Their No.4 and 5 lockers are only once removed - but Bryce Gibbs and Chris Judd have more than one reason to call each other “Cuz”.

You see, the two Carlton champions just happen to be related, as third cousins twice removed.Image
It’s a little known fact - previously declared by the Seven Network commentator Dennis Cometti at a time when Cometti’s interest in his own family history was triggered by his appearance in the SBS program Who Do You Think You Are - that the two Carlton champions are kindred spirits.

And the link can be sourced through the lineages of Bryce’s mother Julie and Chris’s father Andrew to an auld English gent named Christopher Howlett senior, born in the South Norfolk village of Bawburgh in 1830.

Family researcher Judy Morrison, in her record of Howlett family history (graciously on loan from Bryce’s mother Julie), notes that Howlett was a butcher by profession, whose life inexorably changed in the mid-1850s. That was when, according to family lore, he was caught poaching game from the Lord of the Manor’s property and promptly shipped off to Australia.

Though he does not appear on any convict register, Howlett’s whereabouts can be sourced to the Victorian goldfields town of Dunolly in 1856 - which is where he and his wife Caroline Guyatt gave birth to their first son Christopher junior.
Three years later, the Howletts relocated to Italian Gully (which backed onto the Jubilee Mine not far from Scarsdale, south west of Ballarat) where Christopher senior pursued mining interests and Caroline gave birth to two more children – Benjamin in 1861 and Frances Jane in 1863.

Christopher Howlett senior. (Photo: Supplied)

Christopher and Caroline were lifelong followers of the Wesleyan Methodist faith, with the local church situated within close proximity of their Italian Gully property. But nearby Newtown would be where Chris and Caroline would later settle and there, at his home in 1894, he died of complications associated with bronchitis, emphysema, exhaustion and heart failure.

In short, Christopher Howlett senior is Bryce Gibbs’ maternal great, great, great great, great grandfather and Chris Judd’s paternal great, great, great, great grandfather.

For the two players in question, the kindred links are almost too distant to mean anything, but are welcome nonetheless.

Chris Judd was aware of the connection by way of Cometti, but initially believed the Gibbs crossover involved his mother’s side of the family which has its origins in Adelaide – not, as it happens, on his father’s Victorian side.

As he said: “I’ve known for a while that there was a family relationship and I know that Cometti was onto it and that it goes back a little way, but I’m not completely sure where it kicks in”.

For Gibbs, the same applied.

“You’d have to check the family tree, because I’m not sure exactly how it works, but I’ve known about it from the time I got drafted and I actually told him (Judd) about it,” he said.

So did that mean he referred to his locker neighbour as “Cuz”?

“Sometimes I do, for sure,” came the reply.

For the purposes of this story, Julie Gibbs (who grew up in Oak Park and whose mother was a Howlett) deserves the last word - for whenever her boy’s footballing pedigree is assessed, discussion invariably leads to her husband, the West Perth and Glenelg footballer Ross.

“It couldn’t be further from the truth,” Julie dryly suggested.

“Admittedly the connection between Bryce and Chris is a fair way down the line, it’s not like they’re first cousins, but it’s an amazing connection.

“And to think that they’re lockers are side by side. I suppose it was just meant to be.”

Gibbs' Biography