Shai Bolton savaged over 'mind-blowing' act in AFL season opener

The Tigers star has copped plenty of criticism over the big talking point in the AFL season opener.

Pictured left, Shai Bolton during Richmond's AFL season opener against Carlton.
Shai Bolton's (L) missed shot in front of goal in the fourth quarter proved costly for Richmond in the AFL season opener against Carlton. Pic: Getty

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has taken aim at Shai Bolton over a baffling decision that proved costly in a wild draw with Carlton in the Thursday night's AFL season opener. The Tigers snatched a late draw against their traditional rivals after a late goal from Tom Lynch.

The Tigers spearhead stood tallest in the dying stages of the contest to take a towering mark and slot his third goal for the night, tying the scores at 8.10 (58) apiece with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. It was a thrilling end to a wild season opener in front of 88,084 fans at the MCG.

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However, Hardwick was left to rue a number of errors that cost his side victory, namely a late snap from Bolton off a set shot in front of goal that he could only kick through for a behind. The Tigers star was right in front and only about 30 metres out from goal, but decided to kick around his body, rather than lining up for the more orthodox set shot from in front.

The head-scratching decision turned out to be the wrong one for Bolton, with the 24-year-old rushing his effort and sending the shot at goal wide. Speaking about the incident after the game, Richmond's coach shared the same frustrations as fans, insisting that Bolton had to execute better if he was going to continue taking the unorthodox approach to goal-kicking.

“We want the player to take the responsibility with the way that they shoot at goal," Hardwick told reporters after the game. “For a player of my era, drop punt, for sure. But these days, players practice those, but they have to execute. That is the reality of it.

"You live or die by the sword, don’t you. He practices those a lot. He has to probably get better at it. Probably for mine he rushed it and could have taken more time and got his breaths and more relaxed with his shot.”

Carlton and Richmond rue missed chances

Carlton forward Charlie Curnow looked to have defied Richmond's territorial dominance with three second-half goals to give the Blues the upper hand late in the contest. Richmond - who enjoyed a 66-45 advantage in forward entries - would not go away though and got their reward through Lynch's late heroics.

Boom Richmond recruit Tim Taranto (32 disposals, five clearances) had more touches than any other player on the ground and Dion Prestia (23, five) was influential until Ed Curnow put the clamps on in the final term. When the dust settled on the contest though, Hardwick couldn't help shake the feeling that it was a win that shouldn't have got away from them.

Seen here, players from both sides react on the final siren for the AFL season opener between Richmond and Carlton.
Players from both sides react on the final siren for the AFL season opener between Richmond and Carlton at the MCG. Pic: Getty (Daniel Pockett via Getty Images)

"It looked like a Richmond game," the Tigers coach said. "We had them pinned in the front half for the vast majority but the reality is we just lacked polish.

"We had seven missed shots on goal, we kicked four out on the full, we had a couple of sodas from in front. I'll look at the game overall but the polish is one thing that we certainly need to improve."

George Hewett (28 disposals, eight clearances) and captain Patrick Cripps (25, seven) did well for Carlton in the midfield and ruckman Tom De Koning had an enthralling battle with Toby Nankervis. Maurice Rioli kicked two goals for Richmond and Daniel Rioli (27 disposals) scorched the MCG turf with his dash out of defence.

Bolton and Carlton milestone man Jack Silvagni - playing his 100th game - provided huge marks for the highlights reel, with neither side leading by more than 14 points in the low-scoring arm wrestle.

Carlton coach Michael Voss took a similar view to Hardwick in saying his own side blew a golden chance at victory, even if he was relatively pleased with the performance.

"I can't emphasise enough that if that game happens last year, we lose by six goals," Voss said. "For that game to play out the way it did and (for us) to still be in front and be a chance to win, and still be disappointed that we didn't get the result, that shows real progress in our group."

with AAP

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