It’s been nearly 18 months since crowds were last at an AFL match at the MCG. This all changes as Richmond and Carlton kick off the season in their traditional round one fixture tonight.
Capped to 50,000 due to government COVID restrictions on crowds, the match is already a sell-out. The last time the two teams met was just over a year ago in front of an empty MCG, where Richmond won by 24 points.
It has been only five months since Richmond won what was arguably its toughest premiership as they return to the MCG to unveil both their 2019 and 2020 flags with fans in attendance.
Ever since the traditional season opener between the two rivals started back in 2007, we have seen fairly predictable results, with the favourite taking the win.
In 2007 Carlton won the first, followed by Richmond in 2008 before Carlton would go on to win the next four-season openers. This run stopped dramatically in 2013, with Richmond dominating the past 10 match-ups, including their past seven round one meetings.
Richmond goes into the game as favourites. Everyone from their 2020 premiership side is fit and available, apart from Bachar Houli who is dealing with a calf injury.
Carlton enters this season with finals expectations. They’re looking for the upset tonight, particularly with their big off-season additions of Adam Saad, Zac Williams (who will miss round one with a suspension), and Lachie Fogarty.
Saad’s speed from defence will give the Blues a new dynamic, particularly with the new man on the mark rule, which has been seen to increase the speed of the game.
The only time the Blues have come close to beating the Tigers amid their 10-match losing streak came back in 2016, where Carlton led at three quarter time to then concede four consecutive goals in the final quarter.
That nine-point defeat was the only time in the last 10 meetings where the winning margin for the Tigers was less than 10 points.
Even in there 2018 clash, where Carlton shocked Richmond scoring five goals in 11 minutes at the beginning of the match, they still managed to lose by 26 points.
For the first time in a long time, there’s optimism in the Carlton camp at Ikon Park, and hopes that the losing streak may finally end tonight.
Photo: AFL by Andrew Simmons available HERE https://www.flickr.com/photos/anjsimmo/35621169392 and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.