justice.
All manner of amateur psychologists have attempted to explain Judd's occasional acts of malice on the sporting arena, which have been generously described as ''brain fades'' and certainly must involve some element of frustration as well as intent to hurt.
Not for the first time in attempting to prevent himself from being rubbed out, Judd said he had not known Adams' identity.
Carlton's assistant coach Alan Richardson said the opposite on Saturday.
The suspension means he has now been rubbed out of football for a total of eight weeks.
Judd's has been a multi-layered issue and one victim of the fallout was the Channel Seven commentary team and specifically Dennis Cometti, who was accused on ABC radio two days ago of bias towards Judd.
Seven's Friday night football coverage of the North Melbourne-Carlton overlooked the seriousness of the incident and made no attempt to interview Adams after the game.
Radio commentator Francis Leach suggested Cometti's friendship and former business partnership with Judd had clouded his judgment. Cometti conceded to The Age Seven had ''probably downplayed'' Judd's second-quarter attack on Adams but scoffed at allegations of bias.
''That's just nonsense. He (Leach) credits me with far more power than I have at Seven and to suggest I'd be prepared to use it hardly shows respect,'' said Cometti, who pointed out he had used the term ''chicken wing'' in questioning fellow commentator Leigh Matthews.
''It's outrageous to suggest I'd deliberately play it down but if we did that we're all guilty of it. None of us on the night thought it was a massive issue but it got a life of its own. And once that happens you would be crazy to stand in the way of the avalanche.
''We were probably close because he lived nearby when he played for the Eagles but we've just drifted apart. I did call him this week to see how he was doing and I do like the bloke but he's a bit different and I say that in a good way.''
In recent days Judd has been described as a flawed champion with a split personality, one side of which showed malicious intent last Friday night.
He has been likened to a dark knight and the boy who pulls wings from butterflies.
Hyperbole aside, at the AFL tribunal last night the discount the game gives its champions no longer applied to the man who has won two Brownlows, one premiership, the all-Australian captaincy, the Norm Smith medal and five best and fairests.
In terms of the competition's disciplinary body Judd had used his last get-out-of-jail-free card two years ago. On that occasion Judd split the cheek of Fremantle's Matthew Pavlich with his right forearm.
The match review panel let him off and he went on to win a second Brownlow.
With ADAM COOPER