The Michael Voss-led new era at Carlton has begun in stunning fashion with a come-from-behind 25-point win over AFL rivals Richmond.
Spiritual leader Sam Docherty marked his return after a cancer battle with a team-lifting goal on Thursday as the Blues twice recovered from 20-point deficits to end an 11-game losing streak against the Tigers.
Docherty’s long set shot after a 50-metre penalty brought many in the 72,179-strong crowd at the MCG to their feet.
It put the Blues eight points ahead in the shadows of halftime before they were forced to fight their way back into the match in a thrilling climax.
A six-goals-to-two third quarter gave Richmond control and Shai Bolton’s third goal of the night looked to have set the Tigers on their way to victory early in the final term.
But Carlton turned the match on its head with five goals in eight minutes in a stunning surge to power themselves to a 14.17 (101) to 11.10 (76) upset.
Captain Patrick Cripps kicked three goals from 30 disposals in the Blues’ first triumph over Richmond since the famous 2013 elimination final.
It was also Carlton’s first round-one win in a decade, after what new coach Voss felt was a pre-season preparation that set his side on the right track for the new home-and-away campaign.
“There were still a couple of questions that we weren’t sure that we could answer but the consistency of the group was pretty good throughout,” Voss said.
“We had to answer a couple of challenges and it’s a signature win for the club.
“At some stage we’ll put it in its place where it belongs, but at this particular moment it’s a very important win for us.”
Cripps combined with Matthew Kennedy (33 disposals) and new recruits Adam Cerra (30) and George Hewett (28) as Carlton mauled Richmond in the centre square in the final term.
The centre clearance (7-0), overall clearance (17-2), contested possession (42-23) and inside-50 (22-2) counts were landslides in the Blues’ favour.
“Richmond were able to get field position from that avenue throughout the night and we responded,” Voss said.
“I don’t think we lost one (centre clearance) in the last quarter.
“Collectively, they’re forming a really good relationship with one another and that will hopefully only get stronger.”
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick lamented his side’s ill-discipline and some lapses in concentration after the Tigers coughed up eight 50-metre penalties.
But it was in the engine room where the game was lost.
“Their midfield just completely dominated ours,” Hardwick said.
“Vossy’s got them going in a really strong direction.”
Richmond’s night was further soured by a suspected fractured thumb for Jack Riewoldt and unlucky midfield star Dion Prestia’s latest hamstring setback.
Blues duo Cripps and Jacob Weitering both had injury scares when they had ankle issues seen to by medical staff during the final term, but returned to see out the match.