Brook "Boris" Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
A massive crowd poured into the MCG for the Round One blockbuster between a Richmond team desperate to break their Carlton hoodoo and a Blues team confident of a stellar season under new coach Mick Malthouse. With eight wins on the trot against the Tigers, the bookmakers once again gave Carlton the edge to continue their run and inflict more pain on the Tiger faithful.
For all the talk of a recruiting drive for ready-made players over the summer, Richmond fielded just one debutant – key back man Troy Chaplain who had made his way via free agency to Tigerland from Port Adelaide. Carlton were pleased to have ex-Captain and spiritual leader Chris Judd back in the fray after an interrupted preseason, while key forward Jarrad Waite remained on the sidelines for this all-important clash.
With the 81000 strong crowd roaring its approval as the game got underway, Judd showing some nervous tension early as he received a free kick, only to have it reversed as he put Tiger Steve Morris on the deck with a shove. Just three minutes in and the Blues had the first goal through a Shaun Hampson mark and goal while Jack Riewoldt’s "poster" (when the football hits the goal post and is declared a point) at the opposite end had the Tigers on the board with a minor score. Both teams were nervous in front of goal with early misses until an indecisive Brandon Ellis was caught holding the ball by Eddie Betts in the Tiger back line. Betts - a Tiger killer in games gone by - converted the set shot to give Carlton an early 11 point lead before a Judd (old Captain) to Murphy (new Captain) goal stretched the lead to 15 points over a shaky Richmond outfit.
At the 21 minute mark the Tigers, after missing multiple shots on goal, converted from a monster outside 50 meter line kick by Brett Deledio. Ty Vickery got into the act with another goal to tie the scores at 19 points apiece. Richmond had settled after a nervous start and continued to attack, only to falter in front of goal. Shane Edwards hit the post for the Tiger’s third poster of the quarter before a Riewoldt goal on the siren was a millisecond too late to count. Scores were tied at the changeover.
Richmond jumped out of the blocks at the start of the second stanza with another goal to Vickery. Two minutes later it was again Vickery with a chance to extend the lead but his shot went wide. A free kick followed by and a dubious 50 meter penalty saw Bachar Houli extend the Richmond lead and the boys in black and gold were starting to build momentum. Facing a 13 point deficit, the Blues midfield responded but they too were having trouble converting their opportunities with misses to Armfield, Robinson and Simpson. At the 17 minute mark a Reece Conca snap put the Tigers 17 points in front as Carlton hard nut Mitch Robinson was seeing stars from a hard collision with Vickery.
Robinson was taken off the ground and would not return after what looked like a nasty concussion. Both teams became desperate for the next goal and it was the class of Trent Cotchin that came out on top, as he nailed a perfect pass to Vickery who converted his third goal of the game. Luke McGuane got into the act for Richmond with another goal, making it seven in a row for the Tigers as they extended their lead to a handy 30 points. Jake King added one more before Yarran pinched one back for a wobbly Carlton. With half time approaching Dustin Martin scooped the ball off the turf with one hand, ran an arc towards the boundary and launched the goal of the night from 50 metres. Tiger fans were squealing with delight and with Cotchin and Tuck leading the clearance work and contested possession for the Tigers, the underdogs held a solid 38 point lead at the long break.
Carlton wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the third quarter with the classy Bryce Gibbs kicking a goal within the first minute of the restart. Gibbs was arguably Carlton’s best player to date with Judd also getting plenty of the ball, albeit without his trademark impeccable disposal. Richmond answered quickly as Daniel Jackson stepped through a soft tackle to goal from close range, but the mercurial Betts snapped a sweet strike at the other end to keep Carlton in the game. The game seemed to open up somewhat with players gaining space, and it was Brett Deledio who saw the chance to launch another long shot on goal - somewhat of a “Lids” specialty - and the result was another goal to the surging Tigers. The next few minutes saw misses at both ends, Carlton fighting their way back in the contested ball count but unable to make an impact on the scoreboard. Deledio stepped up once again to goal for Richmond and give them their biggest lead of the night - 42 points with a rare Round One win starting to look a distinct possibility. Matthew Kreuzer kicked truly from a set shot for Carlton before the master Judd snapped truly for the Blues. Two goals in a row saw the Blues army rocking in the outer as their team desperately hung on to the contest.
Carlton pressed again and a Judd set shot from 40 meters out went straight through the goals and straight through Tiger fans' hearts. The margin was down to 19 points and the game was well and truly back on. Young Tiger Captain Cotchin imposed himself on the contest once again, feeding McGuane for a mark just inside the 50 meter arc. The Blues undid all of their good work by conceding a 50 meter penalty that handed McGuane an easy goal. Another free kick and yet another 50 meter penalty resulted in a Jake King goal and the Tigers appeared to have steadied the sinking ship. At the final break, the Tigers held sway by 36 points. Gibbs and Judd had worked hard to even general possession around the ground but it was the Tigers who finished their forward work better, Deledio just oozing class off the half forward flank.
Within the first minute of the final quarter, Troy Chaplin was hit head high in an accidental collision, which would prove as crucial as losing Robinson did to the Blues earlier in the match. Garlett went for a run down the wing, hit up Gibbs inside the 50 and Gibbs banged through the all-important first goal of the last term. Judd sprayed a shot across goal but it fortuitously fell into the arms of new Captain Murphy who converted off the deck for another Carlton goal at the six minute mark. Just a few minutes later it was Kreuzer, enjoying some freedom in the forward line, who marked and goaled for Carlton to bring the margin back to just 19 points. With plenty of time left the tension in the crowd and on the field was palpable and Tiger coach Damien Hardwick opted to drop an extra man back in defense to slow the Carlton onslaught down. A couple of misses to the Blues were dispersed amongst some hard contested footy as players were visibly running out of steam.
At the 20 minute mark, Jeff Garlett roved a ruck contest deep in Carlton’s forward line, threw the footy on his boot and watched it sail through to bring the deficit back to just 12 points! Players were out on their feet with five minutes of play still remaining. The Tigers went forward with a chance to seal the deal but all they could manage was a rushed behind. The resultant kick in saw the Blues take the ball coast-to-coast ending in the hands of Garlett, again just 30 meters out. With the Blues' faithful riding his kick all the way, it went through for a goal and it was a seven point ball game.
Ivan Maric charged in for a boundary throw in near the Blues' forward pocket, launched himself at the ball and banged it down the line and out of play, much to Tiger fans delight - until the umpire called “deliberate out of bounds” and awarded a free to the Blues. The resultant free was launched towards the goals and marked by Kreuzer right on the line. With a chance to tie the scores, the Kruze missile overcooked his attempt and missed. It was now six points the difference. With time ticking and under two minutes to go, there were a lot of Tiger fans who were chewing their fingernails to the bone as they watched on in horror with the Blues maintaining possession. Betts gained possession, snapped for goal ... and missed! Five points the difference.
Richmond managed to get the ball into their forward line, only to see it go out of bounds where Carlton regained possession and brought the ball all the way to center half forward and a pack situation. The ball floated over the pack, where Chris Yarran was waiting gleefully to accept the prized footy! Yarran turned, headed for the goals just 35 meters out, sized up the game winner which would surely send a dagger through Tiger fans hearts - and missed!
Four points the margin now and inside the last minute. Richmond had to kick out to a contested situation as Jack Riewoldt left his forward post to come to the rescue. As he went for the mark, he was pushed out as the ball landed over the pack into the arms of Robin Nahas for the Tigers. The umpire called “advantage”, Nahas played on and found Dustin Martin who stood up in a tackle to get the ball forward not once but twice. The ball was delivered to the Richmond forward line. Blues' defender Josh Bootsma came out to meet it in what would be the Blues last roll of the dice. Unfortunately for the young Bootsma he hesitated before releasing the ball and was run down by a determined Luke McGuane who made a game saving tackle stick. “Holding the ball!” screamed 50,000 Tiger supporters and the umpire agreed. With just seconds remaining, McGuane’s miss would only matter to the scoreline as the siren sounded for a heart stopping Tiger victory.
Scoreboard Carlton: 3.3 4.6 9.12 14.17 (101) Richmond: 2.9 9.14 14.18 14.22 (106) Best Players Carlton: Judd, Kreuzer, Gibbs, Betts, Simpson, Armfield Richmond: Deledio, Cotchin, Vickery, Maric, Martin, Tuck
Article last changed on Thursday, April 04, 2013 - 1:25 AM EDT