Dandenong Stingrays coach Nick Cox was an extremely keen observer when Vic Country and Vic Metro met in an under-19s trial match in late June at Werribee.
What attracted Cox’s attention the most in that clash of the cream of Victoria’s young football talent, was the form of one of his Stingray charges – lightning-fast, left-foot, small forward Judson Clarke.
Clarke had 22 disposals, took nine marks and kicked five goals for Vic Country in an electrifying performance that highlighted his considerable football talent.
“He was one of the best players on the ground . . ,” Cox said.
“He started well, and I could see his confidence rising.
“He pinched into the midfield after half-time and gave some really explosive looks with his run and carry.
“I always think in those games, boys who can get an opportunity to bounce the footy and take metres, tend to stand out.
“Judson did that. He made really good decisions, kicked a couple goals on the run from 45, 50 metres. Gee he was good.’’
Clarke’s display that day also caught the eye of a raft of recruiters from AFL clubs, including the Richmond talent scouts in attendance.
The Tigers subsequently were delighted when they secured his services with their fifth and final pick (No. 30 overall) in the 2021 AFL national draft.
Cox believes Clarke is well-equipped to go on and have a successful playing career at Tigerland.
“His agility is top notch, his ability to use the ball and hurt teams with his kicking (as well),” Cox said.
“He has pure pace, too. He adds another dynamic with his pace.
“He has been touted as a small forward, but he can pinch-hit in the midfield, which he’s worked really hard on.
“There are a few assets, not just one. That’s the pleasing thing for Judson.”