The following are previews with betting tips for Round 21 of the 2017 AFL season.
Friday, August 11
Western Bulldogs v GWS
7:50PM AEST, Etihad Stadium
The Dogs have won four in a row and find themselves back in the top eight, with a real test of their premiership credentials to come on Friday night when they host the GWS Giants. The Dogs got the points without being very impressive against the Lions, but you’d expect they’ll lift for this one. The biggest issue for them is the fact that they’ve just lost another key defender, with Easton Wood severely tearing his hamstring on the weekend. They’re now incredibly stretched in the back half and the Giants are a team capable of making them pay in that area.
After a fairly poor month compared to their lofty standards, the Giants were back to their best against the Demons on Saturday. They out-pressured and out-classed the Demons all day and looked extremely dangerous up forward even without all three of Jon Patton, Jeremy Cameron and Toby Greene. Greene will be back for this clash, as will Patton, which will give coach Leon Cameron a few headaches at the selection table. Ruckman Shane Mumford will be a forced out due to a one-week suspension, but other than that the GWS 22 is starting to take shape just at the right time.
It’s going to be a ripping contest—the last two matches between these clubs have been decided by a goal or less. There’s plenty at stake here and I’m expecting it to go right down to the wire again. Even though the Dogs still haven’t produced their absolute best, I think a match against the Giants leading into September is just the thing to get them going, so I’m backing them to just sneak home in another thriller.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs to win @ $2.20 (Marathon Bet)
Saturday, August 12
Sydney v Fremantle
1:45PM AEST, SCG
The Swans made the most of facing a Geelong side minus Patrick Dangerfield, running out comfortable 46-point winners to keep themselves entrenched in the top eight. It helped that Cats’ skipper Joel Selwood limped off with an ankle injury midway through the game, but nevertheless the Swans were impressive without their own skipper Josh Kennedy, particularly in the first quarter. One concern for the Swans is the form of superstar forward Lance Franklin, who has been quiet for a few weeks now. They’ll be hoping he can build into some form over the next few weeks, starting with a big game against the Dockers on Saturday.
It may not be as simple as it looked a few weeks ago, as Fremantle were much improved against the Suns last weekend. It was an impressive team performance and there was a lot to like from a few individuals as well. Nat Fyfe continues building back to his best, Cam McCarthy booted four goals up forward, and Rising Star nominee Luke Ryan had another fantastic game down back. This will be a tough ask for them though. The Swans are a very good side, and with so much at stake, they won’t be giving Freo an inch. I expect the Swans to lead all day and end up winning by six goals at the very least.
Betting tip: Sydney By 40+ @ $1.50 (MadBookie)
Geelong v Richmond
2:10PM AEST, Simonds Stadium
What a devastatingly bad week it has been for the Cats. First of all, they lose superstar Patrick Dangerfield for the match against Sydney due to suspension, ending his Brownlow medal hopes in the process. They were always going to struggle against the Swans without him, but a loss wasn’t going to be the end of the world. Then skipper Joel Selwood seriously injured his ankle, turning a tough night into a nightmare for the Cats, and to make matters even worse, Tom Hawkins and Mitch Duncan were both handed suspensions by the MRP in the follow-up.
And now they’ve got a huge game against fellow top four club Richmond to try to turn their fortunes around. Dangerfield’s return will give them some hope, but it’s going to be extremely difficult to win without Selwood, Hawkins and Duncan. The Tigers look destined for a top four finish after effortlessly throwing aside the Hawks on Sunday, and boosted by the return of spearhead Jack Riewoldt, I expect them to take care of a depleted Cats outfit, even with the game taking place down at Skilled Stadium.
Betting tip: Richmond By 1-39 @ 2.34 (TopSport)
Brisbane v Gold Coast
4:35PM AEST, Gabba
Other than a poor first quarter when the Dogs got on top of them, the Lions put up an impressive fight against the reigning premiers on Saturday afternoon. They led at three-quarter time and with a bit more composure might have been able to cause a massive upset. It wasn’t to be, but they’ve got a huge chance to lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder this week when they host the Suns.
The Gold Coast were fairly poor against the Dockers, and overall it’s been another disappointing season for them, one that has again been been marred by constant injuries. And so it was again on Saturday night, when David Swallow was a late withdrawal with a groin issue, and Aaron Hall injured his hamstring in the second quarter. But injuries are no excuse for professional footy clubs, and so the Suns have made the call to sack coach Rodney Eade after three mediocre years in the role. To be fair to Rocket, he’s done a decent job with the tools he’s had at his disposal, so it’ll be interesting to see if a new coach can considerably change their fortunes.
I expect they’re in for more pain this week when they take on a Brisbane team that should be full of confidence after challenging the reigning premiers. It’s not going to be a pretty game of footy, but I reckon the Lions are going to be a touch too good for the Suns.
Betting tip: Brisbane (-14.5) @ $1.94 (Marathon Bet)
Essendon v Adelaide
7:25PM AEST, Etihad Stadium
After narrowly escaping the clutches of arch-rival Carlton, the Bombers this week face the top-of-the-ladder Crows in a game that will prove season-defining for them. An upset win over Adelaide will almost lock them into a finals appearance, providing they don’t drop an easy game in the following two weeks. But it’s not going to be easy. With the return of Eddie Betts, Brad Crouch and Jake Lever, the Crows displayed their awesome best against Port Adelaide on Sunday, destroying the Power by a whopping 84-points. They also have fond memories of playing against the Bombers—in their round 4 clash they defeated Essendon by 65-points. That was at the Adelaide Oval, this time they do battle at Etihad. That suits the Bombers, but it’s not going to help all that much if the Crows are at their best. The Bombers’ chances are also severely hampered by having to play without young star Zach Merrett, who is suspended for the week and really crucial to their midfield and ball movement.
If the Bombers manage to keep it close until late in the game they might be a chance to run over the top of the Crows, but it’s very unlikely. Adelaide have been the best side for the majority of the year, and while they just about have a top two spot stitched up and therefore don’t have as much to play for, they’ll want to keep their form up heading into the business end of the year. They should get the win over the Bombers by a couple of goals.
Betting tip: Adelaide (-19.5) @ $1.95 (Marathon Bet)
West Coast v Carlton
7:40PM AEST, Domain Stadium
It’s quite fitting that a disappointing performance in Melbourne has ended the Eagles’ chances of participating in September action. They’re not totally out of it but their last two games are incredibly tough, so there’s a fair chance this might be their last win for 2017. The Eagles were solid for the first three quarters against the Saints but were then completely out-muscled in the last. Some serious change is needed at West Coast over the offseason, and that will no doubt start with attempting to replace the two retiring Brownlow medallists in the midfield.
The Blues were brave on Saturday afternoon against the Bombers, nearly threatening to steal a win despite their depleted midfield. If they can do just as well against the Eagles they should be extremely pleased, but I fear they might be really crushed over in Perth. It’s a long season, and the Blues look like they’re very much looking forward to the finish line. It’s coming soon, but maybe not quite soon enough; it’ll be a big win for the West Coast Eagles.
Betting tip: West Coast By 40+ @ $2.02 (Ladbrokes)
Sunday, August 13
Melbourne v St Kilda
1:10PM AEST, MCG
What a huge game this is going to be. The two clubs are sitting just outside the eight on 10 wins, only separated by percentage. The loser can write 2017 off, the winner keeps their finals hopes alive. The Saints have just had a confidence-boosting win over the Eagles, the Demons a morale-sapping loss to the Giants. The intensity is going to be finals-like in front of what should be a big crowd at the MCG. The Demons will be happy it’s being played at the ‘G rather than Etihad, but that shouldn’t have a massive impact on the result. The two teams are fairly even, so the result will be determined by who is willing to work harder and apply more pressure to the opposition. Both the Demons and the Saints have had stages over the course of the year where they’ve been good at this, and then other times not so good. Now, when the pressure is on, it’s time to find out who is ready to take the next step and push for a finals berth.
I’m a little worried about the Demons after the past couple of weeks. They look tired. They’re still a young side, and while their consistency throughout the year has been much better than in previous campaigns, the long season looks to be wearing them down. The Saints have their fair share of young players as well, but are a slightly more experienced side overall. I think the trend of recent weeks shows the Demons are in decline and the Saints are still doing ok, therefore I expect them to sneak a narrow victory over the Demons on Sunday and keep their slim finals chances alive.
Betting tip: St Kilda to win @ $2.50 (Bet365)
Hawthorn v North Melbourne
3:20PM AEST, University of Tasmania Stadium
Hawthorn’s run is officially over; this year will be the first time they haven’t been involved in finals since way back in 2009. It’s a stunning run, and at the end of it you would expect that they’d need to completely bottom out for a few years, but that doesn’t look like happening any time soon. The Tigers were much too good for them on Sunday, but there were some more encouraging signs for fans of the Hawks to get excited about. This week they take on the Kangaroos, who really battled last Saturday night when the Magpies put them to the sword. Spearhead Ben Brown was knocked out in a controversial tackle which didn’t help their cause, and while he’s named to play this week, you wouldn’t think he’d be at his best after such a big hit so his teammates up forward will need to help carry some of the load.
The Hawks welcome back retiring champ Luke Hodge for his final game in Tasmania, and I expect they’ll be good enough to get a win for him. He doesn’t have too many chances left, so the Hawks will be keen to make them count.
Betting tip: Hawthorn By 1-39 @ $2.20 (UniBet)
Port Adelaide v Collingwood
4:40PM AEST, Adelaide Oval
Port Adelaide again close out the round of footy, and there might be some fireworks in this one unlike in their pitiful performance against the Crows last week. They were so utterly out-played that the 84-point final margin genuinely flattered them—it should have been closer to 20 goals. They’ve said it was unacceptable, that there will be a big response this week. The whole footy world is expecting one, now it’s up to them to deliver.
But it might not be so simple to put that game behind them and bounce back against the Pies. That sort of drubbing at this stage of the year can be soul-destroying, and while I expect Port to get over the line against the Pies, I feel like that loss has ended any chance they had of winning the flag. They were only an outside chance to begin with, but they’ll now really lack the confidence needed to get a run on like the Bulldogs did in September of last year. Anything’s possible, but I think Port are cooked for 2017. They’ll probably beat the Pies by a couple of goals—although I expect the Pies to make them earn it—but they aren’t going to have a big impact on the business end of the year.
Betting tip: Port Adelaide (-18.5) @ $1.95 (Marathon Bet)
Best Bets of the Round
Brisbane (-14.5) @ $1.94 (Marathon Bet)
Adelaide (-19.5) @ $1.95 (Marathon Bet)
All Bets: -26.67 units
Best Bets: +3.81 units