Over 83,000 football starved fans flooded into the MCG on Thursday night for the opening game on the 2015 AFL season. Richmond went into the game as favorites after a strong finish to their 2014 campaign while Carlton was looking to make a stand despite its recent struggles.
Things started badly for the Tigers with star play maker Brett Deledio reported for a high hit within seconds of the opening bounce. They went from bad to worse when new Carlton recruit Liam Jones (ex-Western Bulldogs) had the first goal on the board for the Blues just seconds later. In a frantic opening few minutes, Carlton’s Dale Thomas left the game with a dislocated shoulder while his team mates were getting the better of their Richmond opponents. A Ben Griffiths goal kept the Tigers within touch but Carlton was doing the bulk of the attacking and stifling the much lauded Tigers midfield. Some errant kicking for goal was all that kept the Blues from building a healthy lead as they were clearly the more polished team early.
At quarter time, with Gibbs, Yarran and Jones looking the goods for Carlton, the Blues led the Tigers by 16 points. Carlton’s plan of shutting down the dangerous Dustin Martin and Brandon Ellis was working a treat as the Tigers could not sustain any run through the midfield.
Carlton stretched the lead to 23 points within five minutes of the second quarter and Tiger fans were getting restless. Dustin Martin finally found some space to kick a much needed goal for the Tigers but Carlton responded immediately through Troy Menzel to restore the 23 point buffer. Just when things looked grim for the Tigers, it was debutant Kamdyn McIntosh who broke free from a pack of players to boot a team lifting goal. McIntosh, along with recruit Taylor Hunt, were the two players keeping Richmond alive while their stars were being well held by the Blues. The Tigers lifted their work rate, keeping the ball inside their forward line until some smart work by spearhead Jack Riewoldt ended in another Richmond goal. Within 30 seconds the Tigers had another through Shaun Grigg after some excellent center square work from Shane Edwards.
Trailing by just three points with half-time approaching, the momentum shift was well and truly on. It was Carlton’s turn to appear timid, missing their targets and allowing Richmond to run the ball in waves. Sam Lloyd added another goal for Richmond among a handful of misses and at the break the Tigers had wrested control of the match with a seven point lead.
The third quarter was a scrappy affair early, with the Richmond backline strangling the Carlton forwards for time and space and both teams missing their targets. Lloyd once again bobbed up for the Tigers with a ripping goal from 50 meters out and Riewoldt added another after a slick handball from Captain Trent Cotchin. The longer the game played out, the less likely Carlton looked to score as the Tigers took control. Despite only adding two goals on the board for the quarter, Richmond held a 19 point lead at three-quarter time as the Blues failed to add any goals for the entire quarter.
Over the past two season openers between these two teams, Richmond had held healthy leads, only to be run down by Carlton and barely hang on in the final seconds to win. With just a 19 point buffer at the last change, the game was still well and truly in the balance as the final quarter got underway.
With Brandon Ellis working his way back into the game and McIntosh continuing his stellar debut, things were looking positive for the Tigers. Riewoldt added his third goal of the game just two minutes into the final quarter and the Richmond army was making plenty of noise. Menzel finally scored Carlton’s first goal in over a quarter but it was Riewoldt again, answering the call for the Tigers to stretch the Richmond lead back to 26 points. Both teams traded goals but the Tigers were never seriously threatened by a Carlton team that was simply too wasteful with the football in hand. When Richmond substitute Nathan Gordon bombed a long goal at the 24 minute mark the game was all but over, with the Tigers running out 27 point winners.
Whilst the performance was not a remarkable one by any means, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick would have been very pleased to see the Tigers chalk up win number one for the AFL season. With some of their more heralded players in Martin, Cotchin and Deledio not at their best, Hardwick would have been extremely pleased with McIntosh’s excellent debut and the output of blue collar players Taylor Hunt and Nick Vlastuin. For Carlton, the potential long-term loss of Thomas would have further soured an unimpressive performance from Mick Malthouse’s boys. Despite some good early signs, the Blues faded badly with their skill level leaving a lot to be desired in the second half.
In Round 2, the Tigers take on the Western Bulldogs while Carlton has a daunting task facing the road trip against the West Coast Eagles in Perth.
Scoreboard Carlton: 4.7 6.9 6.12 11.12 (78) Richmond: 2.3 7.10 9.13 15.15 (105) Best Players Carlton: Docherty, Simpson, White, Bell, Menzel, Judd Richmond: McIntosh, Hunt, Riewoldt, Rance, Ellis, Vlastuin
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 3:03 AM EDT