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It’s footy but not as we know it: the 2020 AFL season will get underway tonight at the MCG in the traditional Richmond Tigers versus Carlton Blues season opener, but no crowd will be there to see it. Join me here on The Roar for live scores and a live blog of the match, starting 7:40pm (AEDT).
Even if you’ve been living under a rock you’d know by now that the 2020 AFL season (not to mention pretty much every other aspect of everyday life) is set to be significantly warped by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, and yet on Wednesday footy’s powerbrokers made the decision to forge on with the season nonetheless.
In the short term that means there’ll be no crowds attending matches, possibly for the entire length of the season, and also the length of quarters has been reduced to 16 minutes plus time on, down from 20.
The fixture also remains up in the air with the AFL reportedly open to trying to cram extra games into the calendar now with a likely lengthy shutdown virtually inevitable at some point over the next few months.
But, enough coronavirus talk for now: footy’s back, and let’s talk about it.
Richmond’s side is near on the same as that which so thoroughly won the 2019 AFL grand final, with only two differences from the 22 fielded on that day.
Brandon Ellis is wearing red and gold on the Queensland coast now, while Bachar Houli is sidelined with a calf injury, the only player on Richmond’s injury list.
Sydney Stack and Jack Graham, who both missed the grand final with injury, are the inclusions.
As for Carlton, they are debuting two new Blues in the form of big off-season recruit Jack Martin via Gold Coast, and delisted free agent Jack Newnes, formerly of St Kilda.
Eddie Betts’ emotional homecoming is going to have to wait at least a little while longer with a calf injury to keep him away for 3-4 weeks, and Carlton are also missing some key members of their young spine in Caleb Marchbank, Harry McKay, and worst of all, Charlie Curnow.
There is a very good news story for Carlton in the back pocket however with co-captain Sam Docherty named to play his first AFL game in two and a half years.
These two sides would be a fair distance apart even at full strength, and their contrasting injury situations only widen that gap. The Tigers will start 2020 in dominant fashion.
Richmond by 36 points.
Join me here on The Roar for live scores and a live blog of the match, starting 7:40pm AEDT.
Opening bounce: 7:40pm (AEDT)
TV: Channel Seven, Fox Footy
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel, AFL Live app
Odds: Richmond $1.28, Carlton $3.60