Friday, September 14, 2007. A shattering night for the West Coast Eagles.

Having lost a qualifying final to Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on the opening weekend of the finals series, the Eagles hosted Collingwood in a semi-final at Subiaco Oval. Scores were tied at full-time, so two additional periods of five minutes plus time on were required to split them.

And the Pies finished too strongly for the Eagles, who were without three members of their star studded midfield – Chris Judd (groin), Ben Cousins (hamstring) and Daniel Kerr (finger).

As if that was not gut-wrenching enough more was to come the next day.

Judd had been weighing up his future, contemplating a return to his roots in Melbourne. He met senior coach John Worsfold in the club offices at Subiaco Oval informing him he had decided to return home.

The first move in what would become perhaps football’s biggest ever trade had been taken.

Eagles Chief Executive Officer Trevor Nisbett was watching the WAFL Grand Final when he received a call from General Manager – Football Steve Woodhouse informing him of Judd’s decision.

“We were all a bit disappointed and devastated on the basis that he was our best player at the time,” Nisbett recalled. “Our disappointment revolved around how quickly it had happened and we hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to his management post season to see whether we could convince him otherwise.

“We had just had a terrible year with all the issues at the football club. We got through the year, Juddy had a serious injury along with a number of other players.

“It was quite a numbing moment for everyone because we rated Chris not just as a player, but also as a person. We were very disappointed – not with Chris – but because we did not get the chance to talk to Paul Connors (Judd’s manager) about the opportunity for him to stay – even for 12 months while we got through a rough patch.”

Departing Eagles star Chris Judd announces his decision flanked by coach John Worsfold and CEO Trevor Nisbett

After that jarring news it was then a matter of negotiating the best outcome for the club.

There were protracted discussions with a range of parties before an agreement was reached for Judd to go to Carlton in exchange for selection #3 in the draft (Chris Masten), #20 (Tony Notte) and developing key forward Josh Kennedy.

History would show that the deal was a win/win. Judd would go on to captain the Blues and win another Brownlow Medal, while Kennedy would become the leading goal-kicker in club history and with Masten would play in the 2018 premiership.

But getting that deal done was far from straight forward.

“They (Judd and Connors) did it in a different manner,” Nisbett said. “They were out soliciting which clubs were interested in him. At one stage he was considering Collingwood; I had a relationship with Mick (Malthouse) of course and I said to Mick ‘I don’t think you guys can satisfy us’ and he said he would leave that to their recruiting guys.

“I don’t think there was a realistic chance of him going there because we needed to be compensated.

“Then our recruiting guys got busy – national recruiting manager Trevor Woodhouse – who was talking to Carlton’s recruiters – and Steve Woodhouse was talking to their footy manager.

“We were after their first pick, because they had picks one and three, but they wouldn’t move on pick one. They offered pick three and that was never going to get the deal done.

“Then, after a period of time they came back to us with pick three and 20. Again, when it hit my desk I said that just wasn’t good enough for a Brownlow medallist, our best player and our club captain.

“Richmond also had interest and they had an early pick in the pre-season. Greg Miller was very keen to get Chris through to Richmond if possible. Chris wasn’t keen to go there, but if we couldn’t do a deal with Carlton then Richmond was an option for us.”

The media throng at Judd's announcement

Trevor Woodhouse had been keen on Kennedy so the counter-offer Nisbett put to Carlton CEO Greg Swan was picks three, 20 and Kennedy. The reaction was a predictable ‘you’re kidding, no chance.’

Of course Swan would eventually soften his position, but even after agreeing to add Kennedy to the package, there was a significant hurdle. 'JK' didn’t want to leave the Blues.

“Josh had just signed a contract with Carlton and he was pretty happy there,” Trevor Woodhouse said. “He was shocked and surprised he had been caught up in it and hadn’t put his hand up to come back to WA.

“He was from Northampton, not Perth so he didn’t feel like he was coming home.

“He was up somewhere north of Northampton at the time and after struggling to get hold of him initially, we got him down here and had a chat. He didn’t agree straight away, he went away and had a good think about it.” 

Josh Kennedy is unveiled as an Eagle next to recruiting manager Trevor Woodhouse and manager Wayne Loxley

Steve Woodhouse recounted dealings with Carlton, with this negotiation taking place during the first iteration of trade week.

“All the clubs would come together at what is now Marvel Stadium,” Woodhouse offered. “You would meet each opposition club and discuss potential deals.

“At that stage Chris had nominated Carlton as his club of choice which was ground-breaking at that time. Carlton was playing hard ball, but Richmond indicated an interest and offered us pick #2 and #18 as well as Richard Tambling, who was pick four in 2004.

“It looked like a pretty good deal and we were certainly interested. With pick two we would probably have drafted Trent Cotchin, just as Richmond eventually did.

“Carlton became aware of the risk of losing Chris and it was late in the week, Thursday as I recall, before they agreed to what eventually became the package. Then we had to work on getting Josh to come.

“We called Wayne Loxley, who was managing Josh at the time, and he reiterated that JK was reluctant to leave Carlton.”

History shows that Kennedy eventually agreed to be part of the trade and he has become one of the greatest players in West Coast Eagles history.

Kennedy during his first season as an Eagle

The third player involved in that exchange, lanky Swan Districts forward Tony Notte was also highly regarded. He had a high football IQ, but couldn’t put any bulk on his frame, a pre-requisite to play as a key forward in the AFL.

Notte played two senior games but has enjoyed an extraordinary WAFL career with Swans.