New year, same old Dustin Martin
LIKE the old squeeze you see again at the school reunion, they had that familiar look about them.
Not quite the same, but the more you watched the more you remembered.
If the MCG was the school hall, Richmond was the dux student on Thursday night returning to the scene of its greatest triumph.
The football world has spent the last six months wondering if the Tigers would pick up where they left off. Does the game plan still stack up? Has the competition bridged the gap? Is the hunger still there?
Or, let's be frank, would there any sign of a premiership hangover?
For Richmond, there was rust, but there is certainly nothing rotten. The Tigers took Carlton's best shots, of which there were plenty - before their big game supremacy shone brightly in the last quarter.
With scores level at 82 eight minutes into the last term and the Tigers wasting opportunities against an injury-hit Blues side clinging to life, it was you-know-who who reminded his side how it's done.
Dustin Martin gathered a bouncing ball inside 50m at the Punt Road end, made a mockery of a Ciaran Byrne tackle attempt, surged past Liam Jones and drilled a running banana.
It was a goal that lit the fuse for three more in the following four minutes through Jacob Townsend (twice) and Dan Butler.
In the blink of an eye, the flag defence was off and running in front of the biggest Round 1 crowd in the history of the game - 90,151.
The premiership flag was unfurled at the Punt Road end and the MCG is still dressed in yellow and black. Richmond's last four attendances, dating back to last year's qualifying final win over Geelong, are 95,028, 94,258, 100,021 and last night's 90,151.
The banner declared they were "hungry for more" and while one game into a 22-match season speaks for itself, they don't appear to be empty words.
Martin looks every bit the superstar of last year, Alex Rance is still impassable and Jack Riewoldt hasn't forgotten how to make telling contributions at critical moments.
Yet what will excite the most is the scope for growth. Jacob Townsend (four goals) and Butler (three) could easily go to another level.
Still, there are kinks.
Richmond, the menacing and aggressive defensive unit of last year, was split open at will in the first quarter by a Blues side who finished 16th last year and were the lowest-scoring team in the competition.
After only 11 minutes the Tigers were down 30-1 as a free-wheeling Carlton shed the attacking training wheels. The Blues' six first-quarter goals was something Richmond only allowed to happen once in all of 2017.
They allowed the Blues to kick eight goals from their first 18 inside 50s and were opened up easier than what we remember.
David Astbury was found wanting opposed to the athletic Charlie Curnow (five goals) and Toby Nankervis was beaten by Kreuzer until the latter's injury.
That will happen, of course, but what can't keep happening is Shaun Grigg attending centre bounces as a ruckman.
Ditto the 50m penalties for encroaching on the mark. Whether it's a stricter interpretation or not, they gifted Carlton four goals from 50m penalties.
They are the negatives, but we judge the champions harshly. By the final siren, Richmond had amassed 24 more inside 50s and 16 more scoring shots.
Last September against Adelaide was the cream. The yellow and black army will hope this is the start of the cake.