It’s that time of year again, the AFL season is finally upon us and the hype around Round 1 is one of the greatest in recent memory.
Richmond vs Carlton
Keeping with tradition, the Tigers will take on the Blues to kick off the AFL season at the MCG on Thursday night. For the first time in recent memory both sides are considered genuine contenders for the premiership in 2023.
Over the past decade the Tigers have dominated the round one clash, winning seven straight games before the Blues upset them in round 1 last year, largely due to the BOG performance of 2022 Brownlow Medallist Patrick Cripps who finished with 30 possessions and 3 goals.
Both sides will have new faces running around on Thursday night. The Tigers raided the Giants midfield over the trade period, bringing in young stars Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, both who are expected to play a big part in the midfield this season, allowing Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin to spend more time up forward.
Hard-running wingman Blake Acres will play his first game for the Blues, whilst many fans will be excited to see 2022 draftees Lachie Cowan and Ollie Hollands make their debut in Round 1 after an impressive pre-season by both players.
With Blues big-man Marc Pittonet being left out, young superstar Tom De Koning will face a big task up against the physical Richmond co-captain, Toby Nankervis.
The twin towers and dual Coleman medal winners Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay will be a handful for the Tigers defence, limiting their supply from their midfield will be important if the Richmond side are going to keep them in check.
Every football fan is excited to see what a fit and mentally fresh Dustin Martin can produce in 2023, with injuries and personal issues affecting the superstar in 2022.
A crowd of around 90,000 appear set to attend the season opener between the two Victorian powerhouses.
Key Matchup – Tom Lynch vs Jacob Weitering
Although the Tigers have previously dominated the Blues, Weitering has had the better of Richmond superstar Tom Lynch, keeping him to only 6 goals from the past 4 meetings between the pair. With a forward line likely consisting of Riewoldt, Martin, Lynch and Cotchin the game looks to be won or lost in the Richmond forward half.
Prediction – Richmond 7pts
AFL Fantasy Watch:
Sam Docherty: In the absence of Sam Walsh, Docherty will spend more minutes in the engine room for the Blues. Despite his premium price tag, Docherty is one of the most selected players after excellent pre-season performances. The inspirational Blue-Bagger is certainly a VC option for tonight’s game.
Tim Taranto: In previous years, the Tigers have not been a high scoring fantasy side but Taranto’s game style should suit their quick ball movement. Expected to play significant midfield minutes with Martin and Cotchin spending more time in the forward half, Taranto should be able to be able to use his superior fitness base to rack up possessions as shown in the pre-season games.