One of the biggest weeks on the Australian sporting calendar got off to the start many predicted with Nat Fyfe winning the 2015 Brownlow Medal for the best and fairest player in the AFL.
Now the attention turns to the main event, West Coast versus Hawthorn for the Premiership Cup at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.
The Hawks, who overcame all sorts of hurdles throughout the year, were always expected to be there towards the tail end of the season, eventually getting to the grand final after a qualifying final hiccup.
West Coast, barely tipped to feature in the finals, has been the big improver in 2015, overcoming the loss of several key defenders to be in contention for its first flag since 2006.
Fyfe’s became the youngest winner of the Brownlow Medal since Adam Cooney claimed the iconic league best and fairest, while he was representing the Western Bulldogs in 2008.
Brownlow medal review – Fyfe’s fast start hands the Dockers their maiden gong
Dynamic Docker Nat Fyfe became the first player in the club’s history to win a Brownlow medal, beating out fellow Western Australian Matt Priddis by four votes on Monday night.
Fyfe polled an incredible 26 votes in the opening 13 rounds of the season, handing the 24-year old the Brownlow medal in a thrilling count at Melbourne’s Crown Palladium.
Fyfe also set a Brownlow record, polling 17 votes in the first eight rounds; superseding retiring Blue Chris Judd’s record from 2010 when he managed 16 votes in the first eight games.
Fyfe’s last set of votes came in the form a two vote effort against the Tigers in round 17, giving him 31 overall, enough to ensure Charlie would be traveling west for the second consecutive year.
Last year’s winner Priddis was within striking distance right up until the final Eagles’ match of the season, but could not poll enough votes to topple Fyfe.
Punters who followed the Brownlow guides will have cleaned up on the night, with our experts predicting the Western Australian quinella finish.
Another prediction that rang true was betting on Josh Kennedy to poll the most votes in the final 10 rounds of the season.
The Swan midfielder amassed an amazing 19 of his 25 votes in the final 10 weeks of football, which included polling 11 of a possible 12 votes in the final month of the home and away season.
But the night belonged to the woolly-haired Fyfe, who saluted his parents and home town of Lake Grace during his acceptance speech, and in an ominous warning to the rest of the competition, he says he is yet to reach his full potential.
“I do think I’ve got improvement [left] in my game.” he said.
“The number one thing for me clearly is getting my body to a position where I can play a full season of footy.”
Fyfe is the early favourite with the bookies to go back-to-back and take out the 2016 Brownlow medal.
Fyfe is at $5, with Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett junior also in single figures at $6, with Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury also getting some interest.
Hawks edge out Dockers, Eagles eclipse Roos, set up battle of the birds
Hawthorn booked its shot at a third straight AFL premiership and a place in football folklore with the 27-point win over a mistake riddled Fremantle.
For Ross Lyon’s Dockers it continues their run of finals bomb outs with the club yet to taste its inaugural premiership, but it wasn’t through a lack of effort. The Dockers jumped out to a quick two goal lead and looked to be in control of the contest early, but a missed set shot from the normally reliable Chris Mayne was an omen for what was to come.
Docker antagonist Hayden Ballantyne gave away an off the ball free kick, which resulted in a goal to Isaac Smith, then more ill-discipline handed David Hale a 50m penalty that took him to the goal line.
The Hawks never conceded the lead again, with their incredibly accurate goal kicking (15 goals, four behinds) ensuring they had the ascendancy for the remainder of the contest.
Despite a late surge from the Dockers, two diabolical defensive 50 errors, including an elementary dropped mark by young on-baller Tom Sheridan handed the Hawks vital goals and ultimately the win.
Sam Mitchell’s 35 possession game against the Dockers has seen him installed a $6 favourite for the Norm Smith Medal.
The Hawks, who are chasing their third successive flag, are $1.65 favourite to defeat the Eagles at Crownbet, with their finals experience (this will be their fourth successive grand final) proving decisive with the bookmakers.
The Eagles have played very few finals since their 2006 premiership, but proved a class above the Kangaroos with a 25-point win at Domain Stadium on Saturday night.
The Kangaroos jumped out to an early 22-point lead, restricting the high scoring Eagles to just two points in the first quarter.
The visitors were unable to capitalise on their dominance in the second quarter, with 1.3 for the term allowing the Eagles to draw within five points at the main change.
The Eagles came out after half time and kicked five goals to one to set up the victory, with inaccuracy again haunting the Roos; with 1.4 for the quarter handing North Melbourne the task of overhauling the surging home side in the final term.
It was not to be for the Roos, who, for the second year in a row have made the preliminary final but failed to make the big one.
Born again defender Sharrod Wellingham, who was superb against the Roos, is a $21 outsider with Crownbet to replicate his preliminary final heroics on the big stage at the MCG and take home the North Smith medal.
Injury update: Schoenmakers in the gun as Jack eyes his return:
Hawthorn: A few niggles came out of the clash against the Roos, but the big question is: will Jack Gunston be available to play on Saturday?
Gunston was running freely at Hawthorn’s training session on Monday and if he is cleared to play by the club’s medical staff, he is a certainty to come back in to stretch the Eagles’ already under-sized backline.
Versatile swingman Ryan Schoenmakers – despite playing a vital role in the victory against the Dockers with two goals – looks set to be the man to make way if Gunston is fit.
The other concern for the Hawks is Luke Hodge, who finished the match against the Roos gingerly, but it would take more than a niggle to stop the inspirational captain from taking his place in the line-up.
West Coast: There are no new injury concerns coming out of the Eagles’ win over the Roos, with both Matt Priddis and Chris Masten getting through the game unscathed.
If there are no fresh injuries to come this week for the Eagles, it looks like vice-captain Scott Selwood will have played his last game for the club, with a move to Geelong mooted for the 25-year old.
Best markets to bet on for the AFL grand final
With a huge array of markets already set up for the 2015 Grand Final, money can be made by getting in early before the market is flooded by punters chasing big wins.
The best bet of the Grand Final looks to be Eagles’ spearhead Josh Kennedy for most goals with Crownbet, with the 2015 Coleman medallist at $4.00 to boot the most majors.
Kennedy was the leading goal scorer in the qualifying final against the Hawks and looms as the key to West Coast’s premiership chances.
Kennedy is also favourite to kick the first goal of the match at $8.00.
Hawthorn forward Jarryd Roughead is next best in the market at $9.00 to boot the first major of the 2015 Grand Final.
Mitchell, as mentioned previously, is the favourite for the Norm Smith Medal, awarded to the best player on the ground in the grand final, with Hodge only marginally adrift at $6.50.
2014 Brownlow medallist Priddis is the Eagles’ best hope with the bookies, sitting alongside Hodge at the $6.50 mark.
Due to the overwhelming popularity of betting on Grand Final day, Crownbet has extended their most possessions groups market to three.
Early favourites to take out the most disposals markets are:
Group A – Sam Mitchell (Haw) $3.25, Matt Priddis (WCE) $3.75
Group B – Isaac Smith (Haw) $4.25, Matt Rosa (WCE) $6.00
Group C – Josh Gibson (Haw) $4.75, Elliot Yeo (WCE) $6.50
Of course, an odds preview would not be complete without the head-to-head betting market, with the Hawks overwhelming favourites to win their third consecutive Grand Final with Crownbet.
Hawthorn is $1.60 favourite, while the Eagles $2.40 price is generous given they finished higher on the ladder than the Hawks and played one less final than their counterpart.
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