Richmond have celebrated the unfurling of two premiership flags with a gritty 25-point victory over Carlton in an enthralling AFL season-opener at the MCG.
Recent clashes between the arch-rivals have been one-sided, with Richmond not losing to the Blues since 2013, but Carlton made the reigning premiers work to the end on Thursday night.
However, Richmond’s experience proved too strong as they pulled away late in every quarter to win 15.15 (105) to 11.14 (80) in front of 49,218 fans – the first crowd at an AFL men’s game in Victoria since 2019.
Carlton got within five points with seven minutes remaining when Michael Gibbons kicked his second goal but Richmond responded with three majors of their own to seal the game.
The Tigers did it without three-time premiership captain Trent Cotchin (illness), but stand-in skipper Jack Riewoldt stepped up as the veteran forward booted four goals.
The Tigers kicked four unanswered goals late in the second quarter and two just before the final break to hit back every time Carlton pushed ahead.
The game began at a frenetic pace, with the lead changing seven times in an action-packed first-half.
But a return to full-length games after last year’s shortened quarters saw both teams tire after the main break.
Tigers superstar Dustin Martin was at his brilliant best, collecting 31 possessions and two goals – one a near carbon-copy of his first major in last year’s grand final – while Kane Lambert and Jack Graham were also important.
Former Melbourne player Oscar McDonald became the AFL’s first medical substitution after the league implemented the contentious new rule a day out from the season commencing.
McDonald came on in the third quarter for Jack Silvangi (shoulder) and made an immediate impact by slotting the first goal of the second-half, before adding another in the final term for just the third major of his 82-game career.
Richmond’s sub, Jack Ross, was activated late in the third quarter as defender Nick Vlastuin, who was knocked out in last year’s grand final, injured his knee.
Tigers defender David Astbury is facing a stint on the sidelines after being reported for striking Lachie Plowman in the third term.
Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps and young midfield star Sam Walsh were tremendous in a losing cause.