A record crowd of 90,151 fans packed into the MCG to see defending premiers Richmond battle to victory over an injury-hit Blues on the opening day of the new AFL season. It was an entertaining game thanks to Carltonâ€™s doggedness, and the lead changed hands several times, but Richmond ultimately got the job done. Here are five things we learned from the victory:
Tigers remain hungry
Any fears that Richmond could lose the intensity that propelled them to the premiership last year have proved unfounded at the start of the 2018 campaign. They soared through the JLT Community Series, destroying Essendon and North Melbourne, and they made a winning start to the new regular season. They look every bit as hungry as they did last time around and they could well become the first back-to-back premiers since Hawthorn in 2015. If you check out the odds atÂ https://www.oddschecker.com/au/australian-rules/afl/name-the-finalistsÂ you will see that they are $4 to make the Grand Final this time around. If they bring a similar level of ferocity to the finals this year, their rivals will be in trouble.
Class ultimately told
Carlton gave the Tigers a real fright for the first three quarters, but eventually, the superior quality of Richmond shone through. Four Tigers kicked three or more goals to turn a potentially fraught night into another comfortable triumph. It extended Richmondâ€™s winning run against their rivals to seven matches, andÂ coach Damian Hardwick was still not happy. That is a good attitude to take as it should ward off complacency in the Richmond ranks and give them a strong chance of repeating last yearâ€™s success.
Martin anything but dusty
Dustin Martin looks set for another exhilarating season at Richmond as he bids to hold off the challenge of players like Patrick Dangerfield and Nat Fyfe and retain his crown as the best in the league. He enjoyed an outrageously dominant season last year, and provided plenty of examples of his continued brilliance against the Blues this week. A robust mark against Jacob Weitering in the first quarter preceded a precise 55-yard pass to Jacob Townsend, who converted his shot. A composed handball into space for Trent Cochin and an on-the-run check side goal were offered further illustration of his prowess, and he was ultimately the deciding factor in this game.
Blues could have a strong season
Carlton owned this game against the champions for large spells and that bodes well for the rest of the season. They ultimately ran out of steam, but they showed they have a strong blend of youth and experience, and they could spring a few surprises this year. They have clearly kicked on in the off-season and there is further potential to grow. The Blues face Gold Coast next Saturday at Etihad Stadium and should be confident of a resounding win.
Cripps and Curnow are superstars in the making
The future looks very bright indeed for Patrick Cripps and Charlie Curnow, and their electrifying performances were the highlight for Carlton. Cripps ended with 36 possessions, 25 of which were contested, and made nine clearances, overshadowing even Martin on the night. Curnowâ€™s performance was breath-taking at times as he kicked five goals, and he looks like a real rising star in the game.