For the past three years the pecking order in the season-opening clash between Carlton and Richmond has been unquestionable.
Across that period the Blues went into the Thursday night match having won at least five more games in the preceding season and started in a similar vein, winning by an average of 40 points – or 51 if you include the 83-point blow-out in 2009.
But this week the Blues will go into the match boasting only a half-game advantage, having won 11 matches in 2012 compared with 10 and a draw for the Tigers. They will also come up against a midfield brigade that, with the exception of Richmond veteran Shane Tuck, is on an upward trajectory based on age and recent performances.
Carlton midfielder Andrew Carrazzo could not cite a reason for his team's round-one winning streak of four against the Tigers, but believes it gives Richmond "extra ammunition . . . to be in top form by Thursday night".
"I'm sure they've been waiting for this game with bated breath for the past few months," Carrazzo said on Monday.
"We're going to have to play at our absolute best to beat them. If you look at their midfield and the talent they've got there, it's going to take our eight to 10 guys who go through the midfield to keep them quiet, and hopefully win a bit of ball going our way."
Carlton's task of quelling the likes of Trent Cotchin, Brett Deledio and Dustin Martin has been made harder by the absence of reliable veteran Heath Scotland for the first fortnight due to an internal suspension.
While Carrazzo agreed Ed Curnow, who played VFL at the weekend to bolster his fitness, was a candidate to help fill the void left by Scotland, he said he was most impressed by Kane Lucas, a 2009 draftee who spent all but one match in the second half of 2012 in the VFL.
"Kane Lucas has probably been close to our best player in the NAB Cup and we're looking to him to . . . fill that role on the wing," Carrazzo said.
As well as selecting Scotland's midfield replacement, Carrazzo said selectors would also have to determine whether ruckman Robert Warnock, one of five senior-listed Blues given permission from the AFL to play in the VFL last weekend, should feature against the Tigers.
"Robbie has definitely got the [fitness] work into him, it's just a matter of how we want the team to look. Having Robbie, Matty Kreuzer and Shaun Hampson as well, it's just up to the coaches to decide how tall we're going to be and whether we'll have enough support on the ground."
Despite new coach Mick Malthouse floating the possibility it could take "two or three months" for the Blues players to adapt to his game plan, after they were comprehensively overrun by the Brisbane Lions in the NAB Cup grand final, Carrazzo was more optimistic, believing it was better to have stumbled in pre-season than during the home-and-away season.
"I think we're fairly advanced [in adapting]," he said. "I think if you asked any coach of any team their [players are] going to have days where they regress a little bit and they've got to adjust things. We played plenty of good footy through the NAB Cup; that last game against Brisbane we'd like to think was a bit of an aberration.
"We've just been getting back to basics, back to things we know are going to bear fruit throughout the year."
Carrazzo confirmed that he and fellow vice-captain Kade Simpson had aspired to succeed Chris Judd as Carlton captain but declared he would be a dedicated and loyal deputy to the player who was chosen, Marc Murphy.