Carlton fans to converge on MCG for clash

·2-min read

Seven days after being drowned out by the Richmond faithful, Carlton supporters will converge on the MCG and comfortably top the biggest sports crowd in Australia since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Crowds in Victoria have been limited to 50 per cent capacity but from Thursday night's AFL match, stadiums can be 75 per cent full after the state government's latest easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Up to 75,000 people will be allowed at the MCG for the Blues' mammoth round-two clash with Collingwood, which already shapes as a crunch game for the arch-rivals.

Carlton fought hard in their opening-round game but the Tigers, who had the motivation of unveiling two premiership flags in front of their parochial fans, kicked away late to win by 25 points.

But Blues coach David Teague is expecting a different atmosphere this time around and knows club members will snap up the available tickets.

"I don't know whether (Zac Williams) did it on purpose, but he gets to debut in front of hopefully 75,000 Carlton supporters," Teague said.

"We're excited to have our fans back. I really hope they get there; our players get energy off them.

"Even last week we were outnumbered, but our fans were quite loud."

To be the biggest sports crowd in the world since the women's Twenty20 World Cup final on March 8, 2020, the MCG will have to be close to its new capacity, but The Age is reporting that is unlikely with the number to be around 60,000.

A men's T20 international between India and England in Ahmedabad attracted 67,000 people earlier in March before the rest of the five-game series was played behind closed doors after COVID-19 cases in the region spiked.

Last week's season-opener at the MCG hosted the biggest crowd in Australia since last March, with those 49,218 fans narrowly pipping the figure at last year's State of Origin rugby league decider in Brisbane.

One of the most famous rivalries in the AFL, Carlton and Collingwood are both desperate to avoid a 0-2 start to the season.

Only five of 58 teams that have lost the first two games of an AFL season in the past decade have gone onto play finals.

Carlton will be buoyed by the return of speedster Jack Martin from injury, while high-profile recruit Williams will run out for the first time as a Blue after switching from Greater Western Sydney in the off-season.

For the Magpies, star midfielder Steele Sidebottom is a vital inclusion after missing last week's defeat to the Western Bulldogs with a calf issue.