Round 1 of the AFL home and away season gets underway on Thursday March 23 with the traditional season-opener between Carlton and Richmond.
The Tigers head in to the encounter as firm favourite’s against the Blues, who have had a mediocre pre-season. The clash gets underway at 7.20PM AEST and will be broadcast live on Channel 7 and Fox Footy.
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The two sides finished alongside each other on the ladder at the end of 2016 with Richmond (13th with eight wins) just shading Carlton (14th with seven wins).
Of the two, Richmond have had more of an encouraging time since. The Tigers boosted their stocks in the off-season, adding Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy and Toby Nankervis to their list, while the Blues topped up with Caleb Marchback, Rhys Palmer and a host of kids.
In the recent JLT Community Series, Richmond won two of their three games, while Carlton failed to register a win.
The Blues’ early season form has been some cause for concern with many expecting the famous club to challenge Brisbane for the wooden spoon.
However, their fans can look to Thursday night's game with some optimism, knowing that they were written off in a big way last year before surprising early on with a string of against-the-odds performances.
Marchbank and Palmer add some depth, while a fit and firing Marc Murphy will ensure that Brendan Bolton's side can at least match motors with the Richmond midfield.
Dustin Martin comes off a stellar 2016 that saw him finish 3rd in the Brownlow and he looms as one of the match winners, while Jack Riewoldt and Alex Rance will be key bookends at either end of the ground.
As was the case in 2016, scoring is a concern for Carlton due to their lack of firepower. They posted scores of 83, 30 and 62 in their pre-season hitout’s and averaged just 10 goals per game in 2016.
Carlton have the majority of their squad available, including Matthew Kreuzer and Marc Murphy, who both missed large chunks of 2016. Jarred Pickett is set to debut.
Richmond will be without Shaun Hampson in the ruck but after an outstanding pre-season, Toby Nankervis should fill the void here. Steve Morris is another that will miss.
Richmond have dominated Carlton in recent years, winning the past four between the two sides, including last year's opener by nine points.
On that occasion, Jack Riewoldt and Alex Rance were amongst the best for the yellow and black, while Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs found plenty of the ball for Carlton.
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Prediction and Tips
Richmond will be too strong. Look for them to cover the line of -15.5