Round 1 – Richmond v Carlton: The AFL stops for no-one

It seems like an eternity, but just eleven days ago we were at the MGC watching the Aussie women win the T20 World Cup. On that carefree early autumn evening, the atmosphere was joyous inside the packed stadium. It wasn’t just a celebration of women’s sport; it was a celebration of sport.


How quickly things change.


We should be celebrating tonight too – unfurling a second premiership flag in three years and kicking off the AFLM season in front of a packed MCG. Instead, we’re at our homes monitoring our toilet paper usage and practising social distancing while hoping to avoid a total lockdown of life as we knew it.


The near misses of exposure to COVID-19 are evident. We were just two bays away from the infected person on the balcony of the MCC section at the cricket, and while I’ve been on birthday leave this week, my workplace has been closed for a few days for extensive cleaning after a colleague two floors up tested positive. It feels inevitable that one of these near misses will become a hit and I’m taking the social distancing advice seriously.


I have the benefit, or perhaps disadvantage, of having trained in epidemiology. I know enough about the spread of infectious diseases to be worried, very worried. And I never thought I’d say this, but I do appreciate how the government is taking advice from experts and acting on it. What I don’t appreciate is how radio stations such as SEN give airtime to the opinions of footballers and talk-back callers on infectious disease control.


With the footy going ahead tonight, I don’t feel excited. It feels wrong to begin a season in the face of such uncertainty. But, of course, I’m going to watch. I usually love the ritual of donning some yellow and black and then walking to the train station, with tension and excitement building during the 18-minute train ride to Jolimont and the walk across Yarra Park to the MCG. But tonight, I walk down the hallway from the kitchen to the loungeroom and turn on the telly for some pre-game nonsense.


We nearly have the 2019 premiership team back on the park tonight, but Bachar Houli is out with an injured calf and Brandon Ellis is now at Gold Coast. In their places come preliminary final hero Jack Graham and Sydney Stack. Surprisingly, the usual pre-game noise is blaring from the speakers inside the MCG and the scoreboards are functioning as usual. Do the players need or want these?


The siren rings out across the MCG before the bounce to start the game, but there’s no roar to accompany it. Soon after, Shane Edwards goals from a 50-metre penalty that was met with silence rather than howls of indignation from Blues supporters. The second goal to Jason Castagna began with some trickery from Marlion Pickett who has the most bizarre beginning to his AFL career. The players are quite noisy. We rarely get to hear how much they talk on field and the intensity of their yelling is compelling, helped a bit by echoes from the empty stands. Amusingly, balls that go over the fence after a goal or out of bounds on the full need to be fetched rather than returned by the crowd, and part of me wishes that the AFL had introduced a rule that players had to jump the fence to get the footy to add a grass-roots element to the game.


Third goal to Jack Riewoldt. Fourth goal to Kane Lambert. Fifth goal to Riewoldt. It’s getting ugly for Carlton but then they finally goal through David Cuningham and then another to Levi Casboult. Goals to Castagna and Shai Bolton see us to the end of the 16-minute quarter and the loss of Matthew Kreuzer to what looks like a serious injury will have Blues fans very worried.


Carlton kick the first of the second quarter. I’m not sure if Carlton have lifted, or Richmond have eased off a bit, but Carlton have the better of the first part of the quarter. Despite their dominance, Carlton can’t convert their chances and then the Tigers wake up again to kick four goals to take us to half time.


After a summer of debating how long we need at half time to get to the loo and buy a pie, half time at home is looking for a snack in the kitchen and then standing at the back door listening the quiet of the outside world. Half time chatter is conducted by group text message along with sending photos of dogs sleeping through the footy.


With the third quarter underway, it still doesn’t feel real. So much of the urgency of a game is brought by the crowd, and the first goal and repeated inside 50s to the Blues should have both sides of the crowd on edge, willing the players on. Dan Rioli’s goal celebration would normally have the Tiger faithful in raptures but there is no-one to see it. Perhaps players will learn the camera locations to direct their celebrations to the fans. The Blues win the third quarter with new recruit Jack Martin kicking four of their five goals for the quarter.


And again, the Blues kick the first for the quarter after the restart. The Tigers need to be switched on at the beginning of quarters, but they’re not and the Blues kick another two to bring the margin back to 15 points. The Tigers of old would choke here and the fans of old would despair, but with the past three years under our belts we can relax. A Pickett sidestep and kick to Bolton who kicks truly puts a stop to the Carlton onslaught. A little later, Rioli sprints to the empty Punt Road end and kicks a goal. The Tigers win by 24 points and the club song plays to an empty MCG.


Richmond:             7.2       11.3     14.5     16.9            (105)

Carlton:             2.1       3.5       8.7       12.9            (81)



Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Castagna 3, Bolton 3, Rioli 3, Edwards, Martin, Prestia, Lambert

Carlton: Martin 4, Cuningham 2, Casboult 2, Silvagni 2, McGovern, Newnes



Richmond: Prestia, Martin, Riewoldt, Cotchin, Edwards, Lambert

Carlton: Martin, Cripps, Weitering, Docherty, Murphy


Crowd: 0


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE


About Gill

As a youngster, Gill thought that frequent Richmond premierships were assured, but in the many years since 1980 she realised her folly and distracted herself by crunching numbers at a university. The magnificence of the Tigers’ 2017 season has restored her faith in Richmond and all of humanity.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    It’s certainly going to be an interesting season Gill! It will be strange not being able to support your team at the game. A couple of mates I go to Essendon home matches with, to compensate, we have decided to get together for a bbq to celebrate our first game for the season then watch it on TV. It won’t be the same, but unfortunately, in the circumstances, like everyone else there’s not much we can do about it.

  2. It certainly shows how much the crowd makes a game of footy. All thing considered, I’m glad we had footy to watch. Good luck to the Bombers!

Leave a Comment