The season started on Thursday night, and it kicked off with my Tigers up against the old enemy in Carlton. I think I tried to do this last year, and we played so badly that I gave up in sheer frustration. Then of course we got good, won the last 9 games in a row and played finals anyway, but I did miss the last 3 or 4 games of the regular season, because I was in England. I have no plans to go away during the home and away season this year, and hopefully I won't lose it when we invariably hit a rough patch, so I will endeavour to write up games from my own point of view throughout the season.
To begin this we need a bit of a history lesson. In their infinite wisdom the AFL decided to open the 2008 season with the Tigers V the Blues. You can see the thinking behind this. Both clubs have large followings and they're traditional rivals. The matchup should guarantee a good crowd and healthy TV ratings. If it worked, then it could become a regular opening round fixture. Because that year, as with this year, Easter coincided with the opening of the season, they could play the match on Thursday night (the AFL don't schedule games on Good Friday for a whole bunch of reasons, but that could be another post in its own. I personally don't see the need for a game on Good Friday. I'd probably be on board if I was confident that they'd give up the Thursday night game, but I'm not, and they won't, so that's the end of the argument for me).
Making a big thing out of a Tigers V Blues match makes sense. The two clubs have a serious rivalry that really became intense in 1967, when Carlton ruck man John Nicholls claimed that his opposite in Richmond's Neville Crowe struck him during a finals match, and Crowe was rubbed out. This caused the much loved Crowe, who was also the captain of the side at the time, to miss the Grand Final against Geelong. Richmond won the game, their first Premiership since the 40's. Crowe never played again and Nicholls later said that he was never hit, but played it up for the free. Richmond and Carlton hated each other from that point on. It probably reached its zenith in 1973, when Richmond won a spiteful game, avenging Crowe and the 1972 Grand Final loss. A lot of that hatred has passed, but the supporters still don't like each other and always like to beat the other.
That first opening round clash was a success and led the AFL to keep scheduling the two teams to open the season, and oddly enough still on a Thursday night, whether or not it was a holiday the following day. Richmond won that first clash, but after that it was all the Blues until 2013.
For some reason Richmond drew the Gold Coast up there in the first round of 2014. Carlton played Port Adelaide. Both sides lost. The AFL have since admitted that the 2014 fixture wasn't particularly fan friendly, and one of the first things that the new head of the league Gil McLachlan did when assuming office, was reinstate the traditional opening round clash of Carlton and Richmond. He was lucky that the season started on the Easter long weekend, and he could have the game on a Thursday night.
It was an odd game from a Richmond point of view. We came out rather flat. Brett Deledio got reported in the opening seconds and Carlton's Dale Thomas dislocated his shoulder and spent the rest of the night on the bench, forcing them to activate their substitute earlier than they wanted to. Despite that the Blues settled better and went into quarter time 16 points ahead.
After about 5 minutes of the second quarter Richmond flexed their muscles, first gamer Kamdyn McIntosh made Carlton's Brownlow Medallist and veteran Chris Judd look fairly ordinary and the Tigers took control of the game. Half time saw a deficit turned into a 7 point lead.
Richmond went on with it in the 3rd, but couldn't establish a match winning lead, although they were on top all over the ground and Carlton had trouble finding scoring options and getting it out of their back half.
The Tigers were all over it in the final quarter. The lead went up to 33 points late in the quarter, but Riewoldt's 4th goal had the fat lady warming up before that. The Blues got a late goal to make the margin a respectable 27 points, although they were comprehensively beaten.
The Tigers celebrate a goal.
The injured Dale Thomas and a team mate commiserate. Not the best opening to a season. Lose the game and a key player to injury.
Now the Tigers just have to keep a lid on it until next week when they meet the Bulldogs. This has been a problem in the past, but there's a sense of purpose and professionalism amongst this group that I haven't seen for some time, and it's evident both on and off field.