Even AFL players struggled to get their head around the sight of football being played in front of 100,000 empty seats at the MCG.
“This is the most bizarre s*** I’ve ever seen!” wrote Brisbane player Mitch Robinson.
That message came just minutes into Richmond’s season-opening clash with Carlton, which was given the green light on Wednesday night amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While the football world has known crowds would not be allowed into games for a week the eerie scenes hit home as soon as the players ran out.
The two teams warmed up to music like AC/DC and the Rolling Stones blaring around the empty MCG while Channel 7 hosts interviewed players and coaches from a distance.
Some fans even began to wonder if the boundary-line microphones would be muted if a player reacted to a painful injury usually muffled by the crowd.
Richmond, who kicked the first five goals of the game, held on amid a late Carlton charge to win 16.9 (105) to 12.9 (81).
Tigers players made their own noise in lieu of fans after Shane Edwards recorded the first major but their cheers lessened as the first quarter went on.
The rush of goals provided AFL assistants with plenty of work collecting the footballs from under seats, with nets not in use.
Carlton suffered a blow for the remainder of the game when ruckman Matthew Kreuzer rolled his ankle upon landing in a first-term ruck contest.
He was on crutches in the rooms as the game continued.
In the second quarter, the Blues suffered further when Nic Newman appeared to hurt his elbow in an aerial contest but the former Swans player was able to return.
The Blues were already without veteran recruit Eddie Betts, who watched from home after sustaining a calf injury during the week.
At half-time Richmond vice-captain Jack Riewoldt said he was enjoying playing without 80,000-plus fans blocking out his directions.
“It’s a really weird feeling out here. As much as I’d love the fans here I’m really enjoying being able to coach a little bit from all aspects of the ground,” he told Channel 7.
“All over the ground we’ve got some really good leaders. It sort of makes communication a bit easier but there definitely is a lack of atmosphere.”
Geelong great Cameron Ling said experienced players’ voices can “become a weapon” while games remain behind closed doors.
Story: SEVEN News