Teamwork is trick of trade for Carlton

Nine Blues players combine for 18 goals and the coach Brett Ratten pleased with his team's winning start but wants players to back it up.

Carlton made an impressive start to the AFL season with a 120-64 win over Richmond at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) yesterday. Nine players combined for 18 goals for the Blues, with Setanta O'Hailpin, Eddie Betts and Chris Yarran each scoring hat-tricks.

"Today we had that nice spread of three blokes getting three goals which is fantastic for us," the Carlton coach, Brett Ratten, said. "I think it just makes us a little bit more unpredictable. It is only one game that we've had the success with that so the challenge now is to back that up." The 56-point win was all the more impressive as Carlton, who released their wayward star, Brendan Fevola in the off-season, were without Chris Judd, their injured captain.

Andrew Carrazzo, the Blues' captain on the day, led the way with 40 possessions, while Heath Scotland (32 touches), Kade Simpson (28) and Brock McLean (26) were also influential. "Today, they were fairly switched on," Ratten said. "Right at the start of the game we needed to put our mark on the game and I thought McLean and Carrazzo really got around the footy and did a great job. "I thought our communication was fantastic and maybe that's part of leadership that's grown within the team over the summer period.

"They're taking responsibility and accountability and I thought it was a really big tick considering too that Chris didn't play. "It was a great start for us as a team and now the challenge for us, with Chris still out of the team, is to back that performance up. I think it's going to be interesting [to see] how we respond mid-week." The Tigers simply could not get enough of the ball as Damien Hardwick's first game in charge turned out to be one to forget.

"There's some things I've got to work on and some things the team's got to work on," Hardwick said. "As far as I look at it, this is as poor as we're going to get, as poor as I'm going to be as a head coach and as poor as the team is going to be also. "It's a learning progress and we've just got to get better a hell of a lot quicker." And after seeing his team reco-ver from a slow start, Hardwick has angry with how they played after the break.

"The third quarter was diabolical really, missed tackles, turned the ball over and progressively got worse after about two-and-a-half quarters in," he said. "While there were some really good signs early we were disappointed with the way we faded out." There is one game today as Geelong Cats, the defending champions, face the Essendon Bombers at the MCG. Mitch Duncan will make his AFL debut for the Cats while his teammate, Josh Hunt, will play his first AFL game since the 2008 grand final.

Meanwhile, an AFL tribunal will rule next Thursday on the future of the sacked St Kilda player Andrew Lovett following a hearing yesterday. The tribunal heard arguments from the club and Lovett's legal team, as well as the league and the players' association. Lovett was charged with rape after an incident involving a woman last December. Today: Geelong v Essendon at 12.40pm on Showsports 4
Tomorrow: Melbourne v Hawthorn at 7.10am on Showsports 2