Yes, yes, I know it’s Round 1. I’m not going to make any outlandish calls, but that Fremantle effort on Sunday was the most important game under Ross Lyon’s tenure.
His first kick was a turnover and his first goal didn’t count, but Carlton supporters didn’t care.
New captain Chris Judd was running around on Princes Park looking fit and healthy and that was enough.
The skipper’s Blues debut was the clear highlight of Carlton’s 13.15 (93) to 12.12 (84) comeback AFL practice match victory over the Western Bulldogs.
But it was not all good news for the Blues, with talented young running player Andrew Walker leaving the ground in the opening term, apparently with a shoulder injury, and failing to return.
And classy young midfielder Marc Murphy was reported in the third term for making high contact on the Bulldogs’ Mitch Hahn.
But those events were overshadowed by Judd successfully making it through his opening game for the club.
He received a huge roar when he led the team out onto the ground.
The cheering was just as loud for each of his first three handballs, which all happened inside the first minute deep in defence, with his teammates seemingly looking for him at every opportunity.
None of those disposals achieved much and his first kick was even less effective, going straight into the arms of an unmarked opponent.
As the opening quarter ended, it looked as though he was about to have his first moment of glory in Carlton colours, snapping a right-footer through from 40m, but the umpire ruled the siren had sounded moments earlier and the score did not register.
He started the match in the centre square and spent most of the first three quarters on the ground, having breaks for about six minutes midway through each quarter, before appearing only briefly in the final term.
The former West Coast skipper, who had not played previously in the pre-season as he recovered from groin surgery, ran freely and looked unhampered.
After some rusty early moments, he impressed as the game went on, kicking a goal with a 15m snap in the third term.
But while most of the focus of the unusually high practice match crowd of more than 10,000 was on Judd, the Bulldogs had seemingly not read the script and burst out of the blocks.
Ex-Adelaide recruit Scott Welsh looked sharp early, kicking three goals in the first term to help his side to an eight-point lead.
Gun midfielder Jason Akermanis continued his strong pre-season, picking up plenty of early touches, while Brad Johnson also looked good down forward and in the midfield as the ‘Dogs extended their lead to 15 at the main break.
Youngsters Shaun Higgins and Josh Hill also showed some good signs.
But the Blues worked their way back, trailing by just two points at the last change, then ran over the Bulldogs in the final quarter, Brendan Fevola finishing with four goals.