THE ROAR of 'Yellow and Black' has been louder, but maybe never quite as satisfying.
A total of 537 days had passed between when Richmond last played in front of its home fans and Thursday night's 2021 season-opener, but the reigning premiers made the arduous wait worth their while with a gritty and determined 25-point victory over Carlton.
TIGERS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
The Tigers, who stretched their round one winning streak over the Blues to a remarkable eight matches, were never at their best in the 15.15 (105) to 11.14 (80) slog. But good enough was more than enough as they outlasted a tiring opponent in the dying stages.
Dustin Martin (31 disposals, two goals, four goal assists) was simply sensational, stamping his authority on the match every time it was required like only he can and confirming the summer whispers that the triple Norm Smith Medallist can somehow get even better this season.
But he was ably supported by Jack Riewoldt's four-goal haul in attack and Noah Balta's blanketing performance down back, as Richmond picked up where it left off at the Gabba on that memorable October night last season.
Patrick Cripps (28 disposals, five clearances) had provided the benchmark for Carlton's vastly improved performance with his physicality at the contest, winning the footy at will in a strong display.
His brutal fend-off on Liam Baker in the second quarter set up Michael Gibbons and had come moments after Paddy Dow stood up in a tackle leading to a Jack Silvagni major, as the Blues shot into a surprise 11-point lead in the game's opening stages.
It was to be one of Silvagni's last actions before sustaining a shoulder injury, deemed severe enough by the Carlton officials for the forward to become the first AFL player ever medically substituted out of a game in place of Oscar McDonald.
But while that was a first in the game's history, Martin lighting up the contest through his brilliance certainly wasn't. His scintillating effort on the stroke of half-time handed Richmond an 11-point lead at the main break, galvanising the Tiger faithful.
But still an inspired Blues side fought. McDonald provided an injection of energy from the bench, while Lachie Plowman converted after he was caught high by a stray elbow from David Astbury that landed the Tigers defender on report for striking.
It was a sign of the growing Richmond frustration, but typically the side had key pillars at either end that held up the fort. Balta was exceptional in thwarting a foray of Carlton attacks, while Riewoldt kicked the side's only two goals of the third term.
It lifted the Tigers into an eight-point lead at the final change, one that stretched to 16 after another Martin major early in the last quarter. But it wasn't the end of the Blues, as successive goals edged the margin to within a kick as the game ticked into time-on.
Martin, sensing his moment again, was the man to end the fightback. His slick move into space enabled Shai Bolton the room to kick truly, before Riewoldt's fourth put the dagger in any hopes of an unlikely Blues upset.
Tempers flare after Harry's hit
Carlton set the tempo for its valiant performance with its physicality on Thursday night, but flirted with crossing the line when Harry McKay collected Nick Vlastuin in the game's opening stages. The play had been blown dead for a Blues free kick when McKay left the ground to bump Vlastuin in an aerial contest, leading to a series of spot fires breaking out around the ground. If Tiger fans weren't already aggrieved that the free kick wasn't reversed, the fact Levi Casboult kicked the game's opening goal from the resulting passage of play certainly left them feeling hard done by. Vlastuin played out the game, while contact wasn't made to the head, meaning McKay shouldn't have any Match Review concerns on Friday.
Martin's moment of magic lights up Tigers
When the Tigers need a spark, they've always got the man to provide it. Most of the time, that man is Dustin Martin. With the scores level nearing half-time, a moment of sheer brilliance from 'Dusty' handed the reigning premiers the ascendency and split a scrappy and even contest wide open. Martin smothered Liam Jones' kick, collected the ball in the same motion, produced a signature fend-off to evade the tackle of Lochie O'Brien and snapped truly on the run. It was pure, unfiltered quality and helped Richmond into a crucial 11-point lead at the main break. It also, crucially, wasn't his last moment of genius in a scrappy win. He has claimed three Norm Smith Medals for a reason.
Blues make unfortunate and unwanted history
Carlton was forced to make the AFL's first 'medical substitution' at half-time on Thursday night, when Jack Silvagni was withdrawn due to a shoulder injury. Silvagni, who endured awful luck last year after he was restricted to just three games due to rib and knee injuries, appeared to hurt his shoulder during a chase-down tackle on Kamdyn McIntosh. He played on momentarily, but left and the field and was forced out of the game at the main break. Oscar McDonald, who completed warms-ups during the interval, then joined the game as the medical substitute. It was a decent birthday present for the 25-year-old, who went forward in the absence of Silvagni and kicked a goal with his first kick for his new club. Richmond was also forced into a medical substitution later in the game, with Jack Ross replacing Nick Vlastuin after the defender hurt his knee in the third term.
RICHMOND 3.3 8.5 10.8 15.15 (105)
CARLTON 3.2 6.6 8.12 11.14 (80)
Richmond: Riewoldt 4, Castagna 2, Martin 2, Rioli 2, Aarts 2, Lynch, Caddy, Bolton
Carlton: McDonald 2, McKay 2, Gibbons 2, Casboult, O'Brien, Dow, Silvagni, Plowman
Richmond: Martin, Balta, Graham, Short, Prestia, Edwards, Riewoldt
Carlton: Walsh, Cripps, Saad, Plowman, Newnes, Setterfield
Richmond: Cotchin (illness) replaced in selected side by Pickett, Vlastuin (knee)
Carlton: Silvagni (shoulder)
Richmond: Ross (replaced Vlastuin)
Carlton: McDonald (replaced Silvagni)
Crowd: 49,218 at the MCG