The glorious sound of a men’s footy crowd returned in a big way on Thursday night at Marvel Stadium as the AAMI Community Series got underway in front of over 10,000 adoring football starved fans.
St Kilda tuned up in style for the upcoming season withstanding a late surge to record a 26-point win over Carlton, as it fired a warning shot to the competition that it looks to rise yet again in season 2021.
It was a fast start for the Saints in a free-flowing encounter on their favoured fast deck at Marvel Stadium, a place where they will prove to be a handful for many a opposition this year.
Carlton’s best performers from last week’s practice game against Essendon were quick to make their presence felt with Paddy Dow getting his hands on the ball and Marc Pittonet proving he is ready to be Carlton’s number one ruckman this season.
Carlton’s new trio, Adam Saad, Zac Williams and Lachie Fogarty also put their best foot forward with their first up performances in Navy Blue.
Jack Higgins was lively for his first official game in his new colours, getting on the scoresheet and adding further depth to a potent and growing midfield along with former Crow Brad Crouch.
Train-on player Oscar McDonald also put his best foot forward to win the vacancy on Carlton’s list with a two-goal first half, standing up and showing his versatility when thrown around the ground.
Forgotten forward Jack Silvagni also gave Carlton coaches a headache with a standout three-goal performance, providing pressure in the front half all night.
It was the first televised look at the new rule interpretations for this season too.
With plenty of fast football on display, the ball bounced around Marvel Stadium like a basketball as it was raining goals at both ends.
With the adjustment back to 20-minute quarters and waiting a minute in between goals, fans were given a big welcome back to the version of the game they left behind pre-pandemic.
Both coaches noted how the game adjusted from quarter to quarter as teams experimented with different strategies with the new rules.
“I thought the style of game changed from quarter to quarter, with both teams. How teams scored was a little bit different,” St Kilda coach Brett Ratten said post-game.
“It was a stoppage game early and then it became a transition game in the second quarter.
“We put some things in place to see how we could go about our style in different modes. Some of it was successful and some of it wasn’t.”
Ratten praised the new rules and game adjustments but, despite the high number of goals in the game, called for caution and time before declaring it a success.
Carlton coach David Teague echoed the sentiment, saying it will take time for teams to fully adjust to the newer and faster style of game.
“I think its going to get harder through the middle of the ground. I think you can get deep entries, you might be able to pin it in your front half but, if you turn it over in the middle of the ground, that’s where it makes it harder,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see what clubs do”
Teague said post-match that despite the loss, he thought his players adapted well to the new rules and despite some sloppy disposal, though there were some “great lessons” within the game.
“Hopefully our fans see that there were a lot of good efforts from our players, but they also understand that we have a fair bit of work still to go,” Teague said.
“It was a high intensity game and I thought our players handled it from a physical point of view really well.”
It turned into a costly night for the Blues, who will be sweating on the fitness of several key players ahead of their season opener against Richmond in two weeks.
Harry McKay left the field in the first quarter with an ankle complaint.
Jack Newnes also limped off in the third quarter with what looked to be a lower leg complaint and Jacob Weitering also hobbled off in the third quarter and was assessed for a corked thigh.
Carlton coach David Teague said post-game that all three were withdrawn from the game as a precaution but should be fine for Round 1.
They will also be sweating on the MRO verdict after Zac Williams hit Hunter Clark with a high bump.
Teague also said he expects both Mitch McGovern and Levi Casboult to be available for opening night against the Tigers while fan favourite Eddie Betts will play limited minutes in Carlton’s reserves game on Friday as he returns from a calf injury.
Similarly, St Kilda will be waiting on scan results as James Frawley left the field in the first quarter with what looked like a hamstring injury.
The Saints are set to regain midfielder Zak Jones for Round 1 while inside midfielder Dan Hannebery remains in doubt.