'Bigger than footy': Tigers, Blues fans flock to historic night

NOT FOR the first time, Carlton crashed Richmond's round one party. 

The Blues comprehensively outplayed the Tigers; their experience, composure and game sense coming to the fore. 

BLUES CRUISE TO TAME TIGERS Full match coverage and stats

But Friday night was bigger than that. With Richmond fielding an AFLW team for the first time in 2020, this was the inaugural women's edition of the traditional rivals, a new twist in front of a new audience. 

A crowd of 15,337 filled Ikon Park, validating the fixturing of a Richmond home game at Carlton's base (the Swinburne Centre only holds 5,000). 

AFLW Match Highlights: Richmond v Carlton

05:14 Feb 7. 2020. 9:53 PM

The Tigers and Blues clash in Round 1 of the AFLW

The Tigers brought their drummers, who set the scene for their AFL team at home matches, and a junior Tiger Army formed a guard of honour, threatening to take out several eyes with their enthusiastic flag waving.

A healthy mix of young fans and grizzled Tiger veterans – who have seen their fair share of both good and bad times – filled the stands, and the crowd roared as Richmond entered the playing field for the first time. 

The AFLW Tigers enter the field for the first time. Picture: AFL Photos

The famous "Yellow and Black" rang out, with the obligatory boo when Carlton took to the field. 

With AFL umpires taking charge of AFLW games for the first time, it didn't take long for Ray Chamberlain to have an impact, paying a contentious contested mark early much to the chagrin of the crowd. 

Carlton was so dominant throughout, it took until the fourth quarter for Richmond to finally convert on the scoreboard, with former Brisbane key forward Sabrina Frederick taking a strong contested mark and saluting with obvious delight.

For the first time, the "Richmond" chant was heard, as the crowd was brought to life with a cheer louder than any of the six Carlton goals of the night. The margin may have been 31 points at that stage, but the Tiger Army didn't care. 

Tiger Time: Richmond's first AFLW goal

00:44 Feb 7. 2020. 9:03 PM

Sabrina Frederick etches her name into history as Richmond's first AFLW goalkicker

The Carlton fans, on the other hand, were hungry for blood. 

After a demoralising Grand Final loss in 2019, they bellowed for frees, and roared every time young star Lucy McEvoy got the ball. The No.2 draft pick earned everyone's respect with a strong contested mark with the fearsome Lauren Tesoriero bearing down on the 18-year-old. 

"It would have been nice to have a real positive result on the scoreboard. We spoke about it after the game, but it was one of those nights when it was just a little bit bigger than footy," Richmond coach Tom Hunter said. 

Tom Hunter

For the Richmond Football Club to have a women’s side run out for the first time, in their inaugural season, in front of so many yellow and black supporters tonight, it meant a lot to a lot of people playing, it meant a lot to a lot of staff members and board members

"So it's one of those ones where the result didn't go our way, but we were just really excited to be a part of it, get that first game under our belt and look forward to next week." 

These aren't the Tigers of old. But with Phoebe Monahan and Akec Makur Chuot holding down the fort in defence, they're strong and they're bold (although at times to their detriment on Friday night, occasionally biting off more than they could chew).

The fans filled out Ikon Park for the blockbuster opener to season 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

And they're playing for the generations of women and girls who have supported Richmond over the years; who would run around the backyard pretending to be Matthew Richardson because there was no one else.

So regardless of Friday night's result, or even the results of the season to come, there'll be plenty of Monique Contis, Katie Brennans and Makur Chuots populating kick to kicks this summer.