Carlton hang on in MCG thriller against brave Tigers

Oliver Caffrey |

Richmond defender Josh Gibcus leaves the field at the MCG on a medical cart after damaging his knee.
Richmond defender Josh Gibcus leaves the field at the MCG on a medical cart after damaging his knee.

Carlton have hung on in another nail-biter, outlasting a wounded Richmond by five points in a thrilling first game of the season at the MCG.

Six days after storming home from 46 points down to stun the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba, the Blues did their best to blow a match they controlled.

Richmond fought to the end, having the ball in their forward 50 in the dying seconds, but the Blues hung on grimly to win 12.14 (86) to 12.9 (81) in front of 83,881 fans on Thursday night.

It means Carlton’s past six wins have been by a combined total of 22 points, dating back to round 22 last season.

“Because we’ve probably found ourselves in those moments a little bit more than what we’d like, the players are really embracing it,” Voss said of the Blues’ close games.

“They see it as a bit of a challenge when we find ourselves in that situation, but clearly we don’t want to find ourselves there in the first place.”

Trailing by eight points at three-quarter-time, the Blues slammed through the three first goals of the final term.

But Richmond had one last charge left in them, scoring through youngster Seth Campbell and then making the Blues defend for their life.

Harry McKay, fresh off kicking the game-winner against the Lions, and captain Patrick Cripps were crucial in willing the Blues over the line and to a 2-0 start to the season.

Patrick Cripps (left) congratulates Carlton teammate Harry McKay
Patrick Cripps (left) congratulates Carlton teammate Harry McKay on a goal against Richmond.

After having major issues with his goalkicking in recent seasons, McKay (three goals) led the way as some of his teammates, including Charlie Curnow, struggled with inaccuracy.

Richmond suffered three game-ending injuries – midfielder Dion Prestia (hamstring), and defenders Josh Gibcus (knee) and Tylar Young (concussion) – during the first half, but the Tigers hung in with the premiership contenders.

Gibcus has likely become the third player in the first five games of 2024 to suffer a season-ending knee injury.

Josh Gibcus
Richmond defender Josh Gibcus leaves the field at the MCG on a medical cart after damaging his knee.

After missing all of the 2023 campaign with hamstring issues, Gibcus landed awkwardly late in the second quarter.

The 20-year-old’s right leg twisted following a marking contest and he immediately fell to the ground.

A distraught Gibcus left the field on a medical cart and was taken into Richmond’s rooms.

Gibcus’s injury follows two players – Keidean Coleman (Brisbane Lions) and Sam Docherty (Carlton) – rupturing their anterior cruciate ligament in last Friday night’s opening-round match at the Gabba.

The Tigers were already a player down after experienced Prestia suffered a hamstring injury during the first term.

The return of three-time Norm Smith Medallist Dustin Martin, star forward Tom Lynch and captain Toby Nankervis proved crucial for Richmond after the trio missed last week’s loss against Gold Coast.

Lynch, playing in his first game since round four last year after struggling with a serious foot injury, booted the Tigers’ first two goals in an immediate confidence boost.

The dual Richmond leading goalkicker teamed up with Noah Balta, who has been shifted from defence under new coach Adem Yze up forward for the first time.

But in the absence of Gibcus and Young, Balta was moved back to defence in the second half.

“That’s a good word proud, and that’s how we felt as coaches,” Yze said.

“To lose two key defenders by halftime, let alone, Dion, a leader of our footy club and to respond the way they did, and keep keep toiling away.”