IS THIS Carlton's time to stop the streak?
Since the AFL's annual round one clash between arch rivals Carlton and Richmond began back in 2007, there has been nothing unpredictable about the League's traditional blockbuster season-opener.
The Blues won the first, the Tigers won the second, then a pattern set in. Carlton would win the next four consecutive round one fixtures against its old enemy, as part of a run that included 11 total victories over Richmond in 12 matches.
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The run stopped, then emphatically turned in the other direction. Now, the Tigers enter Thursday night's upcoming encounter having won seven straight round one games against the Blues and 10 successive matches against them in all fixtures.
Yes, the 2021 version might seem like it's going to go the same way. Richmond heads into the clash having claimed three of the last four premierships, and with everyone from its 2020 Grand Final side bar Bachar Houli – who is still dealing with a calf injury – fit and available.
But the Blues, primed for a realistic finals tilt following the off-season addition of ready-made talent like Adam Saad, Zac Williams (who will miss round one through suspension) and Lachie Fogarty, are setting themselves for a genuine push at a rare round one upset.
For the neutrals, anything close to that would be welcome.
Carlton's run of 11 victories in 12 games against Richmond came with an average winning margin of 43.5 points. Such was the club's dominance in that five-year period, there were more games decided by 80+ points than there were by within three goals.
The tables might have turned since, but the excitement has stayed away.
The closest Carlton has come to an upset amid its 10-match losing streak against Richmond came in 2016, when the Blues led at three-quarter time only to concede four consecutive goals to start the final term.
In fact, that nine-point defeat was the only time in the last 10 meetings between the two sides that Richmond's winning margin has been restricted to single-digits.
Even in 2018, when the Blues stunned the Tigers with five goals in 11 minutes to start the match, they were ultimately on the end of a pretty comprehensive 26-point defeat by the final siren.
It has been a barren seven years for the Blues when it comes to round one fixtures, so much so the club might have begun pencilling in an 0-1 start when the upcoming schedule is first released.
But with genuine optimism seeping out of Ikon Park that finals may soon be on the agenda again, so too should the hope of stopping the streak on Thursday night.
All footy fans just wanting a good game to start the year might be hoping likewise, too.
ROUND ONE FIXTURES
2007: Carlton by 17 points
2008: Richmond by 30 points
2009: Carlton by 83 points
2010: Carlton by 56 points
2011: Carlton by 20 points
2012: Carlton by 44 points
2013: Richmond by 5 points
2015: Richmond by 27 points
2016: Richmond by 9 points
2017: Richmond by 43 points
2018: Richmond by 26 points
2019: Richmond by 33 points
2020: Richmond by 24 points
*The two sides did not play in round one in 2014