NEW COACH, new boom recruit, new era – and a new result.
The last time Carlton defeated Richmond in this traditional round one fixture – shuffled back by 24 hours this season – Michael Voss was in the latter stages of his time coaching Brisbane.
But in his first game of his second senior-coaching chance – nearly nine years between opportunities – the Voss era couldn’t have started much better on Thursday night, with the Blues blowing away the Tigers by 25 points in front of 72,179 fans at the MCG, 14.17 (101) to 11.10 (76).
BLUES v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
Richmond burst out of the blocks and should have led by more than its 20-point margin at quarter-time. But Carlton dug in, matching almost every challenge across the middle two quarters before kicking seven straight goals in the final quarter to end an 11-game losing streak against the Tigers and winning in round one for the time since 2012.
Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps dominated on St Patrick's Day, flexing his muscles to remind the AFL that he's still one of the most destructive midfielders in the game at the peak of his powers.
The West Australian singlehandedly pulled the Blues back into the game in the second quarter, kicking two goals in quick succession at the city end and dictated terms around the ball before slotting a crucial goal in the final quarter to help put the Tigers to the sword.
Cripps had amassed 30 or more touches just twice in the past two seasons, but with Sam Walsh missing after suffering an ankle syndesmosis injury last month, the captain produced a vintage performance, finishing with 30 disposals, eight clearances, 12 contested possessions, 679 metres gained and those three crucial goals.
And it wasn’t just the monster midfielder who inflicted the pain. New recruits Adam Cerra (30 disposals) and George Hewett (28 disposals) both made a sizeable impact in their first appearances, but Matthew Kennedy was arguably as influential as anyone on the ground, produced the most impressive performance of his career with 33 disposals, eight clearances, 514 metres gained and a goal.
One of the highlights of the night came in the second term when former Carlton skipper Sam Docherty (25 disposals) booted a goal in his first game since undergoing chemotherapy late last year for a recurrence of testicular cancer.
Richmond superstar Dustin Martin has often dined out on the Blues but he was held to just 21 disposals and a goal in a relatively quiet outing. The absence of Dion Prestia (hamstring) after half-time was glaring as Carlton's ascendancy in the middle became clear.
Electric half-forward Shai Bolton was lively throughout with three goals but there was too little support in the middle of the ground.
Doc's comeback complete
To think that just over six months ago Sam Docherty discovered a recurrence of testicular cancer, it is hard to believe how impressive the former skipper was on Thursday night. The 28-year-old dominated the opening quarter and then caused the MCG to erupt in the second quarter when he slotted a goal. Docherty provided the Blues with drive and penetration off half-back, gathering 26 disposals and 475 metres gained to show why Voss was so determined to bring him straight into the seniors after one VFL practice match. Two bouts of cancer, two knee reconstructions, but still fighting.
Blue recruits pay the bills early
Carlton paid a premium to lure young star Adam Cerra from Fremantle last October – pick No.6 and a future third-round pick – and they got a premium performance first-up from the 22-year-old who was taken at pick No.5 in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft. The Victorian showed his class, ending with 30 disposals, six tackles and 508 metres gained. New teammate George Hewett didn’t attract anywhere near as much attention as Cerra during the Trade Period, moving from the harbour city to Princes Park as a free agent 12 months after the Blues tried to land him. However, the former Swan played a crucial role in Carlton's engine room, collecting 28 disposals of his own to make a great start to his time in navy blue.
Dusting off the cobwebs
The last time we saw Dustin Martin in an AFL game he was taken from Metricon Stadium to a hospital on the Gold Coast after a bruising collision with Brisbane enforcer Mitch Robinson left him with a lacerated kidney. The Brownlow Medal winner lost more than 10 kilograms and took months to recover full fitness, but collected the first clearance of the game within a handful of seconds and was one of the most influential players in the first quarter. Martin faded like his team, but was still one of Richmond's best players, finishing with 21 touches and a goal.
CARLTON 1.3 5.9 7.12 14.17 (101)
RICHMOND 4.5 4.7 10.9 11.10 (76)
Carlton: Cripps 3, Durdin 2, Docherty, Hewett, Kennedy, McKay, Silvagni, O’Brien, Cerra, Fisher, Martin
Richmond: Bolton 3, Balta 2, Lynch 2, Aarts, Baker, Martin, Riewoldt
Carlton: Cripps, Kennedy, Docherty, Cerra, Hewett, Saad
Richmond: Short, Pickett, Bolton, Martin
Carlton: McGovern (back/hip)
Richmond: Prestia (hamstring)
Richmond: Ralphsmith (for Prestia in second quarter)
Crowd: 72,179 at the MCG