Back in the days when the words “Carlton” and “Richmond” were synonymous with “September” and “success”, wars were waged and premierships earned – a total of seven of eight shared for the period 1967 to ’74.
These days (and with the notable exception of the 2013 elimination final), Thursdays in March tend to juxtapose those celebrated Saturdays in spring, as the two old foes find their way in a compromised national comp.
And yet, the Carlton-Richmond standalone season openers on the mighty MCG have truly delivered in the 10 years since they were first factored in to the AFL’s fixturing.
When the good guys host the yellow and black on the night of Thursday, March 23, Carlton and Richmond will have heralded in the football calendar year for the ninth time in the past 10, with each one of them having delivered for varying reasons.
Round 1, 2008 – Chris Judd’s much-heralded Carlton senior debut happens on a night in which Richmond’s Matthew Richardson boots five in the latter’s 30-point win before 72,522.
Chris Judd's winning Carlton debut. (Photo: AFL Media)
Round 1, 2009 – Ben Cousins, in game No.1 for the Tigers, tears a hamstring in the final quarter, with Mitch Robinson booting three goals on debut in Carlton’s thumping 83-point win before 86,972 supporters - a record Carlton-Richmond home-and-away attendance.
Round 1, 2010 - Blues back it up with a 56-point hammering of the yellow and black, with Jarrad Waite successfully completing a comeback after a knee reco in Andrew Carrazzo’s 100th game before an audience of 72,010.
Andrew Carrazzo is chaired off in his 100th game. (Photo: AFL Media)
Round 1, 2011 – in what is Heath Scotland’s 200th game, Carlton prevails by 20 points before 60,654, with Jeremy Laidler and Nick Duigan turning out for the first time in dark Navy.
Heath Scotland celebrates a win in his 200th game. (Photo: AFL Media)
Round 1, 2012 – a 44-point win to Carlton, again before a health crowd (78,285) with Chris Yarran lighting up the joint. 'The Yazzman''s exhilarating run and thread after keeping the footy alive by the boundary later earned him Goal of the Year status.
Round 1, 2013 – with Mick Malthouse in the chair as first-time senior coach, and Marc Murphy a game-one captain, Carlton falls five points adrift before 80,971 patrons at Jolimont.
Round 1, 2015 - Dale Thomas’s season effectively ends before it begins, by way of a dislocated shoulder incurred in the opening minute. The match goes the way of the Tigers to the tune of 27 points, with 83,493 sets of eyes casting judgment.
Round 1, 2016 – 71,706 watch on as the Bolton era begins, but Richmond gets up by nine points in the finish. Jacob Weitering completes a meritorious senior debut – one of five Carlton first-gamers on show – with contested-possession beast Patrick Cripps earning three Brownlow votes.
Brendon Bolton takes charge in his first game as Carlton senior coach. (Photo: AFL Media)
While it’s only fair and reasonable to assume that the impending Carlton-Richmond season opener again measures up, Round 1, 2017 also marks the 60th anniversary of the senior debut of this club’s greatest player John Nicholls.
For it was in the first round of the ’57 season, against Hawthorn at Princes Park, that Maryborough’s own 'Big Nick' took his place in a back pocket for the Old Dark Navy Blues.