Once again, as per tradition, Richmond will take on Carlton in the season opener tonight at the MCG.
It is obvious why Richmond are the clear favourites. They have been the benchmark of the competition for the last four seasons, winning three of the last four flags. The Tigers have also won their previous ten encounters against the Blues.
It is hard to see that streak being broken tonight, with the Blues not being at full strength. They are missing four forwards; Charlie Curnow with the consistent knee problems, Jack Martin with calf tightness, Mitch McGovern with hamstring issues and Eddie Betts with calf issues.
This gives Lachie Fogarty an opportunity to make his debut up forward and see the difference he can make. It also gives Harry McKay a chance to continue his leading goal-kicker form from last year, along with Jack Silvagni to continue his impressive form in the preseason.
Richmond pose a serious threat down forward with three scary good names in Dustin Martin, Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt. Martin won the Norm Smith medal for the third time last year, taking it out in all three of Richmond’s recent premiership wins. He is quite possibly the best player in the competition and Liam Jones has a massive job on him tonight. Lynch has been exceptional since making his move to Punt Road, kicking 95 goals in two seasons.
One thing Blues fans should be excited about is seeing Adam Saad running through the backline and midfield and showing he could be worth the trade from the Bombers. He showed his form in the preseason against St Kilda with 21 disposals and a long-range goal.
Despite losing the last ten clashes against Richmond, Carlton have been competitive and come close on a fair few of those occasions. It feels like tonight could be similar, but another big out includes much-hyped trade from the Giants; Zac Williams. He was suspended for a high hit on Hunter Clark in the preseason. That night, he had 17 disposals and kicked two goals.
Part of Carlton’s issue is consistency – they often won’t play four quarters. It showed against St Kilda in the preseason; despite trailing for most of the night, the Blues stormed home in the last quarter and got within a goal, before being completely outplayed for the rest of the game, going down 26 points. Last time the Blues met Richmond, they trailed by as much as 50 points before getting back within three goals and eventually going down by 24 points. If they kept up for most of the game, it could have been a different result.
In Round 1 2019, Carlton conceded the first seven goals of the game, before storming home over the second and third quarters to get within 13 points. Then, they were completely outplayed in the last quarter to go down by 33 points. Even in the first game of 2018, the Blues kicked the first five goals of the game, before going down by 26 points in the end.
Carlton have shown they can compete with the competition’s best side, but running out entire games has been the issue. In order to win their first clash against the reigning premieres, they must play four quarters tonight.
But, without a full squad available, it could be a similar type of contest. Without a number of key forwards, it is hard to see them kicking a winning score. It is important for Fogarty to show what he is capable of and to see how Saad fits into the side. It’s also important for the Blues they show fight, at the very least.