The moment has come! The AFL is back! We take a look at the all-important first goal market of the 2016 AFL season – who will kick the first major of the year?
The AFL is back! We’re taking a look at the best bets for each club and finding value for each team. Starting with the cellar dwellers of 2015.
IT has taken 23 long rounds, but the finals are about to begin and it’s time to get excited.
Never has the premiership window been as wide open as it is right now, with premiership favourites Hawthorn facing the toughest trip in football first up in Perth, a loss could deal their flag hopes a huge blow.
The Tigers and the Kangaroos face each other in consecutive weeks – both at full strength after a farcical exhibition match in which the Kangaroos rested half their best side and Richmond played at full strength.
We will find out Sunday evening whose approach worked best.
Eagles vs. Hawks
Friday, September 11th, Domain Stadium, 8:20pm
West Coast – (+2.5) $1.92
Hawthorn – (-2.5) $1.92
Last time they met: Hawthorn overturned a three-quarter-time deficit in the West to record a 14-point victory over the Eagles.
The first match of the 2015 finals series sees the first and second teams in premiership betting meeting in the West to determine who will host a home preliminary final.
The Eagles come up against reigning premiers Hawthorn at Domain Stadium – the stakes haven’t been this high between these two sides since the 1991 Grand Final.
There are two important ins for the home side with versatile defender Will Schofield proving his fitness after missing several weeks with a quad injury and vice captain Scott Selwood also getting his chance.
In a blow to their midfield stocks, important Eagle on-baller Chris Masten will miss Friday night’s game with a hamstring injury, while Jackson Nelson has been omitted.
There are three huge inclusions for the Hawks. Captain Luke Hodge resumes after a two-game suspension, while livewire forwards Cyril Rioli and Luke Bruest reclaim their places.
The three unlucky men to make way for the flag favourites are Angus Litherland, Daniel Howe and James Sicily.
Going across to the West has consistently been the hardest trip to make in football, but if there is any team capable of bringing back the points from Perth it is Hawthorn.
If there last meeting – in which the Hawks overturned a deficit in front of a hostile crowd to record a huge win – is any indication, the Hawks harbour no fears in making the long trip west.
That night the Eagles were without All-Australian ruckman Nic Naitanui, and subsequently dominated in the ruck.
The inclusion of Naitanui swings the scales back in the Eagles favour, and they should earn themselves a week off and a home preliminary final.
Tip: West Coast to win $2.00 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions/most goals Matt Priddis/Josh Kennedy $11.00 via Sportsbet
Dockers vs. Swans
Saturday, September 12th, Domain Stadium, 3:20pm
Fremantle – (-19.5) $1.92
Sydney – (+19.5) $1.92
Last time they met: A fast-finishing Sydney failed to overturn a 48-point half time Docker lead way back in round four.
The second of two games in the west this week sees the minor premiers Fremantle hosting last year’s Grand Finalists Sydney.
Both teams took different approaches in the final round of the season.
The Dockers, who already had top spot locked down ahead of the final match of the season elected to rest over half of their starting team for last week’s trip to South Australia.
The end result did not matter to Fremantle coach Ross Lyon, with over half the team that started against Port Adelaide making way for Saturday’s clash with the Swans.
Amongst the changes for the Dockers is Brownlow medal favourite Nat Fyfe, who has missed the last fortnight of football with a groin injury.
Fyfe is one of an unfathomable 14 changes to the side that fell to Port, with Stephen Hill, Matthew Pavlich, David Mundy and Aaron Sandliands amongst the inclusions.
The Swans have made just two changes to the side that smashed the Suns in Sydney last week with captain Kieran Jack set to miss potentially the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Lance Franklin is also out indefinitely through illness.
Two important players set to return for the Swans with Jarrad McVeigh and Ben McGlynn making their way back into the team.
The loss of Franklin makes it extremely hard for the Swans to kick a winning score against one of the best defences in the league.
Without the big ‘Bud’ this match looks to be one of the easier ones to pick this weekend. The Dockers look set to march to a preliminary final in comfortable fashion.
Tip: Fremantle to win 1-39 points $1.98 via William Hill
Exotic: Most disposals group 1 – Lachie Neale $8.00 via Sportsbet
Bulldogs vs. Crows
Saturday, September 12th, Melbourne Cricket Ground, 7:20pm
Western Bulldogs – (+0.5) $1.92
Adelaide – (-0.5) $1.92
Last time they met: The Bulldogs blew away the Crows early in the contest to announce themselves as a genuine finals contender, running away with a huge 57-point victory.
One of the more interesting match ups of this year’s finals series takes place on Saturday night with two teams that were not expected to be vying for a premiership facing off at the MCG.
The Bulldogs were predicted by many to be in the bottom-four prior to the commencement of the season, but a stunning 2015 has seen them score an unlikely finals berth.
Adelaide have dealt with adversity all throughout the season and have emerged through as a genuine September contender.
Luke Beveridge has made five changes to the team that sensationally lost to Brisbane in the final round with captain Robert Murphy, Matthew Boyd and Will Minson all coming in to add some much-needed experience.
The Dogs defence has taken a hit with Jordan Roughead and Jason Johannisen both set to miss the cut-throat final through injury.
The Crows have made two changes, bringing back experienced duo Kyle Cheney and David MacKay.
Jake Lever and Jarryd Lyons are the two men to make way.
Cheney looms as the match up for superstar Dog Jake Stringer.
Stringer has been on fire this season, and will be keen to guide his side to their first finals win in almost a decade.
The Dogs will have their hands full quelling the multi faceted attack of Adelaide. The Crows are averaging the third most goals per game in the league across the entirety of season 2015.
If this game was played at Etihad Stadium it would have been foolish to bet against the Dogs, but given it is played at the MCG – where the Bulldogs have struggled this season – the edge has to go to the Crows.
Tip: Adelaide to win $1.83 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Rory Sloane to get 30 or more disposals – $3.70 via Sportsbet
Tigers vs. Kangaroos
Sunday, September 13th, Melbourne Cricket Ground, 3:20pm
Richmond – (-9.5) $1.92
North Melbourne – (+9.5) $1.92
Last time they met: The Tigers overran a depleted North Melbourne to record a 41-point victory at Etihad Stadium in the final Friday night match of the home and away season.
Richmond and North Melbourne close out week one of the finals action at the MCG with both teams in dire need of a win.
If Richmond wants to prove they have made significant improvements not just as a team, but as a club in general, they simply must win this match.
This will be the third consecutive year that the Tigers have made the eight and if they were to be eliminated again in the first week of the finals, serious questions will be asked of their mental resolve.
Much was expected of North Melbourne after their unexpected preliminary final finish last season, and while they failed to secure a double chance, the Roos proved last year you can still make an impact from outside the top-four.
Brad Scott elected to bring in a multitude of mature aged recruits with the plan of challenging for a premiership, and if the Kangaroos fail to even win a final Scott’s job may very well be in danger.
Ben Griffins, Reece Conca and Steven Morris have made their way into the extended squad for the Tigers, with no omissions named at this stage.
The Kangaroos have made 10 changes to the team that fell to the Tigers last week, with captain Andrew Swallow, Brownlow medal fancy Todd Goldstein and classy on-baller Nick Dal Santo all expected to take to the field on Sunday.
The two teams took vastly different approaches to their elimination final, with the Tigers playing their best available 22 while the Roos chose to rest as many stars as they could.
Managing his stars was a shrewd move from Brad Scott and it should prove dividends come Sunday.
Expect the Kangaroos to advance through to the semi-finals commending Richmond to a third consecutive first week finals exit in the process.
Tip: North Melbourne to win $2.30 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer – Jarrad Waite $17.00 via Sportsbet
WE have finally reached the end of the home and away season and with a host of teams dropping players in order to keep them fresh for the finals, it has made picking winners all the more difficult.
Fremantle and North Melbourne have made wholesale changes at the selection table, while Hawthorn and the Eagles have elected to do the opposite heading into their qualifying final clash next week.
Plenty of interesting games to look at still so let’s see if we can find a winner.
Tigers vs. Kangaroos
Friday, September 4th, 7:50pm, Etihad Stadium
Richmond (-47.5) – $1.92
North Melbourne (+47.5) – $1.92
Richmond and North Melbourne kick off the final home and away round of the season, with the Roos electing to play an under-strength side going into the finals.
North Melbourne have dropped a staggering 10 players going into the match, with the majority of the omissions player management related.
The Tigers have welcomed back captain Trent Cotchin who missed last week’s victory over Essendon through injury.
With Richmond fielding a full-strength side and the Kangaroos dropping almost half of their starting 22, there is not much hope that Brad Scott’s men can cause an upset.
Expect Richmond to win big and take some solid form going into their third straight finals campaign.
Tip: Richmond to win – $1.10 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Brandon Ellis to get 30 or more disposals $2.90 via Sportsbet
Cats vs. Crows
Saturday, September 5th, 1:05pm, Simmonds Stadium
Geelong (+9.5) – $1.92
Adelaide (-9.5) – $1.92
Geelong host Adelaide in the first Saturday game of the week with the Cats stung by their failure to make the finals for the first time in almost 10 years.
This match loomed as a precursor to the finals a fortnight ago with both teams vying for the final spot in the eight but, with the Cats’ shock loss to the Pies, the Crows had their position secured last week.
The Cats are set to farewell a host of stars including premiership heroes Steve Johnson, Andrew Mackie and potentially Corey Enright and Jimmy Bartel.
The Crows have made no change to the team that dismantled the second placed West Coast last week.
One of the harder match ups to predict here, with the Crows still in contention for a home final, but will the potential to give their aging champions the send off they deserve the edge Geelong needs?
True toss of the coin but Geelong should be able to finish off the season with a win.
Tip: Geelong to win $2.10 via Crownbet
Exotic: Most disposals group 2 – Steve Johnson $7.00 via Sportsbet
Lions vs. Bulldogs
Saturday, September 5th, 1:45pm, GABBA
Brisbane (+27.5) – $1.92
Western Bulldogs (-27.5) – $1.92
The finals bound Western Bulldogs travel north to face the Lions at the GABBA.
The Dogs have been one of the surprise bolters of the 2015 season, and will want to keep their momentum rolling going into the finals.
The Lions have been disappointing this season after a pre-season of hype following the acquisitions of Danye Beams and Alen Christensen.
The Dogs have made several tactical omissions heading into the contest with veterans Matthew Boyd, Robert Murphy and Dale Morris all being rested.
Brent Staker and Rohan Bewick make their way back into the Lions team.
The Lions will be keen to end a dismal season off on the right note, with the threat of the wooden spoon lingering for Brisbane an indignity they will want to avoid.
Despite resting several key players the Dogs should have too much in the locker for the Lions who will finish the season anchored to the bottom of the ladder.
Tip: Western Bulldogs to win $1.23 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Jake Stringer $7.50 via Crownbet
Power vs. Dockers
Saturday, September 5th, 3:50pm, Adelaide Oval
Port Adelaide (-56.5) – $1.92
Fremantle (+56.5) – $1.92
Saturday afternoon in South Australia sees the Power hosting the Dockers in a match that is a matter of what the final margin will be for the home side.
The Dockers have rested a host of big name players after securing a home final going into next week with no less than 11 top line players rested from last week’s match.
The Power have brought back in Jay Schultz and Jake Neade with Angus Monfries and Aaron Young the duo to make way.
This could have been a great finals preview heading into the business end of the season but the Power failed to live up to expectations – missing out on top-eight finish after making the preliminary final last season.
They will finish the season with a win however, and take some serious momentum into 2016 after beating Hawthorn the week before.
Tip: Port Adelaide to win – line bet (-56.5) $1.92
Exotic: Most disposals group 1 – Robbie Gray $4.75
Hawks vs. Blues
Saturday, September 5th, 4:40pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Hawthorn (-73.5) – $1.92
Carlton (+73.5) – $1.92
Premiership favourites host Carlton at the MCG on Saturday afternoon with the Hawks still an outsider chance to secure a top-two finish.
Both sides could not be more diametrically opposed in terms of ladder position and playing stocks with the Hawks marching towards a potential three-peat and the Blues starring at the possibility of a wooden spoon finish.
The Hawks welcome back former captain Sam Mitchell and Paul Puolopo and will be close to full strength.
The Blues have welcomed back Andrew Carrazzo for his final AFL game with Chris Yarran making way with a hamstring injury.
Not much hope the Blues can win here with the Hawks still in the hunt for a home final.
Do not be surprised if this blows out to a triple-figure margin.
Tip: Hawthorn to win by 100 plus – $3.90
Exotic : Most disposals group 1 – Jordan Lewis $3.00
Swans vs. Suns
Saturday, September 5th, 7:25pm, Sydney Cricket Ground
Sydney (-54.5) – $1.92
Gold Coast (+54.5) – $1.92
The Swans and the Suns lock horns at the SCG on Saturday night, with last year’s grand finalists looking to tune up going into this year’s campaign.
The Suns have been one of this year’s truly disappointing stories with so much expected but little to show for it after key injuries to superstars Dion Prestia and captain Gary Ablett junior.
The Swans will be keen to get some playing time into superstar full forward Lance Franklin who has played limited minutes over the last month of football.
Unfortunately for the home side they have lost All-Australian Jarrad McVeigh to a calf injury, but it looks like more of a precautionary omission than a true complaint.
Despite lacking the class of McVeigh, the Swans will be far too strong for the Suns here and will easily cover the 54.5 point line.
Tip: Sydney to win line bet (-54.5) $1.92 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Aaron Hall to get 30 or more disposals – $4.20 via Sportsbet
Eagles vs. Saints
Saturday, September 5th, 7:40pm, Domain Stadium
West Coast (-54.5) – $1.92
St Kilda (+54.5) – $1.92
The Eagles and the Saints round out super Saturday in the West with the second placed home side looking to finish off the season with a win to sure up their position in the top-two.
The Eagles were shock losers against the Crows last week, keeping the door slightly ajar for a late rally from the reigning premiers Hawthorn to jump above them.
As a result the Eagles have named a strong line up to get the win against the struggling Saints with Sharrod Wellingham and Chris Masten making their way back into the side.
Hard to see how the Saints will loom as a threat in this match, with too much to play for with a top-two spot on the line compounded by the home ground advantage.
Eagles should cover the line and secure the home qualifying final.
Tip: West Coast to win line bet (-54.5)
Exotic: David Armitage to get 30 or more disposals – $3.30
Demons vs. Giants
Sunday, September 6th, 1:10pm, Etihad Stadium
Melbourne (+10.5) – $1.92
Greater Western Sydney (-10.5) – $1.92
The Demons and the Gaints are the first of only two games on Sunday this week, with not much to play for other than pride for the two combatants.
The Giants crushed Carlton last week with All-Australian forward Jeremy Cameron kicking seven second half goals in the big victory.
The Demons travelled to Perth and were trounced by the Dockers in another insipid display that has been a regular occurrence this season.
Impressive youngster Angus Brayshaw makes his way back into the team for the Demons with Matt Jones the unlucky man to make way.
The Giants have lost Ryan Griffin and Stephen Cogniglio to injury with Jack Steele and Paul Ahren the duo likely to replace them.
The Giants have shown moments of brilliance this season, with a series of cruel injuries harming their chances at a maiden finals berth, and they should be too strong for the dismal Demons.
Tip: Greater Western Sydney to win $1.56 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Jeremy Cameron $6.00 via Sportsbet
Magpies vs. Bombers
Sunday, September 6th, 7:50pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Collingwood (-24.5) – $1.92
Essendon (+24.5) – $1.92
Two bitter rivals finish off the home and away season at the MCG with Collngwood hosting Essendon.
The Bombers suffered another loss, this time to the Tigers and finally have the finish line in sight after an ordinary season that started with so much promise.
The Pies bounced back nicely after a humiliating loss to Richmond, crushing Geelong on Friday night to end the Cats’ finals chances.
Nathan Buckley has elected to rest veteran midfielder Dane Swan after a stellar season, with All-Australian candidate Marley Williams also making way.
The Dons have made four confirmed changes with Paul Chapman and Michael Hibberd amongst a host of changes for Matthew Egan.
There is no such thing as a dead rubber when teams like Collingwood and Essendon lock horns, but it is hard to see too much intensity in this contest.
Despite that, Collingwood should be able to finish the season off with a win.
Tip: Collingwood to win $1.28 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Darcy Moore $17.00 via Sportsbet
JUST when you think you can predict some of the outcomes of AFL football, some unlikely results get thrown your way to remind you how fickle the game is – and that is precisely what happened over the past weekend.
The Power – who seemingly had nothing to play for – shocked the Hawks on Friday night with a stirring display, while the Saints and the Cats played out a draw.
The Swans also ended the Giants chance of a maiden finals berth with a host of stars missing, significantly boosting their top-four chances in the process.
Plenty to get through in this round’s recap, so let’s take a look at the matches that mattered.
Round 21 review – Hawks toppled as their top-two chances take a nosedive
The round began on Friday night with the Power stunning the Hawks at Etihad Stadium, upsetting the premiership favourites by 22 points.
Other than the opening point kicked by Hawk Jack Gunstan, the visiting Power led for the entirety of the night and looked in complete control in the final term, kicking five goals to two.
Port Adelaide were led brilliantly by talismanic midfielder Robbie Gray, who ended the game with 34-disposals, while Chad Wingard was unstoppable up forward, kicking four goals.
The loss was a savage blow to Hawthorn’s top-two chances, with the Hawks now six points adrift of the second placed West Coast.
Despite having a favourable run home which sees them hosting both the Lions and the Blues in the final two rounds, it is unlikely they will be able to go past the Eagles.
The Eagles would only have to win one of their remaining two games – away this week against the Crows and home in the final round the Saints – to maintain second position ahead of the Hawks.
The Hawks will also have to do it without their inspirational skipper Luke Hodge, who was suspended for two weeks for a head-high hit on Port’s Chad Wingard.
Saturday in Sydney saw the Swans all but lock down their position in the top-four, ending the finals aspirations of cross-town rivals GWS in the process with a comprehensive 89-point victory at Spotless Stadium.
It loomed as a danger game for the Swans, who had host of big names out including Luke Parker, Tom Mitchell, Lance Franklin and Gary Rohan.
The fears of a lacklustre display were allayed early in the game, however, when Sydney limited their opponents to just three goals while kicking seven of their own.
If Kurt Tippett was feeling the weight of expectation without Lance Franklin in the team he did not show it, with a dominant display up forward and in the ruck, kicking five goals and amassing 20 hitouts.
With a run home that includes matches against St Kilda and the Gold Coast – both of which the Swans will go into as overwhelming favourites – a top-four finish seems to be within their grasp.
The Swans are at $1.20 with William Hill to retain their place inside the top-four.
Saturday night saw one of the most pulsating matches of the season, with the Saints and the Cats playing out a thrilling draw at Etihad Stadium, severely denting the Geelong finals push in the process.
The Saints skipped out to a five-goal lead early in the game, shocking the Cats with a fierce brand of football that they were not anticipating.
Geelong was able to fight back in the second quarter to take a one-point advantage into the second half.
The second half looked like it could break open at any moment, with the Cats looking to secure their spot in the finals and the Saints merely playing for pride.
It looked like it would be a walkover in the second half when the Cats took a seven advantage into the final term.
A stunning Saints fight back eventuated in the final quarter, leading by a goal for the majority of the match until the Cats surpassed their total with some Steven Motlop magic.
The Cats were unable to maintain their slender advantage though with a rushed behind late in the game tying the scores up, where they stayed.
With the Crows being the incumbent holders of eighth position, six points clear of the Cats, percentage is irrelevant – the Cats have to win their remaining two games and hope the Crows lose.
It makes Friday’s game against Collingwood that much more important for the Cats, who will be hoping for a win and praying that the travelling West Coast can defeat the Crows at Adelaide Oval.
If that scenario eventuates it sets up a fascinating final round show down between the Cats and the Crows at Simonds Stadium for the final spot in the eight – it will all be on the line.
Given how poorly Collingwood played last week and how well the Eagles played, it is a very real possibility that will eventuate and the round 23 clash will be a live match for eighth position – a game in which Geelong would have to go in as favourites.
The final match of the round saw the Eagles making an emphatic statement, smashing the Western Bulldogs by 77-points at Domain Stadium.
Despite a brilliant five goal performance from young gun Jake Stringer up forward for the Dogs, the Eagles had all the answers, kicking 25 goals for the match.
The game marked the return of ruckman Nic Naitanui – who missed the previous fortnight of football through bereavement leave – who was simply outstanding, amassing 48-hitouts on his way to a best on ground performance.
The win places the Eagles into outright second in the premiership betting, with William Hill offering $3.75 for the team that failed to make the finals last season to win the 2015 premiership.
The loss all but ends the Dogs hopes of a fairy-tale top-four finish, with their previously healthy percentage taking a savage hit in the process.
With two tough games against the in-form North Melbourne Kangaroos and a final round match up against the Lions at the GABBA, it will be hard for the Dogs to win both games in the run home.
The Dogs would have to win both and rely on the Swans to lose to either the Saints or the Suns, something that in unlikely to happen.
The Dogs have blown out to $12 outsiders with Crownbet to force their way back into the top-four.
Bad news for the Dogs out of the loss to the Eagles on the injury front with veteran defender Dale Morris subbed out of the game at three-quarter time with achilles tightness.
The Dogs are hopeful Morris will be able to take to the field in the vital match up against North Melbourne, but it is likely the former All-Australian will miss at least one week.
The injury Morris suffered is the same one that kept Docker skipper Matthew Pavlich out of Sunday’s loss to the Kangaroos, and he is no certainty to play in round 22.
Pavlich will be given right up until the teams are announced to prove his fitness.
In better news for the Sydney Swans, superstar forward Lance Franklin should be given the all clear to play this weekend after taking an additional week off after suffering back tightness.
The Swan has missed the last three weeks with the injury, but was given last week off as a precaution rather than a hindering affliction to make sure he is fully fit for the finals.
WITH round 20 in the books the top-eight now looks to be set in stone.
The Crows and Kangaroos recorded vital wins to move clear of the logjam towards the tail of the top-eight, with a loss to the Hawks potentially ending Geelong’s finals run.
The Eagles recorded an impressive victory over the Dockers to keep their home qualifying final chances alive while the Western Bulldogs maintained their spot in the top-four with a crushing victory over the Demons.
The Tigers and Swans kept within reaching distance of a double-chance with important wins against the Suns and Magpies respectively to maintain the pressure on the Dogs in fourth place.
There were plenty of important matches over the weekend so let’s take a look at the action.
Round 20 review – Eagles down the Dockers to maintain their top-two chances
The round began on Friday night with the Swans outlasting the Magpies to keep their top-four chances alive with a spirited 11 point victory at the SCG.
The win keeps the Swans right in contention for a double-chance opportunity at the end of the season.
Sydney were led superbly by prolific on-baller Tom Mitchell who ended the game with a career-high 41 disposals.
One sour point for the victors was the loss of Luke Parker to a broken leg after getting tangled up in a nasty tackle late in the match.
Parker still remains hopeful that his season is not over but the stoutly build midfielder would need the Swans to make a deep September push to be any chance of taking the field again in 2015.
The loss spells the end of Collingwood’s finals hopes, with William Hill still offering a sizable $41 dollars on the Pies to pull off the miracle.
Saturday night saw the renewal of one of modern footballs fiercest rivalries, with Hawthorn brushing aside Geelong to the tune of 36-points at the MCG.
The Hawks led from start to finish and never looked in danger of conceding defeat after piling on seven goals to three in the opening quarter.
The reigning premiers were lead masterfully by their captain Luke Hodge and livewire forward Cyril Rioli, who combined for 10 goals.
The win further strengthens Hawthorn’s premiership credentials, with the Hawks now into $2.10 with Sportsbet to win the 2015 flag.
Another strong performance from Hawthorn midfielder Sam Mitchell has propelled the veteran Hawk into Brownlow medal contention.
Sportsbet has Mitchell as joint fifth favourite along with Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield at $14 to be named the fairest and best player in the AFL.
Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium saw the Bulldogs consolidate their position inside the top-four with a resounding 98-point win over the lowly Demons.
The Dogs kicked eight goals in the first term whilst holding the Demons to just two behinds to set up the victory.
The 15-goal win handed the Western Bulldogs a much needed percentage boost going into the final three rounds of the season, with Luke Beveridge’s men over 10 percentage points clear of the fifth placed Sydney Swans.
Despite holding a position inside the top-four, Crownbet has the Dogs as $3.00 outsiders to secure the double-chance heading into the finals.
The reluctance of the bookmakers may stem from the fact that the Dogs travel west to take on the Eagles in round 21, but with the Swans facing the Giants at Spotless Stadium they are no certainties to register four points.
The round concluded in the West with the Eagles snapping a six-game losing streak against the Dockers to record an impressive 24-point victory over their Western Australian rivals.
The Eagles kicked six goals within the opening 15 minutes of the match to set up the victory, with a four goal haul from Ross Glendinning medallist Josh Hill being the decisive contributor for the derby.
The Dockers seemed out of sync for the entire match, and despite a last quarter rally to get them within three goals, they never looked like taking the lead at any stage.
Despite conceding defeat, the Dockers still remain $1.28 favourites with Sportsbet to take out the minor premiership.
With the top-two positions on the ladder all but secured by the Eagles and the Dockers, the possibility that neither team will have to leave Perth until Grand Final day is a very real prospect.
Both teams are at $2.00 with Sportsbet to make the 2015 Grand Final.
The big injury news out of the weekend was the broken leg suffered by Sydney superstar Luke Parker.
Parker’s leg got caught underneath him after being tackled by an opponent midway through the fourth quarter and had to be taken from the field with the assistance of the Sydney medical staff.
The broken leg more than likely spells the end of Parker’s 2015 season, but the Swans are hopeful they can progress deep into this year’s finals series long enough to give their star on-baller ample time to recover.
Superstar forward Lance Franklin is also no certainty to return for the 2014 Grand Finalists with a lingering back injury not healing as fast as the Swans would have liked.
Another blow to West Coast’s already depleted back stocks with Will Schofield ruled out for potentially a month after sustaining a hamstring injury in Sunday’s victory over the Dockers.
With a top-two finish within their grasp it is unlikely that Schofield will be risked in the next three weeks with the Eagles instead focused on getting him ready for a possible home qualifying final.
WITH just a month left of home and away football in 2015, there are several season-defining matches this week that will shape the finals frame.
The Tigers, who just a week ago looked likely to challenge for a top-four spot, need to win desperately just to maintain their spot in the eight.
The Crows travel to Etihad with a win needed to force their way back in to eighth and the Cats host the Hawks in a contest that could dictate Hawthorn’s chance to get two home finals.
Swans vs. Magpies
Friday, August 14th, 7:50pm, SCG
Sydney – $1.92 (-17.5)
Collingwood – $1.92 (+17.5)
The round begins on Friday night in Sydney with the Swans facing the Magpies as the home side endeavours to force their way back into the top four.
Collingwood made its way back onto the winners list last week with a hard-fought win over arch rivals Carlton.
Sydney was outshone down in Geelong by the Cats and as a consequence lost its place in the top four.
The Swans will again be without former Coleman medallist Lance Franklin who missed last week’s match with a back complaint.
The Magpies are set to welcome back Travis Cloke, who has missed the last three weeks of football with a calf injury.
Despite still missing Franklin and a few of their best midfielders down on their optimum output, the Swans should prove too classy for the Pies given what is at stake for the 2014 grand finalists.
Tip: Sydney to win $1.42 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Luke Parker to get 30 or more disposals $3.30 via Sportsbet
Bombers vs. Crows
Saturday, August 15th, 1:45pm, Etihad Stadium
Essendon – $1.91 (+26.5)
Adelaide – $1.91 (-26.5)
The early Saturday afternoon game this week sees the struggling Bombers facing the surging Crows at Etihad Stadium.
The Bombers have been poor in the last fortnight, losing heavily to the Western Bulldogs and GWS in consecutive weeks.
Adelaide’s unlikely victory last week at home against the Tigers has left the door ajar for an improbable finals berth, with the Crows sitting just .1% behind eighth-placed Geelong.
The Crows remain unchanged from last week’s side.
Essendon is set to include forgotten men Tayte Pears and David Myers, both of whom have spent extended amounts of time on the sidelines through injury.
The Crows form has fluctuated from fantastic to frail over the course of the month, but given what is at stake and the state of Essendon’s morale at the moment, the match should be a walk in the park for the visitors.
Tip: Adelaide to win $1.26 via William Hill
Exotic: Most possessions group 2 – Ben Howlett $9.00 via Sportsbet
Kangaroos vs. Saints
Saturday, August 15th, 2:10pm, Blundstone Arena
North Melbourne – $1.91 (-30.5)
St Kilda – $1.91 (+30.5)
The state of Tasmania plays host to the Kangaroos and Saints this week, with North in desperate need of a win to consolidate its position in the eight.
The Saints were blown off the park early last week against depleted Fremantle and never were in the contest.
The young St Kilda side is starting to show signs of slowing down in the latter stages of the year with the end of the home and away season lingering for Alan Richardson’s chargers.
The Kangaroos are on a hot-run right now and outlasted a plucky Melbourne Demons outfit to register another win which kept them into sixth position, just ahead of Richmond on percentage.
With plenty to play for, the Roos should be able to sweep aside the Saints and continue their match towards another finals run.
Tip: North Melbourne to win $1.20 via William Hill
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Nick Dal Santo $6.00 via Sportsbet
Power vs. Giants
Saturday, August 15th, 4:35pm, Adelaide Oval
Port Adelaide – $1.92 (-23.5)
GWS – $1.92 (+23.5)
Saturday afternoon at Adelaide Oval sees the struggling Power hosting the Giants in a match that the visitors have to win to keep their maiden finals appearance dreams alive.
The Power were dismal last week, getting destroyed by the Dogs at Etihad Stadium.
For a team that prides itself on the fact it will ‘never give up’, the lack of effort from last year’s preliminary finalists was staggering.
The Giants did what they had to against Essendon last week, overturning a half time deficit to run out comfortable winners.
The Power have made wholesale changes at the selection table, with five players omitted from last week’s defeat.
The Giants have lost three of their prime movers in Tom Scully, Stephen Cogniglio and Adam Trealor to injury, which will make it very tough to break even against a strong Power midfield.
The Power are out of finals contention, but they will have a point to prove against an undermanned GWS side and should win comfortably.
Tip: Port Adelaide to win $1.29 via Crownbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Toby Greene $4.50 via Sportsbet
Cats vs. Hawks
Saturday, August 15th, 7:20pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Geelong – $1.91 (+27.5)
Hawthorn – $1.91 (-27.5)
Two of the biggest rivals over the last five years clash at the MCG on Saturday night, with the Cats and the Hawks set to renew hostilities under lights at the home of footy.
The Cats are surging towards the finals after a hard-fought win over the Swans last week.
The Hawks bounced back from their lacklustre showing against Richmond a fortnight ago, overturning a three quarter time deficit to defeat West Coast in Perth.
Steve Johnson will play his 250th AFL game for the Cats after serving his one game suspension for striking Brisbane’s Alan Christenson.
The Hawks regain premiership duo David Hale and Brian Lake from injury.
Despite having great form coming into this one, the Hawks should be far too strong for Geelong, with a top-two spot beckoning for the reigning premiers.
Tip: Hawthorn to win $1.25 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions/most goals – Jordan Lewis/Jarryd Roughead $14 via Sportsbet
Lions vs. Blues
Saturday, August 8th, 7.20pm, GABBA
Brisbane – $1.92 (-3.5)
Carlton – $1.92 (+3.5)
Saturday night between the Blues and the Lions at the GABBA looms as the match no one will watch with both sides struggling to string wins together.
The Blues were gallant but ultimately fell short last week against the Pies, with young gun Patrick Cripps again dominating for the Blues.
The Lions were competitive but struggled to contain Gold Coast’s two key men up forward in last week’s Q-Clash, going down to their sunshine state counterparts by 14 points.
Just one win and two percentage points separate the two teams at the foot of the ladder.
Brisbane coach Justin Leppitsch stated during the week his side were determined to end the season with more wins to their name, and they will not get a better chance in 2015 to register four points.
Expect the Lions to prevail in a close contest.
Tip: Brisbane to win $1.78 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Tom Rockliff $3 via Sportsbet
Tigers vs. Suns
Sunday, August 16th, 1:10pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Richmond – $1.91 (-32.5)
Gold Coast – $1.91 (+32.5)
The first Sunday game of the round sees the Tigers hosting the Suns at the MCG in a match that the home side cannot afford to lose.
Richmond will be ruing a missed opportunity to keep in the hunt for a top-four finish after their meek effort against Adelaide last week.
Tigers coach Damian Hardwick lamented his side’s lack of effort saying the defeat felt like ‘a 100 point loss’.
The Suns registered just their third win of the season last week, taking care of fellow Queenslanders Brisbane in the Q-clash.
The Tigers are set to welcome back midfielder Brett Deledio, whose run and creativity was sorely missed against Adelaide the week before.
The Tigers are in danger of slipping out of the eight if they do not win the games they are supposed to on the run home to the finals.
There will be no such danger here, with Richmond looking to register a big percentage boosting win against an inferior opponent.
Tip: Richmond to win 40+ $2.20 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer –Tyrone Vickery $10 via Sportsbet
Bulldogs vs. Demons
Sunday, August 16th, 3:20pm, Etihad Stadium
Western Bulldogs – $1.91 (-29.5)
Melbourne – $1.92 (+29.5)
Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium sees the white-hot Dogs hosting the Demons in a match that the Bulldogs need to win to maintain their position inside the top-four.
The Bulldogs were ruthless last week and dispatched the Power with consummate ease.
The win gives Luke Beveridge a realistic chance of guiding a team whose ambitions would have been just to sneak into the finals this year into an unlikely top-four berth.
The Demons fell short against North Melbourne last week, but will be buoyed by the game of young forward Jesse Hogan, who continues to impress on his way to a potential rising star award in his second season of AFL.
The Dogs are set to welcome back captain Robert Murphy who missed last week’s match through injury.
The Bulldogs have a great recent record at Etihad Stadium, while the Demons have a dismal one, with a losing record stretching back over seven years.
Expect this trend to continue with the Dogs likely to win by another big margin.
Tip: Western Bulldogs to win 40+ $2.35 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer –Jack Redpath $13 via Sportsbet
Dockers vs. Eagles
Sunday, August 16th, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
Fremantle – $1.92 (-9.5)
West Coast – $1.92 (+9.5)
The final game of the round sees the Dockers clashing with the Eagles with the Derby bragging rights, plus a potential minor premiership on the line.
The Dockers were ruthless last week against the Saints, shutting the home side out early on their home ground to run out easy winners.
The Eagles were brilliant but just lacked the finishing touches in last week’s narrow loss to Hawthorn.
The Eagles will be without Mark LeCras and Jeremy McGovern for the vital clash, with the duo set to miss through suspension and injury respectively.
Fremantle welcome back superstar midfielder Nat Fyfe, who has missed the last fortnight of football with a groin injury.
Given the players Eagles have lost, and the big name of Fyfe returning for Fremantle, expect the Dockers to get the win and sure up their place atop the AFL ladder.
Tip: Fremantle to win $1.58 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Matthew Pavlich $9 via Sportsbet
Ross Glendinning Medal: Nat Fyfe $4.50 via Sportsbet
WITH just over a month of home and away action left, the finals race is far from over.
In Round 18, the Hawks and the Tigers will clash in a pivotal match which could shape the top four, the Giants travel West to tackle the Dockers in hopes of re-entering the top eight, while the Dogs will need to end a six-game losing streak against the Bombers to confirm their finals position.
Let’s take a look at the action which kicks off on Friday night.
Hawks vs. Tigers
Friday, July 31st, 7:50pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Hawthorn – $1.92 (-35.5)
Richmond – $1.92 (+35.5)
Round 18 begins at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with the third placed Hawthorn hosting the fifth placed Richmond.
The Hawks are on a roll and look destined to finish in the top two after dismantling Fremantle, Sydney and Carlton, each by over 10 goals, in the last three weeks.
The Tigers were unlucky losers last week against Fremantle, with a Bachar Houli mistake in the last two minutes handing the Dockers an unlikely victory.
Richmond has had great success over Hawthorn in recent times, with the Tigers winning two of the last three matches against the reigning premiers.
Hawthorn’s spectacular July run should continue as the reigning premiers strengthen their home final chances.
Tip: Hawthorn to win – line bet -35.5 $1.92 via William Hill
Exotic: Most disposals/Most goals Jordan Lewis/Jarryd Roughead – $16 via Sportsbet
Cats vs. Lions
Saturday, August 1st, 1:45pm, Simmonds Stadium
Geelong – $1.91 (-40.5)
Brisbane – $1.91 (+40.5)
The first game of the new month sees the Cats hosting the Lions at Geelong in a match that could dictate two markets – the finals picture and the wooden spoon battle.
It is last chance saloon for the Cats, who sit a game and percentage outside the top eight. A big win here is imperative if Geelong is to find its way into the finals.
Brisbane currently sit in last position, locked on points with the Gold Coast Suns, with only 9 percentage points separating the two teams from the indignity of a wooden spoon.
The Lions get superstars Dayne Beams and Pearce Hanley back into their line up and will be bolstered up front by the inclusion of impressive younger Jonathan Freeman.
Geelong’s home form has not been as dominant in 2015 as it has been in recent years, but the Cats should still prove too strong for the Lions – keeping their September dream alive.
Tip: Geelong to win 1-39 points $2.45 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most disposals group 1 – Tom Rockliff – $7 via Sportsbet
Magpies vs. Demons
Saturday, August 1st, 2:10pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Collingwood – $1.91 (-22.5)
Melbourne – $1.91 (+22.5)
Collingwood and Melbourne clash at the MCG on Saturday afternoon in a match that both teams will fancy their chances in.
The Pies are in free fall, losing the last five matches in a row.
In the blink of an eye Collingwood went from an outside top-four chance to a team that will struggle to finish inside the top eight.
The Demons have been poor in the last three weeks, with losses to few strugglers Essendon and St Kilda and a scrappy win against Brisbane which was dubbed ‘the worst game of the year’.
The Pies have taken the unusual step of playing without a tall key forward, dropping Jesse White while welcoming back livewire forward Jamie Elliot.
The makeshift forward line could pay dividends for the Magpies or it could explode in Nathan Buckley’s face.
Irrespective of players selected, their midfield should be far too strong for Melbourne’s.
Expect the Pies to keep their September dream alive.
Tip: Collingwood to win $1.30 via William Hill
Exotic: Bernie Vince to get 30 or more disposals $2.60 via Sportsbet
Swans vs. Crows
Saturday, August 1st, 4:35pm, Sydney Cricket Ground
Sydney – $1.92 (-16.5)
Adelaide – $1.92 (+16.5)
The game of the round is in Sydney this weekend with the Swans hosting the Crows at the SCG on Saturday afternoon.
The Swans are in strife after being on the receiving end of back-to-back 10 goal losses and will need to improve significantly if they are to retain their place in the top-four.
The Crows are in quality form after just holding out a fast finishing Port Adelaide in the showdown a fortnight ago, then dispatching Gold Coast at home a week later.
The Swans welcome back key forwards Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett, while Ted Richards returns after serving his one game suspension.
Daniel Talia makes his way back into the side for the Crows and will surely get the job on dangerous Swan Lance Franklin.
It should be an enthralling contest, but the Swans have too much firepower up forward for the Crows and should snap their two game losing streak.
Tip: Sydney to win – $1.40 via Crownbet
Exotic: Rory Sloane to get 30 or more disposals –$5.40 via Sportsbet
Suns vs. Eagles
Saturday, August 1st, 7:20pm, Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast – $1.91 (+46.5)
West Coast – $1.91 (-46.5)
Saturday night on the Gold Coast sees the Suns hosting the Eagles in a game that the visitors need to win to maintain their position in the top-two.
The Eagles are the form team of the competition and are coming off the back of a crushing 10 goal win over last year’s runners-up, Sydney.
The Gold Coast are limping their way towards the end of the season, with the prospect of another wooden spoon in their infantile tenure in the AFL a very real possibility.
The Eagles will go into Saturday’s match with an unchanged line up.
The Suns enter the match without captain Gary Ablett and Michael Rischitelli, but welcome back Adam Saad and emerging on-baller Jack Martin.
Hard to see the Suns staying with the Eagles, with the visitors poised for a big victory.
Tip: West Coast to win $1.09 via Crownbet
Exotic: West Coast winning margin – 100 point plus $15 via Sportsbet
Blues vs. Kangaroos
Saturday, August 1st, 7.20pm, Etihad Stadium
Carlton – $1.92 (+36.5)
North Melbourne – $1.92 (-36.5)
Saturday night at Etihad Stadium sees the Blues hosting the Kangaroos, with North Melbourne looking to ensure their finals position.
North Melbourne have hit a strong vein of form, and have a great run of matches coming up that will give them plenty of momentum heading into what looks like an upcoming finals campaign.
The Blues were humiliated last week by Hawthorn in what was a club record losing margin on a night where the club was celebrating their 20th anniversary of the 1995 premiership win.
This will be the first time North Melbourne’s off-season recruit Jarrad Waite plays against his old club and in a strange twist of fate, Waite will also play his 200th AFL game on the same night.
The Blues have to salvage something out of last Friday night’s wreckage, but with North rolling towards the finals and Carlton sitting towards the tail of the ladder it is hard to see this being a genuine contest.
North Melbourne should win easily and keep the finals dream alive.
Tip: North Melbourne to win by 40+ $1.99 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Marc Murphy to get 30 or more disposals – $4.20 via Sportsbet
Power vs. Saints
Sunday, August 2nd, 1:10pm, Adelaide Oval
Port Adelaide – $1.91 (-30.5)
St Kilda – $1.91 (+30.5)
The first Sunday game of the weekend kicks off at Adelaide Oval with the Power hosting the Saints in a must-win match for Port.
The Power were unconvincing in their win last week against Essendon, but the victory keeps the flickering flame of finals football alight for at least one more week.
Port simply cannot afford to lose.
The Saints were brilliant last week in their match against Melbourne, keeping the Demons at arm’s length for the entirety of the match in a performance that belied their inexperienced line up.
The Saints will be without spearhead Nick Riewoldt who finally has succumbed to a calf injury he has been carrying for weeks. Tim Membrey is his likely replacement.
Port Adelaide’s season is on a knife’s edge, one more loss and the finals are out of the equation.
The Power’s 2015 campaign ends with a loss here, but Ken Hinkley’s men should have too much experience for the Saints and will register their second win in a row.
Tip: Port Adelaide to win $1.19 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer –Jay Schultz $9 via Sportsbet
Bombers vs. Bulldogs
Sunday, August 2nd, 3:20pm, Etihad Stadium
Essendon – $1.92 (+14.5)
Western Bulldogs – $1.92 (-14.5)
Etihad Stadium plays host to the Bombers and the Bulldogs match on Sunday afternoon with plenty on the line for the plucky Dogs.
The Western Bulldogs look finals bound after a solid win over fellow finals aspirants Collingwood, with their midfield depth amongst the best in the competition.
The Bombers were gallant but ultimately fell short against the Power last week, with wastefulness in front of goal Essendon’s downfall.
The Bombers welcome back a wealth of experience, with Adam Cooney, Jake Carlisle, Jonathan Giles and Jake Melksham all named in the extended squad.
Shaun McKernan is the only omission for the Dons.
The Bulldogs have included Lin Jong and Tom Boyd with no outs named at this stage.
The Bombers have dominated against their opponents in the last few years, with Essendon possessing a six game win streak over the Bulldogs.
Expect the Dogs to snap that streak on Sunday, though, with the prospect of finals now a realistic and tangible option for Luke Beveridge’s boys.
Tip: Western Bulldogs to win $1.46 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Joe Daniher $8 via Sportsbet
Dockers vs. Giants
Sunday, August 2nd, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
Fremantle – $1.91 (-26.5)
GWS – $1.92 (+26.5)
The final game of the round sees the top of the table Dockers hosting the Giants in a match the visitors need to win to stay alive in season 2015.
The Dockers were brilliant last week in their win over the Tigers, maintaining their one game advantage at the top of the AFL ladder with a last gasp win.
The Giants blew their chance to maintain their spot in the top eight after conceding defeat to the Cats in Canberra last Saturday.
Big news out of the clash is that superstar midfielder and favourite for the Brownlow medal Nat Fyfe will miss Sunday’s match with a groin injury.
Emerging on-baller Devon Smith will miss Sunday’s match with a knee injury.
The travel factor along with key players missing could spell trouble for GWS with a big losing margin a very strong possibility.
Despite losing Fyfe, the Dockers should be too powerful for the Giants.
Tip: Fremantle to win 40+ $2.60 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer – Matthew Pavlich $9 via Sportsbet
ROUND 17 looms as the most important week of football for the 2015 season to date, with many pivotal clashes taking place which will help shape the finals.
The Eagles and the Swans are facing off in a match that should dictate who finishes top two, GWS and Geelong are playing for their finals lives, while the loser of the Dogs and Pies game can just about kiss season 2015 goodbye.
Blues vs. Hawks
Friday, July 24th, 7:50pm, Etihad Stadium
Carlton – $1.92 (+66.5)
Hawthorn – $1.92 (-66.5)
Round 17 kicks off at Etihad Stadium with the Blues hosting the Hawks in what will be the easiest game of the round to pick.
The Hawks have been in red-hot form, dispatching two of their closest rivals for the flag on the march towards the finals and look in ominous form.
Carlton were gallant in the west against Fremantle, but were ultimately overpowered by a much stronger team.
On paper this looks to be an absolute walkover, and even with an 11 goal head start on the line betting, the Hawks should comfortably cover that on their way to another four premiership points.
Tip: Hawthorn to win – line bet -66.5 $1.92 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most disposals group 1 Jordan Lewis – $4.50 via Sportsbet
David Parkin Medal: Jordan Lewis – $6 via Sportsbet
Giants vs. Cats
Saturday, July 25th, 1:45pm, Startrack Oval (Canberra)
GWS – $1.91 (-2.5)
Geelong – $1.91 (+2.5)
Saturday afternoon in the nation’s capital sees the Giants hosting the Cats in a do-or-die clash for both teams.
The Giants fought out a gutsy win against the Suns last week on the Gold Coast, with on-baller Devon Smith stepping up to fill the void left by injured superstar Dylan Sheil, booting four goals.
The Cats held off a fast finishing Western Bulldogs outfit to keep their September hopes alive, and will travel to Canberra full of confidence that their run can continue.
Geelong welcome back captain Joel Selwood who missed last week’s clash through suspension.
Joel Patfull finds his way back into the Giants side after missing over a month of football.
This one is a true toss of the coin, but the return of Selwood, as well as the overall experience factor plays in the Cats’ favour, who should prove too strong for the Giants.
Tip: GWS to win $2.00 via Crownbet
Exotic: Joel Selwood to get 30 or more disposals – $4.40 via Sportsbet
Crows vs. Suns
Saturday, July 25th, 2:10pm, Adelaide Oval
Adelaide – $1.91 (-28.5)
Gold Coast – $1.91 (+28.5)
The first Saturday game of the round sees the Crows hosting the Suns over in the South of Australia.
The Crows are flying high after a spirited victory over cross-town rivals Port Adelaide last week, and look to be playing inspired football as the reality of a potential finals campaign kicks in.
The Gold Coast Suns were better last week but seemed to lack the polish to get over the Giants at home, despite a huge effort from captain Gary Ablett.
The Crows have been able to welcome back injury-hit star Rory Sloane, who has missed significant chunks of the season with a cheekbone injury.
The Suns have lifted Harley Bennell’s club imposed exile, while dominant forward Charlie Dixon has shaken off his ankle injury.
Despite the handy ins for the Suns, the Crows should be too strong at home, plus they have too much to play for.
Tip: Adelaide to win $1.67 via William Hill
Exotic: Taylor Walker to score the most goals $3.75 via Sportsbet
Tigers vs. Dockers
Saturday, July 25th, 4:35pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Richmond – $1.92 (-3.5)
Fremantle – $1.92 (+3.5)
The Melbourne Cricket Ground plays host to the game of the round, with Richmond facing off against the top-of-the-table Dockers.
The Tigers held off a fast finishing St Kilda last week to keep their momentum rolling on towards a potential top four finish in 2015.
The Dockers did what they had to against the Blues to keep one game clear atop the AFL ladder.
A big question lingers over the fitness of Fremantle superstar on-baller Nat Fyfe, who has struggled with a corked thigh which he sustained in the devastating loss to Hawthorn in Tasmania.
Fyfe is without a doubt the most important player in the game today, and if he is unavailable it is hard to see the Dockers mounting a challenge away from home against the Tigers.
Even if Fyfe is able to take to the field against Richmond, it will be difficult to holt the Tigers, who are full of confidence and look ready to take another big scalp.
Tip: Richmond to win line bet – -3.5 $1.92 via William Hill
Exotic: Most possesions/most goals – Trent Cotchin/Jack Riewoldt $15 via Sportsbet
Bombers vs. Power
Saturday, July 25th, 7:20pm, Etihad Stadium
Essendon – $1.91 (+17.5)
Port Adelaide – $1.91 (-17.5)
The Bombers and the Power are set to battle at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night in a match that looked so much better on paper prior to the start of the season.
This will be Paddy Ryder’s first game in Port Adelaide colours, and he should experience a hostile reception from the Bomber faithful.
The Bombers were terrific for a half last week, but fell away sharply against North Melbourne. However, they did show signs that all the pieces are still there.
Port Adelaide looked set to steamroll their cross-town rivals in the final quarter of the Showdown last week, but feel just short of pulling off the miracle.
The Power welcome back speedster Matt White after he recovered from a hamstring injury that has kept him out of the game for just under a month.
The Bombers have experienced a great run against the Power, winning their last five matches, and this trend should continue with the visitors now acutely aware their finals chances are now gone.
Tip: Essendon to win $3.15 via Crownbet
Exotic: Most disposals – Dyson Heppell $7.00 via Sportsbet
Lions vs. Kangaroos
Saturday, July 25th, 7.20pm, GABBA
Brisbane – $1.92 (+21.5)
North Melbourne – $1.92 (-21.5)
Saturday night in Brisbane sees the luckless Lions hosting the resurgent Kangaroos in what promises to be an entertaining contest.
North Melbourne premiership superstar Brent Harvey plays his 400th AFL game for the club, becoming only the fourth living player in the history of the game to achieve the milestone.
The Kangaroos did what they had to in last week’s win over the Bombers, overturning a half time deficit to record a 25 point win.
The Lions were woeful against Melbourne, in what many dubbed to be the worst game of the season.
It is hard to see how the Lions can mount a challenge in this one, despite North’s spasmodic form on the road.
The Kangaroos have too much to play for, with their milestone man’s big game, as well as a finals berth beckoning.
Tip: North Melbourne to win by 40+ $3.10 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Jarrad Waite to score the most goals – $6 via Sportsbet
Bulldogs vs. Magpies
Sunday, July 26th, 1:10pm, Etihad Stadium
Western Bulldogs – $1.91 (+4.5)
Collingwood – $1.91 (-4.5)
The first Sunday game of the weekend kicks off at Etihad Stadium with the Bulldogs hosting the Magpies.
Both sides are looking to secure a place in the finals with the Dogs and the Pies both firmly entrenched in the four team battle for the final two spots in the eight.
The Dogs were gallant down in Geelong but fell short after trailing for most of the match, but will take confidence that their young boys withstood a lot of pressure from seasoned pros.
The Pies were disappointing last week against the Eagles, never really looking like they were in the contest after losing Travis Cloke in the opening minutes.
The loss of Cloke is vitally important to the Pies, as he has been their sole focal point up front, with Jamie Elliot and Jesse White struggling to make an impact on the scoreboard.
The Dogs look ready to take another scalp here, and with the loss of Cloke the Pies forward line looks bereft of goal kicking firepower.
Tip: Western Bulldogs to win $2.10 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Tory Dickson $10 via Sportsbet
Sutton/Rose Medal: Mitch Wallis – $26 via Sportsbet
Melbourne vs. Saints
Sunday, July 26th, 3:20pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Melbourne – $1.92 (-3.5)
St Kilda – $1.92 (+3.5)
A battle of the bottom looms at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday with the Demons hosting the Saints.
The Demons got back on the winners list last week, but did not do it with any great style, winning against the Lions at home.
The Saints surged home against the Tigers at Etihad last Sunday but just fell short.
The Saints have played exciting football at times this year, with their midfield of Armitage and Leigh Montagna amongst the best pairings in the AFL.
The Demons forward line has been dysfunctional at times, but Paul Roos would have to be happy with the progress of young forward Jesse Hogan, who booted four goals last week against the Lions.
A true toss of the coin match this one, but the edge has to go to St Kilda, with the more polished midfield and the exciting duo of Nick Reiwoldt and Josh Bruce up forward.
Tip: Port Adelaide to win $1.93 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Josh Bruce $7 via Sportsbet
Eagles vs. Swans
Sunday, July 26th, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
West Coast – $1.91 (-17.5)
Sydney – $1.92 (+17.5)
The final game of round 17 sees the Eagles hosting the Swans in a match that could determine who finishes inside the top four with a double chance.
The Swans were woeful last week against the Hawks, getting exposed in all areas of the ground and were made to look especially slow through the midfield.
The Eagles were brilliant against the Pies, and if not for some wayward goal kicking could have put their opponents away much earlier in the match.
The Swans will be without two important key posts in Kurt Tippett – who misses with a broken hand – and Ted Richards, who copped a one week suspension.
The Eagles lost intercept marking king Jeremy McGovern to a hamstring injury.
The home side are in red-hot form at the moment, and the Swans look in free fall.
It is hard to see how the Swans can mount a challenge in the west, with too many key players out and the Eagles in blistering form.
Tip: West Coast to win 40+ $3.40 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer – Jack Darling $10 via Sportsbet
HMAS medallist: Luke Schuey – $15 via Sportsbet
Friday, July 24, 2015, 7.50pm AEST, Etihad Stadium, watch on Seven Network, Fox Footy
Carlton Blues: 16th
Hawthorn Hawks: Third
Carlton Blues: 3-12-0
Hawthorn Hawks: 11-4-0
Last five games
Carlton Blues: WWLLL
Hawthorn Hawks: WWWWW
JUST give the Hawks the flag now.
That’s the sentiment around the AFL after Hawthorn manhandled yet another so called premiership fancy in Sydney last week.
And, after pasting Fremantle the week before, the Hawks were smashed in from $3 to $2.30 to win the flag at Sportsbet.com.au.
The two time defending premiers opened at $2.38 after the 2014 Grand Final and were paying $4 ahead of round one. They got out to as much as $4.35 after a slow start to the season.
“We’re now holding more money on Hawthorn to win the flag than Fremantle and Sydney combined,” the bookie’s Christian Jantzen said.
The Hawks haven’t lost since the Swans beat them in round seven, giving them seven wins on the trot, heading in to a match against a side that has won just three games for the season and dropped its last three.
The Blues have, however, been more competitive since John Barker replaced deposed coach Mick Malthouse and managed to put up fights against the Western Bulldogs, Richmond and Fremantle in the last three weeks.
They were never going to get the Dockers in Perth, but they at least had a red hot crack, with just 21 points in it at three quarter time, before they ran out of legs and the purple haze kicked into gear, holding the Blues score less in the final term in a 13.17 (95) to 8.5 (53) result.
Ed Curnow had perhaps his best game for the Blues, nagging 32 disposals with eight marks and eight tackles, Marc Murphy had 29 possessions and Sam Docherty 27, but it was Simon White who won praise for his stopping job on Freo’s midfield monster Nat Fyfe, holding the Brownlow Medal favourite to just 23 touches.
“We just thought Whitey, he is one of those players (who) when you give him a job he does everything he can to get it right,” interim coach Barker said.
“He’s got character and he’s got a big body too, which we think helped him.
“He got a lot of help from his teammates and what you get to realise very quickly is against a team like Fremantle … you can’t beat them by just stopping one player.”
Tom Bell was the only multiple goal scorer for there Blues.
They’ll face a Hawthorn side two weeks removed from a 72 point drubbing of the Dockers in Tassie, and a week after smashing last year’s beaten grand finalist’s Sydney by 89.
The Hawks travelled to Sydney and were simply sublime, smoking the Swans off ANZ Stadium in a dominant 23.8 (146) to 7.15 (53) result.
Inspirational captain Luke Hodge was at his brilliant best with another 30 disposals, with eight marks and seven tackles, with some hailing his past two performances as good as any other in his career.
Accumulator Sam Mitchell had a “quieter” game for him, with another lazy 28 disposals and Grant Birchall returned to form with 27 roaming across half back.
Spearhead Jarryd Roughead, back in action after having cancerous melanoma cells removed from his face earlier this month, booted five goals and played like he hadn’t missed a beat, despite sporting a large adhesive protective cover on his face for the duration on the match.
Jack Gunston found his radar with four goals and Cyril Rioli did several Cyril-like things on his way to three goals and 20 touches.
Coach Alistair Clarkson doesn’t want his charges to get ahead of themselves and wheeled out the old ‘one week at a time’ cliche.
“We’ve won the last two titles and that means there’s some pressure that comes with that, and I’d like to think that our players and our club are level headed enough to cope with that,” Clarkson said.
“We just play each week as it comes before us, we know that our goal at the start of the year was to finish in the top four and we’re just happy that we’re adding up the wins and hopefully get ourselves in a good position by round 23 to have a good shot at it.
“You don’t win Grand Finals in July, we’ve got to be playing our best footy in September.
“We’re pleased that over the past couple of weeks that we’ve been able to account for two really, really strong opponents, who we have enormous regard for.”
The Blues are the complete opposite of a “really strong opponent” but will have a little bit to play for as skipper Murphy celebrates his 200th game.
The Blues have no key injured men on the way back, with the likes of Andrew Walker and Nick Graham still sidelined, so they will have to continue to rely on kids like Bell and Rising Star favourite Patrick Cripps to fly the flag.
Meanwhile, as if the Hawks needed to get any better, they will welcome back fleet footed midfielder Bradley Hill and could go with Premiership players Taylor Duryea and Will Langford, who have both recovered from injury.
And, if that wasn’t enough, key defender James Frawley will also come under consideration after he missed several weeks with a dislocated shoulder.
Match Winner: Hawthorn wins ($1.01 with CrownBet.com.au)
Margin bet: Hawthorn by 40 or more ($1.22 with WilliamHill.com.au)
The Blues haven’t beaten Hawthorn in their last six tries at Etihad Stadium and that isn’t about to change here. In fact, they haven’t beaten Hawthorn in 10 years! The hammerings the Hawks have handed out to Sydney and Fremantle in consecutive weeks are an ominous sign. But this game could be one of those let down ones where the Hawks never get out of first gear and still win by eight goals. We’re going with the over 39.5 to actually give punters a little bit of value with their bet, but we’re staying away from the 66.5 point line. On form, the Hawks should be able to cover that, but they will find it harder to motivate themselves to produce the type of football they’ve done in the past fortnight against a clearly inferior opponent. And hey, if you’re a big spender and want to get something slightly better than bank interest, the $1.01 about the Hawks is about as certain as you can get in footy.
David Parkin Medal tips
Marc Murphy ($15 with CrownBet.com.au)
Congratulations to Murphy for 200 games of tough, hard uncompromising footy… Ok, we may be being a little bit harsh, but he’s always carried a knock for being a bit soft, but 200 games by any player means you have plenty of staying power. Murphy on has day is a beautiful user of the footy and finds plenty of it and is the sort of silky skilled player that could attract the attention of the David Parkin Medal judges. It’s obviously hard for him, especially considering his side is on a hiding to nothing, but if he pulls out a special effort, say 40 disposals and a bunch of tackles in his 200th game, who knows how the voters will look at it. Regularly collects the most touches for the Blues and, if they somehow pull of a miracle, you can just about guarantee Murphy will be front and centre.
Patrick Cripps ($26 with CrownBet.com.au)
From a 200 gamer in the prime of his career to a classy kid still learning his craft. There are no such “soft” knocks on this midfield steamroller. Cripps is as tough as an overcooked steak and may already be the Blues’ best midfielder. Has been a bit quieter in the past month, but would do himself plenty of favours by having a big one against what many believe is the best team – and midfield – in the AFL. The Rising Star elect could kick off his rookie of the year party by snaring the David Parkin Medal. It is a long shot, but stranger things have happened.
Luke Hodge ($6.50 with CrownBet.com.au)
This guy is like a fine wine. He just gets better with age. Some believe he is having a better season than the monster he produced in 2008 and it’s hard to argue. Hodge looks as fit as he’s ever been and, at 31, is averaging a career high 28 disposals. Had a lazy 30 touches against the Swans last week, on the back of a 31 touch game against the Dockers and 29 against the Magpies. He’s in rare form. Hodge is as inspirational as they come and was really made to win medals, testament to the Norm Smith he owns from last year’s grand final. He could run rampant against a Blues side that really has no answer to the Hawthorn hard man.
Jarryd Roughead ($9 with CrownBet.com.au)
Speaking of having no answers, who is going to play on Roughead, the full forward cum midfielder cum ruckman who might just be the most versatile player in the game? A bag of five goals on his return last week followed a 29 possession effort against Essendon in round 13. Also averaging a career high 18 disposals – remarkable for a guy who spends most of his time on the ground in a key forward post. The surgery to remove the cancerous melanoma cells has given him no trouble and he is all but guaranteed to give the Carlton defenders – or midfielders – fits. Only has 29 snags this year, a far cry from the 75 he booted last season, but you really sense he might feel this is a chance for him to really swell the coffers, on the back of his goal kicking form of last week.