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AFL kicks off in pandemic season reboot

Football

The 2021 AFL season kicks off tonight with reigning premiers Richmond facing Carlton at the MCG in front of 50,000 fans, marking a landmark moment for the league in its quest to rebound from last year’s pandemic struggles.

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Richmond club legends will help show off the spoils of the Tigers’ 2019 and 2020 Grand Final triumphs in front of the largest crowd to attend an AFL game in Victoria since 2019.

Tonight’s game will be the club’s first step towards reaching heights not even the most die-hard Tigers fan could have imagined only five years ago.

Two teams have claimed three-straight premierships this century – the Brisbane Lions (2001-03) and Hawthorn (2013-15) – but a fourth title in five years is something that has not been done since Melbourne won five from six between 1955 and 1960.

Even the Hawks’ powerhouse teams of the 1980s and early 1990s spread their five premierships out over nine seasons.

Despite Richmond’s shot at history, captain Trent Cotchin has insisted the Tigers are not motivated by great teams from other eras.

Time will tell how much energy the unique experience of winning a premiership in the Queensland hub last season took out of Damien Hardwick’s group.

Meanwhile, Adelaide are gearing up to face last year’s grand finalists Geelong in front of 40,000 fans at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday, while Port Adelaide are looking to record a straightforward win over last year’s cellar dwellers North Melbourne at Docklands on Sunday.

How Adelaide Oval manages the new crowd size will be closely scrutinised, with fans to be segmented into 120-people “pods” and asked to wear masks while they are moving around the stadium.

Premier Steven Marshall on Wednesday said the state’s transition committee will continue to review the density cap as the season progresses.

-with AAP

 

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