Martin powers Tigers to AFL win over Blues

·3-min read

Richmond have celebrated the unfurling of two premiership flags with a Dustin Martin-inspired 25-point victory over Carlton in an enthralling AFL season-opener at the MCG.

Recent clashes between the arch-rivals have been one-sided, with Richmond not losing to the Blues since 2013, but Carlton made the reigning premiers work to the end on Thursday night.

However, Richmond's experience ultimately proved too strong as they pulled away late in every quarter to win 15.15 (105) to 11.14 (80) in front of 49,218 fans - the first crowd at an AFL men's game in Victoria since 2019.

The margin blew out late, but Carlton appeared to have a genuine chance of an upset when they closed to within five points with seven minutes remaining.

But as they did in the second and third quarters, the Tigers hit back every time Carlton challenged and powered away with three unanswered goals to seal the game.

The Tigers did it without three-time premiership captain Trent Cotchin (illness), but stand-in skipper Jack Riewoldt stepped up as the veteran forward booted four goals.

Superstar Martin was at his brilliant best, collecting 31 possessions and two goals - one a near-carbon copy of his first major in last year's grand final - while Kane Lambert and Jack Graham were also important.

The game began at a frenetic pace, with the lead changing seven times in an action-packed first-half.

But a return to full-length games after last year's shortened quarters saw both teams tire dramatically after the main break.

"Carlton were always going to be a dangerous side and I think they will be this year," Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said.

"Especially come round one, they're going to be fired up and ready to go and I thought our guys handled it well."

Former Melbourne player Oscar McDonald became the AFL's first medical substitution after the league implemented the contentious new rule a day out from the season commencing.

McDonald came on in the third quarter for Jack Silvangi (shoulder) and made an immediate impact by slotting the first goal of the second half, before adding another in the final term for just the third major of his 82-game career.

Richmond's sub, Jack Ross, was activated late in the third quarter as defender Nick Vlastuin, who was knocked out in last year's grand final, injured his knee and will have scans on Friday.

Tigers defender David Astbury is facing a stint on the sidelines after being reported for striking Lachie Plowman in the third term.

Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps and young midfield star Sam Walsh were tremendous in a losing cause.

"(Walsh) is an elite runner but he just continues to grow his game and that's what I love," Blues coach David Teague said.

"But he was also part of a midfield that got beat - I thought he was very good - but as a collective our ability to win those contests around stoppages got the better of us."