No Blues for these Blues by Anthony Reed

How good was the build up for this game? For a first round match, I’d never encountered anything like it – and I now live in Sydney. Fans of both Richmond and Carlton were upbeat about the future and hoping to break their respective final ducks this year, with an improving 2008. More realistically the emotion of the game came from Ben Cousins recruitment to Richmond – exactly 100 days earlier – and the possibility of the dream match up between him and Chris Judd.

As a fan, I’d been there a year earlier and I remember my mother ringing me up during the trade period to say “We got Judd!”. Clearly, while on field skills were highly comparable, the off field issues could not have been more contrasting. Judd, the quintessential marquee player of the league manages himself impeccably. Cousins was the bad boy recovering from a range of problems no other club was prepared to risk but fans wanted to see play again. The bargain basement deal Cousins gave Richmond confirmed how keen he was for another chance.

Anyway, went through the usual pre-game rituals of speaking with my mate Charles who was at the game and all he could say was how electric the atmosphere was and that we didn’t really know what the expect. Both his kids had flags ready and were holding the Number 2 Auskick Sherrin in nervous anticipation. I was sitting back watching it on Foxtel with my kids, both of whom were saying to me “Which one’s Cousins?”

The game started with a line-up we pretty much expected, with up and comer Bryce Gibbs on Cousins. The ball was out quickly to Cousins and you could feel the relief and excitement from the Richmond fans.

Soon the ball goes to Richo and there is a sigh of relief from us Carlton supporters as he’s marked 30 metres out and we’re pretty sure he’ll miss from there – which he does. Quickly the ball travels to the Carlton forward line and I’m immediately impressed with our control of the ball, which is something we haven’t had this millennium. Simmonds misses a sitter mark and Fev is quick to bounce, tackling him and Richo to the ground, leading to a Waite goal. Everyone’s dancing at our house with a ‘go Carlton” song that we engineer each time we goal. Another goal to Carlton, this time to debutant Mitch Robinson who’s enthusiasm is quite contagious as we eat our nachos. Richmond do really well through the forgotten eagle, Mitch Morton, who kicks 2 goals and half way through the first quarter, I start thinking: Are we up to it?

But I don’t need to worry anymore as from that point on Carlton takes control of the ball, primarily through Richmond clangers and our excellent disposal skills. It’s all about turnovers and use of the ball, and the contrast couldn’t be more dramatic from two wannabe clubs.

As the match progresses, I start slapping myself in the face to check I’m not sleeping. I even start feeling sorry for the Richmond side because even the umps seem to be on our side. The opening quarter was enough to confirm that Carlton will be no push over this year and that Richmond’s team will need to take a good hard look at themselves. I am trying to recall the last time Carlton kicked 8 goals in the opening quarter as recent history this is our 3 quarter time score before a huge surge.

My mind continues to get distracted the further the game goes. Is that Carlton trainer the comedian Carl Barron? Why do all the good players shave their heads? How long are Jarryd Waite’s arms?

The match continues with sound performances from all of Carlton’s new players and stellar performances from Chief Wiggins and Bee Gee Gibbs. Richmond are getting movement from Morton, Riewoldt and Foley, but they are not getting the support they want and the game plan is somewhere between fragile and non-existent.

And then things get worse. Watching the tele at ¾ time they say how Cousins has a leg injury and the history of soft tissue problems and is getting treatment on the bench while the team is 10 goals down. Still they bring him on shortly afterwards, he gets the ball as usual and then goes down with a hammy. Sadly for the tiger supporters, this perfectly summed up their night.

At this stage, I am fending off text messages and calls like you wouldn’t believe. People I haven’t spoken to for years are ringing me up saying: “What about Carlton?”. My kids no longer care and have gone to bed. We kick more goals than I can remember and blow the tigers away by over 80 points in what can only be described as a complete victory.

I then start looking at next week’s game and hope this is not a one-off. Go the Blues!

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