The following are previews and betting tips for round 1 of the 2012 AFL season.
CHEEKY WEEK 1 AFL MULTI
Andy’s bet: Adelaide -15.5, Fremantle to win by 1-39 points and West Coast -8.5 @ 8.70 (TAB Sportsbet)
Hawthorn v Collingwood
In a Round 1 fixture jam-packed with juicy match ups this one surely has to be the tastiest! Two of the premiership favourites will duel it out on Friday night footy in front of a full MCG house. As soon as the fixture list was released Hawthorn would have been eagerly awaiting the chance to exact revenge for last year’s preliminary final, a game in which they let slip a 17 point 3 quarter time lead against Collingwood.
The teams that will run out this Friday night will be quite different to those playing last September. Only 13 of the 22 Magpies who played that final will lineup for Round 1. Nick Maxwell, Leon Davis, Chris Tarrant, Dayne Beams, Alan Didak, Sharrod Wellingham, Ben Johnson, Leigh Brown and Andrew Krakouer are all out of the side, while their places have mostly been taken by young kids, with three debutantes joining another three who have played five games or less. Hawthorn, meanwhile, have only made four changes from that preliminary final, with Luke Hodge and Max Bailey the main outs.
I think the Hawks will win because, without Tarrant, Collingwood don’t have a suitable match up for Hawthorn’s goal machine Lance Franklin. Ben Reid will probably be given the tough job of nullifying Franklin and even though Reid can match Franklin for agility, he will be outmuscled in the aerial contests. Collingwood’s defenders are normally very adept at leaving their own men to help out against the opposition key forwards, however the best exponent of this, skipper Nick Maxwell, is sidelined through injury.
Hawthorn look to have the better attack and defence and will comfortably win the game if they can quell the influence of Collingwood’s midfield game breakers Dane Dwan, Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas. Expect the Hawks to overpower the Pies on the back of a bag of goals from Franklin.
Andy’s bet: Hawthorn to win by 7 points or more @ 2.00 (Sportsbet)
Melbourne v Brisbane Lions
Those connected with the Melbourne footy club will be looking forward to their opening match of the season, hoping to get some positive news at the end of a harrowing last 10 days. Demons legend Jim Stynes – both a celebrated player and club president – died recently at age 45 after long and courageous battle with cancer. The players will be doing their best to honour the revered figure with a victory this Saturday afternoon.
But can the Demons do it for Jim? Standing in their way is a young and inexperienced Brisbane side, looking far less intimidating with Jonathan Brown on the sidelines. Melbourne’s defence appears to be quite solid with James Frawley, Col Garland and Jared Rivers representing a trio of capable tall defenders. Melbourne are without midfield hard nut Colin Sylvia due to a club imposed suspension, leaving Brent Moloney, Nathan Jones and mature age recruit James Magner to win the contested footy in the centre square.
Melbourne should win, but a lack of Demon goalkickers and Brisbane’s small brigade of classy midfielders should ensure the margin remains small.
Andy’s bet: Melbourne to win by 1-39 points @ 2.35 (Centrebet)
Gold Coast Suns v Adelaide Crows
One wonders where the Gold Coast Suns would have been without Gary Ablett last year. Researching last season’s history between these teams I discovered some astonishing numbers for the bald champ against Adelaide. The first time against the Crows, Ablett nearly got leather poisoning as he racked up 41 touches and 4 goals even though his team lost by 57 points, and it was a similar story the second time around as the champ picked up 39 disposals and a goal as his team were crushed by 61 points. It is nearly impossible for him to improve on those numbers, so some of his younger teammates will need to increase their outputs if the Suns are going to test the Crows in this one. I can’t see it happening.
Adelaide are full of beans after a strong pre-season and should really have far too much dominance around the ground, resulting in a comfortable victory.
Andy’s bet: Adelaide -15.5 @ 1.60 (TAB Sportsbet)
Fremantle Dockers v Geelong Cats
The team selections for this match tell an interesting story. Fremantle, tipped to ascend the ladder this season, have gone with an experienced team, electing not to blood many kids. Aaron Sandilands has overcome the calf injury that kept him out of the pre-season matches and the big beast will be looking forward to dominating Geelong’s two inexperienced ruckman. Geelong’s team is packed with multiple premiership stars, however the Cats are pushing some of their younger players into the senior system at the start of this season. Mature age ruckman Orren Stephenson and young running player Billie Smedts will both debut, while Cameron Guthrie and Steven Motlop are also given a chance to gain further experience to their combined tally of 7 games.
The role of Sandilands will be crucial given I believe the Dockers midfield is inferior to Geelong’s. If the Freo ruckman can palm the ball down to his teammates, it will give the team a massive head start. The parochial Patersons Stadium crowd will also be a factor, and one that might push Fremantle to an upset victory.
Andy’s bet: Fremantle +8.5 @ 2.00 (Sportsbet)
North Melbourne v Essendon
North Melbourne’s injury concernss down back worry me. The Kangaroos have gone with a very small backline, which will be stretched by Essendon’s Michael Hurley and one of David Hille and Paddy Ryder, who will rotate through the forward line. Conversely, height is not a problem for Essendon’s backline with Dustin Fletcher, Cale Hooker and Tayte Pears all capable of taking an opposition tall forward.
If North are to win, they’ll have to really dominate the clearances. Ruckmen Todd Goldstein and Hamish McIntosh should be a good match for the Bombers’ Paddy Ryder and David Hille, while Andrew Swallow and Jobe Watson’s head to head battle will be pivotal. This could go either way, but I’m backing the Bombers because I think they’ll find it easier to score goals once they get the ball in attack.
Andy’s bet: Essendon to win @ 1.80 (Multiple Sites)
Western Bulldogs v West Coast Eagles
Despite a few injuries to West Coast forwards during the pre-season, I still can’t see the Doggies doing enough to beat last season’s preliminary finalist. The Eagles are noted for their impressive array of tall forwards and ruckmen, while the Bulldogs lost their key tall forward (Barry Hall) and big bodied ruckman (Ben Hudson) during the off-season. In perfect conditions at Etihad Stadium, West Coast’s aerial dominance should propel the Eagles to a routine victory.
Western Bulldogs fans can still look for plenty of positives though. If returning defensive duo Brian Lake and Ryan Hargrave can recapture their old form, Clay Smith can shine in the centre on debut, or Tory Dickson can kick a couple in his debut, the Doggies can look forward to some good wins this year. Unfortunately for them, I doubt this will be one of those victories.
Andy’s bet: West Coast -24.5 @ 2.75 (Centrebet)
Port Adelaide v St Kilda
With St Kilda adjusting to a fresh game style under new coach Scott Watters and Port Adelaide going through a rebuilding period, look for this match to be tight, error prone and low scoring.
I see St Kilda’s experienced stars having an edge in the midfield battle and up forward, however they are alarmingly short down back. Sam Fisher, previously assigned against players of lesser height and power, is now the only real option St Kilda have to play on the opposition tall forwards. This means either John Butcher or Jay Schulz will have an advantageous matchup inside their forward 50 for the Power.
I still think Port’s inexperience will be too much for them to overcome and the battle hardened Saints will eke out a win to start the season.
Andy’s bet: St Kilda to win by 1-24 points @ 3.45 (Centrebet)