980,902.

That’s the accumulative number of crowds which have attended Carlton and Richmond’s opening game at the MCG since 2007.

Zero.

That was the crowd last night.

07:10 Mins
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AFL R1 | Highlights

Watch the highlights from the season opener against Richmond.

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You ask any player, coach or official last night, and they’ll say it was “business as usual” — and it was. When it all came down to it, there were four points on the line.

In the rooms, you could feel it. The same nerves about a season opener were there. The love for Sam Docherty was there. The support for new Blues Jack Martin and Jack Newnes was there.

Really ordinary banter between staff, too. "I thought only essential staff were allowed?" Zinger, absolute zinger. 

It really did seem like this was any regular occurrence. It’s been the same message that has been coming out of every AFL club this week: trying to keep it as normal as possible.

03:52 Mins
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AFL R1 | Martin and Newnes jumper presentation

Watch from inside the rooms as Jack Martin and Jack Newnes receive their Carlton guernseys.

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“Business as usual.”

However, a 10-second walk would tell a completely different story.

In any normal circumstance, a cavalcade of noise would transition from locker-room tunes to a wall of sound emanating from the masses at the home of football.

Yet these were no ordinary circumstances.

Ed Curnow had to fetch his own footies in the warm-up when he sent one 15 rows back.

Emergency Marc Pittonet was part-time ball boy, part-time cheersquad fill-in.

Kade Simpson walked out for his 326th game and - even though game mode had kicked in - he couldn’t help but get a sense of the occasion. A sense of the atmosphere, or lack thereof.

After all, his 326th game was not like one ever played before.

Back down to the rooms.

“Business as usual.”

Music blaring. Back-slapping aplenty.

A lot of noise in warm-up drills. A lot of anticipation for the job to be done.

The coach’s pre-game address.

Back up the race.

An eerie silence. A surreal experience.

There was no “Up the ‘Baggers!” after the song. No “Yellow and black!” after the other one, either.

No noise for Richmond’s early flurry. Nothing for Carlton’s late fightback.

The one thing you could hear was a lot of audible calls out between opposition players.

For the very few inside the MCG that weren't necessarily involved in the game, it was extraordinary.

For the players, however?

“Business as usual.”

Patrick Cripps hitting bodies. Jacob Weitering in a heavyweight battle with Tom Lynch. A customary first-goal celebration for Jack Martin.

The history books will go down as saying that this was the 143rd consecutive season Carlton has fielded a senior team across the VFA, VFL and AFL. It’s a record which is unmatched.

The history books will say that it was Carlton’s 2514th game of VFL/AFL football.

There may not have been one like it, but there’ll be more of the same in the weeks to come.

It’s going to take a little while to get used to, but with everything else happening, it was good to have just some kind of normality going on.

“Business as usual.”