The following are previews with betting tips for Round 8 of the 2020 AFL season.
Thursday, July 23
Gold Coast vs Western Bulldogs
7:40pm , Metricon Stadium
The Suns arrested a two-game losing streak with a convincing win over the Swans on Saturday afternoon, proving they are a significantly more mature and experienced football club than they were in 2019. Their opponent this week, the Western Bulldogs, also put in a strong showing after a poor previous game, beating the Bombers by seven goals in a complete performance. Both teams sit on four wins from their seven games, setting this up as a mammoth contest. Every win from here on in is crucial, particularly those against clubs placed around the same ladder position. Whoever wins this one cements their spot in the top eight, the other will drop down a notch.
The stakes are high, and I expect this to be a really entertaining, close game of footy. The Suns play with flair and dash when they have the ball, and apply manic pressure to their opponent when they don’t. The Dogs play a contested brand, relying on handballs to clear congestion. Last time they did that in the wet, against Carlton, it cost them, and with some rain forecast they’ll be needing to mix things up. Tim English was dominant last week against Essendon, but will have a much better opponent this week in Jarrod Witts. Witts and his midfield group, in particular Touk Miller and Hugh Greenwood, are in pretty good form, and they’ll take it right up to the Dogs’ star midfield. I reckon they might even do enough to help their side get the four points, but it’ll be tight. I’m going with the Suns by a goal.
Friday, July 24
GWS vs Richmond
7:50pm , Giants Stadium
The Tigers have snuck up, very quietly, on the competition over the last month. They haven’t been brilliant, and they’ve been missing so many key players, but they’ve managed to put together three consecutive wins which has them sitting in fourth place, equal with Collingwood and behind only Brisbane and Port Adelaide. That’s not a bad effort from a club that was almost written off a few weeks back. That being said, in those three games they’ve faced no one of note. This week, when they take on GWS at their home ground, will easily be their biggest test. But the Giants are struggling, not playing with their usual flair and aggression.
They’ve lost their previous two and now sit all the way down in 13th place. That’s not ideal at this stage of the season, but they can take heart in the fact that their previous two losses have been against the top two teams, and they were in with a chance in both games. That won’t be good enough this week, however; they need to win. Their forward line is still functioning well, but they’re having huge problems getting the ball down there, which is strange considering the strength of their midfield group. They’re mixing the ruck situation up this week with Sam Jacobs replacing Shane Mumford, while Toby Greene’s inclusion will be important. I expect them to fix their issues soon enough, and I think they’ll do enough to get over a depleted Richmond midfield this weekend.
Betting tip: GWS to win @ $1.65 (Unibet)
Saturday, July 25
North Melbourne vs Carlton
1:05pm , The Gabba
Gee, it’s hard to fathom what happened to Carlton at the end of their game against Port. They had the game just about won. All they had to do was stop Charlie Dixon, but for some reason they kept giving him a clear run at the incoming ball. And even when he missed easy shots and then had to leave the ground with the blood rule, they still blew it. To be fair, neither team took their chances late in that contest, until Robbie Gray kicked the hardest of the lot after the final siren. It was heartbreaking for the Blues, but they played a very encouraging style of footy nevertheless. To come that close to the first-placed side is a good effort, and considering, if they had’ve held on, it would’ve been four wins out of their previous five, Carlton are in a pretty good place.
Unfortunately North aren’t; they’re really struggling. The key thing, though, is that they’re a better side than their current output would suggest. That’s the annoying thing for North supporters, but it’s also a positive, as when they do turn things around they’ll be significantly better without having to wait years for improvement. I reckon they might even be a sneaky chance this weekend against a Blues team that have played in some strenuous games over the past month. I’m going with the Roos by two goals.
Betting tip: North Melbourne to win @ $2.75 (Sportsbet)
Sydney vs Hawthorn
3:35pm , SCG
The Hawks have been up and down this season, but the past three weeks they’ve been down, down, and down. Their most recent loss, to the Demons by 43 points, was probably the most disappointing. The bad news is they look old and slow, bereft of confidence and of young talent. The good news is that they’ve got the Swans this week, who haven’t won a game in five weeks. Someone is going to snap a losing streak, but who will it be? The Swans aren’t great, but they rarely get belted. They stay close enough on the scoreboard to always be in the game, but they’ll want to put a bit of early scoreboard pressure on the Hawks this week, as Alastair Clarkson’s men look vulnerable, and an early onslaught could break them.
But Sydney, other than when Tom Papley has the ball, don’t look capable of kicking big scores. That could set this up for another pretty dire contest, with both teams struggling to score. Despite their recent form, the Hawks still have a bunch of very good players, and I expect them to stand up this week and deliver their fourth win of the season.
Port Adelaide vs St Kilda
7:40pm , Adelaide Oval
Robbie Gray got Port (and himself) out of jail with a remarkable boundary line goal after the siren on Sunday afternoon, after they wasted countless chances to take the lead in the final minutes. They’ll need to sharpen up their conversion against the better teams, but that won’t stress them out too much at the minute: they sit a game clear on top of the ladder. Charlie Dixon was at his imposing best and will provide ex-teammate and new Saint Dougal Howard with a headache this weekend. Howard was good against the Crows on Monday night, but he did allow his opponent Taylor Walker to kick a couple of goals and provide a spark for his team. He’ll have to combine with Jake Carlisle to play a more defensive role this week on Dixon, otherwise the big man will tear them to shreds.
Despite some anxious moments early in the last quarter, the Saints put the disappointment of their loss to Fremantle away with a 23 point victory over the Crows in Adelaide. It wasn’t St Kilda at their best, but they got the win against a spirited opponent, and that’s all that matters. They’re back at the Adelaide Oval this week, but I think they’ll find things vastly different. Port are a much, much better team, and I think they’ll enjoy being back on their home deck and make the most of it with a big win.
Betting tip: Port Adelaide (-15.5) @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Sunday, July 26
Adelaide vs Essendon
1:05pm , Adelaide Oval
The Bombers let themselves down on Friday night against the Dogs, but it was one you could see coming: they struggle big time against the Dogs, and without Dylan Shiel it was always going to be tough. Still, they’ll be disappointed that they barely gave a fight in the second half, and they’ll want to bounce back strongly this week against the Crows, who were actually pretty good against the Saints on Monday. The Bombers will want to bring their energy to this one; in the past, when Essendon have dropped off they’ve had a habit of letting that go on for multiple weeks, and with the Crows back at home and sniffing around for a win against a weakened opposition, this presents as a real danger game. I still expect the Bombers to get the four points, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see this go right down to the wire. Essendon by five points.
Betting tip: Essendon By 1-24 @ $2.90 (bet365)
West Coast vs Collingwood
3:35pm , Optus Stadium
This is a huge game in the context of the season. The Eagles are back into the eight after three consecutive wins, and the Pies are in the top four. Both clubs are vying for a top four position, so this is one of those classic eight point games. That being said, I’m not quite as bullish on the Eagles as some; despite being back in Perth, I still don’t think they’re playing great footy at the minute and I have the Pies as the much better team right now.
Brodie Grundy continues to dominate in the ruck and give his gun on-ballers first use, while Adam Treloar has returned seamlessly to bolster the midfield in Steele Sidebottom’s absence. The loss of Jordan De Goey is a huge blow, but the Pies have enough alternative options to goals to continue winning games of footy, and I expect that’s what they’ll go against the Eagles on Sunday. It’ll be a tight one, and I’m looking forward to watching the Eagles test themselves against one of the best sides, but I’m yet to be convinced they’re back to playing the sort of footy they did back in 2018. We’ll soon find out.
Betting tip: Collingwood to win @ $2.20 (Unibet)
Melbourne vs Brisbane
6:10pm , Metricon Stadium
The Demons are back in the hunt for a finals place after backing up a win over the Suns with a demolition job of the Hawks. It’s probably been their best couple of weeks since 2018, but we’ll find out just how far they’ve come this week when they come up against the Lions. It’ll be a real challenge for the Demons, and despite some improvement, I’m not sure they’re ready to match it with Brisbane. Chris Fagan’s team easily had the better of GWS on the weekend, and continue to look like a dangerous outfit all over the ground. They’ve got a gun midfield, a great defence, and dangerous tall and small forwards. There isn’t much the Lions lack, and that places them in really good stead. That said, the breaking news of Stefan Martin’s back injury, which will sideline him for two months, is a massive, massive blow, and could impact their premiership chances severely.
The Demons, conversely, have holes all over the field, and I think that’ll be exposed this week. The Hawks didn’t put them under much pressure, but the Lions will, and pressure is what makes the Demons rush their kicks and play a predictable game style that is easy to score against from turnovers. I think the Lions will feast on that, and should win by plenty.
Betting tip: Brisbane to win @ $1.58 (bet365)
Monday, July 27
Fremantle vs Geelong
8:10pm , Optus Stadium
It wasn’t a great weekend for Geelong. First, skipper Joel Selwood did his hamstring early in the contest against Collingwood. Then youngster Jordan Clark hurt his shoulder. They lost the game. And later on, Gary Ablett had to return to Victoria for personal reasons, ruling him out of a return for at least four weeks. That suddenly places a bit of strain on the Cats, who have to navigate a burst of games without some key players.
Because of that, they’ll be thankful that they have a relatively simple task this week against the Dockers, who are still without skipper Nat Fyfe. That cancels out Selwood’s absence, and the Cats should easily win the battle of the midfields. I reckon they’ll win this one pretty comfortably, before a much more difficult task awaits them next week when they take on the Eagles at the same venue.
Best Bets of the Round
North Melbourne to win @ $2.75 (Sportsbet)
Collingwood to win @ $2.20 (Unibet)