It wasn’t pretty but Richmond survived a huge scare from upstart Carlton to claim the AFL season-opener by nine points in front of 75,706 fans at the MCG.
The nightmare scenario for Tigers fans nervous over the absence of Brett Deledio became a frightening reality as Brendon Bolton’s young Blues made a mockery of the top-four ambitions for three quarters.
Last year’s wooden spooners rattled Richmond with their superior work rate and defensive pressure to lead by 10 points early in the final term but couldn’t hold off a late burst from the Tigers that secured the 14.8 (92) to 12.11 (83) victory on Thursday night.
To be fair, Damien Hardwick’s side had its issues, with Deledio joined on the sidelines by Shaun Grigg, Ivan Maric and Reece Conca but a team with such lofty goals was terribly exposed by a club in the first game of a rebuilding phase.
With five players, including top draft pick Jacob Weitering, playing their first games in navy blue, a realistic Bolton said he was mainly looking for encouraging sprouts of future growth in his first match in charge for premiership points but he got a full-grown jungle instead.
Skipper Marc Murphy and fellow veterans Bryce Gibbs and Kade Simpson were important but younger teammates Sam Docherty, Patrick Cripps and Nick Graham also did their share of the heavy lifting.
Weitering finished with 18 possessions and impressed with his poise down back.
The Tigers had only managed to win two of the nine games missed by Deledio in the past two seasons and they sorely missed their star playmaker.
Trent Cotchin, in his first game at the ‘G since he went missing in last season’s elimination final loss to North Melbourne, managed just one disposal in the first quarter before working into the contest.
He finished with 21 touches but Dustin Martin, Kane Lambert, Bachar Houli and Alex Rance had greater influence.
Ty Vickery booted three goals with Jack Riewoldt and Sam Lloyd each adding two, with Lloyd’s pair pivotal in helping see off the Blues’ challenge late in the last quarter.
Daniel Rioli showed flashes of brilliance and impressed with his defensive pressure with six tackles.