USUALLY after eight rounds of football a picture will begin to take shape of how the final eight will look come September.
This year seems to be an aberration.
Heading into round 9, there is a number of teams still in the running for the finals, with teams outside the top eight belting down the door and teams inside hanging on for dear life.
The Dockers remain undefeated with no end to their streak in sight, while the GWS Giants do not just look destined for a finals berth, but the top-four beckons after an astonishing opening two months to the 2015 season from the AFL’s newest franchise.
Plenty to get through this week, so let’s find some winners.
Swans vs. Blues
Friday, May 29th, 7:50pm, Sydney Cricket Ground
Sydney – $1.92 (-72.5)
Carlton- $1.92 (+72.5)
Two teams on opposite ends of the AFL spectrum kick off round nine, with the Swans hosting the Blues in a match that could get very ugly, very early.
The Swans are in sparkling form, winning their last three matches including a Grand Final rematch with Hawthorn that went right down to the final siren which has them sitting in third position on the ladder.
Sydney have made just one change at the selection table, with Swans’ coach John Longmuire handing a debut to Daniel Robinson, while impressive youngster Jake Lloyd has been omitted.
Carlton officially hit rock bottom over the last fortnight, both figuratively and literally with the club in last place on the ladder, a senior coach down and absolutely bereft of hope.
The Blues will be without a trio of superstars, with captain Marc Murphy, dual Brownlow medallist Chris Judd and former number one draft pick Bryce Gibbs to injury, with Lachie Henderson, Andrew Carrazzo and Andrew Walker set to take their places.
Unfortunately we are set to see another Friday night fizzer with a triple figure margin very much on the cards. If the Blues are able to escape the match with a result anywhere under 60 points it will be considered a win.
Tip: Sydney to win 60+ $1.50 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Luke Parker to have 30 or more disposals – $2.90 via Sportsbet
Hawks vs. Suns
Saturday, May 30th, 1:45pm, Aurora Stadium
Hawthorn – $1.91 (-70.5)
Gold Coast – $1.91 (+70.5)
The first Saturday game of round nine sees the reigning premiers facing arguably the worst-performing team over the opening eight rounds.
Hawthorn will be looking to get their names back on the winner’s list after suffering a heart-breaking loss to Sydney and now sit in the precarious position of 4-4 with a position in the top four in jeopardy, even at this early stage.
The Hawks welcome back inspirational captain Luke Hodge from a three-match suspension but lose dashing defender Grant Birchall.
Gold Coast have been in free fall, and had it not been for a fortuitous fixture that saw them play a severely depleted Brisbane earlier in the season, they could very well be winless on the bottom of the ladder.
The Suns will boosted by the return of key big-man Steven May and livewire forward Jack Martin, both of whom will add an enormous level of class and poise to a side that has desperately lacked in both areas all season.
Both teams are in dire need of a win for vastly difference reasons; but expect Hawthorn to trounce the Suns and add some valuable percentage to the four premiership points they are certain to bank.
Tip: Hawthorn to win – line bet -70.5 $1.90 via Sportbet
Exotic: Most disposals group B – Shaun Burgoyne $4.50 via William Hill
Demons vs. Power
Saturday, May 30th, 1:40pm, Traeger Park (Darwin)
Melbourne – $1.91 (+15.5)
Port Adelaide- $1.91 (-15.5)
The second match Saturday afternoon sees Melbourne ‘host’ the Power in Darwin, the perfect venue to showcase an indigenous round match.
The Demons will be flying high after a spirited win over the Western Bulldogs, and will hold no fear in facing last year’s preliminary finalists.
The Demons welcome back stoutly built midfielder Jack Viney and born-again defender Neville Jetta, omitting Aiden Riley and Ben Newton in the process.
Port Adelaide has lost several key players to injury, with Patrick Ryder and Jackson Trengove scumming to achilles and ankle injuries respectively, handing Matthew Broadbent and Paul Stewart passages straight back into the senior team.
Both teams are sitting on just three wins for the season, and a loss to either side will just about rule them out of September action.
After starting the season as one of the main premiership threats, the Power have been bitterly disappointing thus far, and desperately need a win if they are to mount any kind of challenge on the flag.
Expect the Power to bounce back against the Dees and regain a foothold in the race towards the finals.
Tip: Port Adelaide to win – line bet -15.5 $1.91 via William Hill
Exotic: Most disposals/most goal– Travis Boak Jay Schultz $14 via William Hill
Bulldogs vs. Giants
Saturday, May 23rd, 4:35pm, Etihad Stadium
Western Bulldogs – $1.92 (+20.5)
GWS – $1.92 (-20.5)
Saturday’s final afternoon game sees the red-hot GWS Giants travelling to face the sporadic Dogs – the first match that will pit the former Western Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffin against his former side.
The Giants are in the best form of their infantile career, after easily accounting for Adelaide at home to secure their first ever three game win streak, and will be looking to make it four against the Bulldogs who suffered a shock loss to the Demons at the MCG last week.
GWS have brought emerging midfielders Lachie Whitfield and Aiden Corr for the crunch match, with Zac Williams and Phil Davis departing the team via an omission and suspension respectively.
The Dogs have made wholesale changes at the selection table with six changes, including losing last year’s leading goal scorer Stewart Crameri and Brett Goodes to potentially long term injuries, but have regained Will Minson and Jarrad Grant.
The Dogs’ early season form was terrific; chalking up fantastic wins against Sydney and Adelaide, but have fallen in a hole badly in the last fortnight.
The Giants will capitalise on this and post their fourth win in a row, consolidating their place in the top-four.
Tip:GWS to win 1-39 point margin $2.10 via William Hill
Exotic: Most disposals group B – Ryan Griffin $5 via William Hill
Tigers vs. Bombers
Saturday, May 30th, 7:10pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Richmond – $1.91 (-1.5)
Essendon – $1.91 (+1.5)
For the first time since its inception, the Dreamtime at the G will pit Essendon and Richmond against each other in a match that will have significant finals implications.
Both teams are locked on points in 8th and 9th positions on the ladder, with the winner of the match potentially going a game clear inside the finals.
The Tigers have roared back into finals contention after a lacklustre start to the season, winning two consecutive matches against Collingwood – a team they had failed to beat in almost five years and Port Adelaide at the scene of last year’s elimination final embarrassment.
The Dons are back up and firing after some less than spectacular performances, putting Brisbane to the sword to the tune of ten goals last week at Etihad, and looked to be back to their best.
The Tigers only have the once forced change, with Liam McBean making his way back into the senior line up at the expense of Ty Vickery, who will miss with a knee injury.
The Bombers are unchanged.
The Bombers had a relatively easy match up last week after battling in the first half, and will go into this match full of confidence after owning the fixture in recent years. Richmond battled hard to get the win against Port, and will have to combat a six day turnaround as well as the residual effects of an Adelaide Oval slugfest.
For these reasons we expect the Dons to make it two in a row and firmly entrench themselves within the eight.
Tip: Essendon to win – 1-24 margin $3.30 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most disposals group A – Dyson Heppell $4.75 via William Hill
Yiooken Award winner: Adam Cooney – $34 via Sportsbet
Crows vs. Dockers
Saturday, May 30th, 7.40pm, Adelaide Oval
Adelaide – $1.92 (+21.5)
Fremantle – $1.92 (-21.5)
Saturday night sees one of the more intriguing matches of the round with the Adelaide Crows hosting the Fremantle Dockers at Adelaide Oval.
The undefeated Dockers are looking to make in nine wins in on the trot and are very well placed to do so, after dismantling North Melbourne at home last week.
The Crows are in a bit of a lull after dropping two of the last four matches against teams in a similar ladder position. The league is slowly starting to find out the Crows may not be up for September action this season.
The Crows welcome back veteran defender Ricky Henderson after Sam Kerridge failed to overcome an ankle injury.
The Dockers are unchanged.
The Crows will need a big performance from captain and full forward Taylor Walker, who despite kicking seven goals in the last two matches, has little impact around the ground. The man they call Tex needs to impose himself on games more and involve his teammates.
The Dockers are in franchise best form, and it is hard to see where they will lose a game in the near future, but you can guarantee it will not be Saturday night.
Tip:Fremantle to win $1.30 via Sportsbet
Exotic:Most disposals grounp A Nat Fyfe $3.25 via William Hill
Lions vs. Saints
Sunday, May 31st, 1:10pm, GABBA
Brisbane – $1.91 (-9.5)
St Kilda – $1.91 (+9.5)
Only 5-10 years ago these two teams were battling it out for AFL supremacy, now they sit towards the bottom of the ladder in the midst of a rebuild phase that could take years.
The Lions’ early season form was lamentable, but after spirited wins against Carlton away from home then against Port at the GABBA, there is suddenly spring in the step of the Queenslanders.
The Saints have been up-and-down as expected throughout the season, but more often than not they have been highly competitive on the back of maximum effort from the sometimes limited talent levels their young list possesses.
Both teams have named extended benches with only Brisbane’s Daniel McStay and St Kilda’s Sam Fisher the confirmed outs at this stage.
The Saints will present an enormous challenge to the young Lions, but now captain Tom Rockliff has some continuity under his belt, the Brisbane midfield is starting to emerge as one of the best in the competition, and because of this, they should be able to take control through the middle and own the game.
Expect Brisbane to record their third win of the season.
Tip:Brisbane to win 1-39 $2.15 via William Hill
Exotic:First goal – Paul Chapman $15 via Sportsbet
Magpies vs. Kangaroos
Sunday, May 30th, 3:20pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Collingwood – $1.92 (+5.5)
North Melbourne – $1.92 (-5.5)
Battle of the strips takes place on Sunday afternoon with the Magpies hosting the Kangaroos at the MCG with the Pies looking to maintain a healthy dominance over their Blue and White opponents.
The Pies have won six of the last eight clashes between the two sides, and bring in the much better form to the contest after destroying a pathetic Gold Coast Suns outfit last weekend in captain Scott Pendlebury’s 200th game as a Magpie.
The Roos came crashing down to earth in a big way, getting comprehensively outplayed by the Dockers in the West and will need to turn their form around very quickly if they are to make any sort of impact here.
The Pies have named an extended bench for the Sunday afternoon clash, with Alan Toovey and Sam Dwyer potential ins. No outs have been confirmed at this stage.
Ben Jacobs and Mason Wood are the two men to make way for the Kangaroos, with captain Andrew Swallow and big Ben Brown their likely replacements.
Collingwood have made a real impact so far this season playing a fantastic brand of team footy, but have been found wanting against some of the better quality teams. North Melbourne should present a huge challenge and possess enough firepower up forward to trouble a depleted back six for the Pies that will have trouble containing all the avenues to goal that Brad Scott has at his disposal.
North Melbourne should break their Collingwood hoodoo and get themselves back into finals contention.
Tip: North Melbourne to win $1.70 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer – Jarrad Waite $11 via Sportsbet
Sunday, May 30th, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
West Coast – $1.91 (-18.5)
Geelong – $1.92 (+18.5)
The West Coast Eagles and the Geelong Cats finish off round nine at Domain Stadium in Australia’s west with the Adam Simpson’s men looking to remain in a top-two position while the Cats are just looking to keep in touch with the top eight.
The Eagles are flying with only two losses to their name, and will bring in immense confidence into the match after eviscerating St Kilda by over ten goals.
The Cats are bringing in terrific form with two wins from their last three, including a crushing 77 point victory over Carlton last Friday night.
Only one forced change for either side, with West Coast’s Elliot Yeo copping a one match suspension for striking, with Scott Lycett his potential replacement.
Both teams are bringing in decent form into the match, but it is hard to see just how the Cats can win over in the West, given the Eagles rampant home form.
Tip: Eagles to win 40+ @3.50 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Josh Kennedy $7 via Sportsbet
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Friday night matches don’t come much bigger than this. Collingwood and Richmond both need a win and they will look to the big forwards to deliver.
Just because your team is a long-shot to make finals, doesn’t mean there isn’t some betting value behind them in certain markets. Find out which ones here.
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