Virus, what virus? Tigers maul Blues amid eerie scenes
There was no crowd, no flag unfurling and little atmosphere, but at least there was some history associated with Richmond's 24-point opening round win over Carlton.
It may not have been as easy as coach Damien Hardwick would have wanted, nor as smooth as the Tigers' seven-goal first term suggested it might be.
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However, it was Richmond's 13th successive victory - the biggest streak the club has achieved, surpassing the previous record set back in 1932-33.
This footy team has a hankering for history, and while their contested ball dropped away in the latter stages of the game, there will take a powering of beating again this year - even if the yellow and black can't be in attendance.
The usual suspects of Dion Prestia, Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin led from the front and were still there fighting hard when the Blues drew within 15 points late in the game.
The "Teague Train" looked in danger of derailing early after a flat start, but the more the game wore on, the more Carlton looked to be comfortable matching it with the reigning premiers.
The return of Sam Docherty and the first game of Jack Martin in Carlton colours were huge positives, even if the injury to Matthew Kreuzer hurt.
Cotchin was all class when consoling Kreuzer - his former Northern Under 18s teammate - after the siren.
Gold Coast, what were hell were you thinking?
You refused to do a deal with Carlton during the trade period on Jack Martin and then let him leave for Ikon Park for absolutely no return in the pre-season draft.
Martin might prove the "steal" of the off-season, at least on the back of his outstanding debut in navy blue.
Perhaps he might be seen as former list manager Stephen Silvagni's farewell gift to the club.
Martin was compelling viewing in a game that had precious few highlights.
He kicked four goals in the third quarter, threading the ball through in various ways, and even set up the Blues' other goal for the term via David Cuningham.
MARLION MARK II
There were no blind turns and no premiership medals on offer as Richmond's Marlion Pickett provided the most stark comparison between a debut game and a second follow up.
Pickett played his first game before a crowd of 100,014; last night there were no paying customers.
The 27-year-old wasn't quite up to his 2019 Grand Final heroics, but he showed enough signs that he has a serious future in yellow and black.
But as Richmond's historian Rhett Bartlett pointed out, it wasn't the biggest crowd disparity from one game to the next in VFL-AFL history.
As Bartlett explained, the biggest known disparity came with Carlton, who played in front of a crowd of 121,696 in the 1970 Grand Final before playing in Round 1 the next year in front of 20,399 - a disparity of 101,297.
WELCOME BACK, DOC
It wasn't the footy homecoming that would have driven Sam Docherty through the pain of two knee reconstructions, but it was still a massive step forward.
Last night was Docherty's first game since he played against Sydney at the SCG in Round 23, 2017 - which is an eternity in football.
His composure with ball in hand and his clever ball use was manna for the gods for SuperCoach speculators who had long since made him the buy of the season.
But it was his booming voice of instruction to teammates - clearly audible due to the ghost grandstands - that will prove so important in 2020.
RICHMOND 7.2 11.3 14.5 16.9 (105)
CARLTON 2.1 3.5 8.7 12.9 (81)
Tigers: Riewoldt 3, Castagna 3, Bolton 3, Rioli 3, Edwards, Martin, Prestia, Lambert
Blues: Martin 4, Cuningham 2, Casboult 2, Silvagni 2, McGovern, Newnes
GLENN MCFARLANE'S BEST
Tigers: Prestia, Martin, Cotchin, Riewoldt, Rioli, Edwards, Lambert, Bolton
Blues: Cripps, Martin, Docherty, Murphy, Weitering, Petrevski-Seton, Walsh
GLENN MCFARLANE'S VOTES
3 - Patrick Cripps (Blues)
2 - Dion Prestia (Tigers)
1 - Dustin Martin (Tigers)
Tigers: Vlastuin (concussion)
Blues: Kreuzer (foot)
Umpires: Meredith, O'Gorman, Williamson
Originally published as Virus, what virus? Tigers maul Blues amid eerie scenes