AFL Round 21 Preview and Betting Tips

The following are previews and betting tips for round 21 of the 2012 AFL season.

Season tally so far

Bets = 194 units
Won = 207.30 units
Profit/Loss = +13.30 units (6.9% profit)


Andy’s bet: 1 unit on Geelong and Fremantle to win by 16 points or more, and Collingwood to win by 39 points or less @ 8.21 (Sportsbet)

Friday Night

Geelong Catsvs. St Kilda

Etihad Stadium
7.50pm AEST

With only 3 rounds to be played until the finals series, the remaining home and away matches will take on a progressively greater significance, and all this is perfectly demonstrated by a pivotal finals shaping clash between Geelong and St Kilda to open Round 21.

For much of the season the Cats have been sitting in the lower reaches of the top 8, just ahead of the cluster of clubs battling for the last couple of finals spots. The general feel had been that Geelong was too good to miss out on the finals and sooner or later Chris Scott’s men would put it all together and sure up a finals berth, and perhaps even challenge for a spot in the top 4. However, the Cats have not been able to field a settled line-up and have been battling a challenging set of fixtures, both of which have meant Geelong heads into the last 3 rounds of the season sitting 7th on the ladder, and only a win and slight percentage ahead of 9th placed Fremantle. A loss in this match against St Kilda would leave Geelong’s 2012 campaign hanging by a thread.

If you’ve read the above paragraph and thought Geelong’s situation was precarious, shuffle a bit closer to the edge of the cliff and that’s where you’ll find St Kilda. In what was meant to be a transition year under new coach Scott Watters, the Saints have played some exciting and enterprising football, however inconsistency and the inability to secure back to back wins has St Kilda looking a likely finals absentee unless they can win their last 3 matches of the home and away campaign.

There is big selection news for this game and it concerns each team’s respective key marking forward. St Kilda captain and talisman Nick Riewoldt has been ruled out of this match after sustaining a leg injury last weekend, while Geelong’s up and coming matchwinner Tom Hawkins is free to play after recovering from a concussion injury that forced him to be substituted out of Geelong’s loss last weekend.

Ultimately, Geelong have such a good defence that St Kilda will struggle break through without Riewoldt presenting across the half forward line, so I’m tipping the Cats to get the job done at the line.

Andy’s Bet: 1.5 units on Geelong to win at the line (-18.5) @ 1.92 (Sportsbet)

Saturday Afternoon

Essendon v Carlton

1.45pm AEST

Matches like these get the football traditionalist in me really excited; Two of the competition’s traditional rivals playing at the traditional venue in the traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot! The stakes are pretty high too, with a win for Essendon likely to keep them in the top 8, while a victory for Carlton would keep the Blues in top 8 contention. A loss for either side would be disastrous, and with it all on the line for both clubs, the atmosphere inside a packed MCG will be magnificent.

It was when these clubs met earlier this season in Round 4 that Essendon became the first club to expose some weaknesses in a previously unbeaten Carlton. The Bombers were more physical and bullocked their way past the Blues to get possession of the ball, then the red and blacks used quick and direct ball movement to give their forwards plenty of chances to kick a winning score, which they managed to do quite comfortably. That loss seemed to significantly dent Carlton’s confidence as the Blues tumbled down the ladder over the next few months.

The main question for this is match is whose mentality will give them the edge. Essendon has lost their last 4, but will the confidence gained from their early season triumph over the Blues give them the advantage over their opponents who are in better recent form (won 3 of past 4) and will be keen for revenge over one of their bitter enemies?

Essendon’s key forward pairing of Michael Hurley and Stewart Crameri were both sidelined for numerous weeks during the middle of the season, but have now played a couple of games back in the team and will be ready to kick plenty of goals if their midfield teammates can feed them with decent ball supply. With the Bombers forward line looking dangerous, this match will likely be decided in the midfield and Carlton will have the edge in that area as skipper Chris Judd returns fresh and ready to fire after completing his 4 game suspension. This should be a ripper, but I’m on the Blues to sneak a win and make the finals race even more interesting.

Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Carlton to win by 39 points or less @ 2.40 (Sportsbet)

GWS Giants v Melbourne

Manuka Oval
2.10pm AEST

While the first two matches of the weekend are finals shapers, this could be a wooden spoon maker, as bottom placed GWS host Melbourne in what appears to be the Giants last realistic chance to secure a win this season. With matches against St Kilda and North Melbourne to finish the season following this encounter, GWS will see this match against the 3rd from bottom Demons as a small chance to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.

For a team as desperately out of form as Melbourne has been this season, the Demons have cobbled themselves together fairly well in matches against the expansion clubs, thrashing GWS in their early season clash, while also enjoying a comfortable win over Gold Coast just a fortnight ago.

There is the usual raft of selection swaps at GWS as the Giants make another five changes this weekend, with former Melbourne skipper and current GWS assistant coach James McDonald recalled to face his old side. There are some good ins for Melbourne, balanced against one disappointing omission. Last season’s Demons best and fairest winner Brent Moloney has been dropped for the second time this season and his Melbourne career is at the crossroads. Key defender James Frawley and former number 1 draft pick Jack Watts will be handy additions to placate disgruntled Melbourne fans.

Melbourne should be too good (or less bad!) for a GWS team that is rotating out three of its most impressive first year players; Tomas Bugg, Jeremy Cameron and Adam Treloar.

Andy’s Bet: 0.5 units on Melbourne to win by 40 points or more @ 2.15 (Centrebet, Sportingbet)

Fremantle Dockers v Richmond

Patersons Stadium
4.40pm AEST

Sitting in 9th place on the ladder, and only marginally outside the top 8 on percentage, Fremantle are a very good chance to make the finals given they’ve got home ground advantage in two of their last three fixtures. The race for 8th continues this Saturday for the Dockers, with Richmond the visitors to Patersons Stadium. I believe the 12th placed Tigers still have a mathematical chance of making the top 8, however you’d probably need a PhD in mathematics to work out the permutations and combinations required for Richmond to qualify. TAB Sportsbet have had a go though, and are listing the Tigers as $51 outsiders to make the top 8.

Fremantle will be boosted by the return of midfield maestro Nat Fyfe and reliable defender Luke McPharlin. With that influx of quality, the Dockers will be well equipped to bounce back from last week’s loss to Adelaide and return to the form that saw the purple haze power to five successive wins before that untimely defeat to the Crows.

Richmond are a gifted attacking side, but are still developing a hard defensive edge, something which new coach Ross Lyon quickly engrained into Fremantle. The Dockers have already beaten Richmond in Melbourne this season, so shouldn’t have too many problems doing so in Perth and completing the double over the Tigers.

Andy’s Bet: 1.5 units on Fremantle to win by 16 points or more @ 1.91 (Centrebet, Sportingbet)

Saturday Night

Collingwood v North Melbourne

Etihad Stadium
7.40pm AEST

Despite a few other tasty fixtures scheduled for Round 21, this match is my pick of the weekend, with 3rd placed Collingwood to duel it out with 6th placed North Melbourne. The Magpies will be in a buoyant mood after returning victorious from an away trip against table topping Sydney last weekend, while the Kangaroos have been in scorching form for the past two months, winning 8 of their past 9 matches to now be an almost certain finals qualifier.

Collingwood’s win against Sydney last week was your classic modern-day Magpie performance. Undermanned and playing interstate against a top quality opponent, the Pies produced a great team effort to come away with a victory. However, that showing is not a good formline from which to predict this match. Collingwood’s win over Sydney was the Magpies 10th successive interstate victory, and the last time the Pies lost an interstate trip Brendan Fevola was in the opposition team. Yep, it was a while ago! For Collingwood, strange as it seems, a home town match at Etihad Stadium is a bigger hurdle than travelling into an interstate cauldron.

For their part, North Melbourne will certainly be glad this Collingwood home game is being played at Etihad Stadium, with the Kangaroos experts at the venue having won their previous 7 matches on football’s slickest surface.

The only reason stopping me from tipping an upset North Melbourne victory is the absence of a trio of Kangaroos due to injury, with silky midfielder Daniel Wells, grunt half-forward Leigh Adams and versatile defender Nathan Grima all sidelined due to injury. You need to be at your best to beat Collingwood, and I think North Melbourne are a couple of players down and might just come up a fraction short.

Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Collingwood to win by 39 points or less @ 2.30 (Sportsbet, TAB Sportsbet)

Brisbane Lions v Adelaide Crows

7.40pm AEST

Adelaide will start as the favourite in all three of their remaining home and away matches this season, starting with this Saturday night’s match away to Brisbane, followed by a trip to Melbourne to face the lowly Demons, then what should be a final round procession at home against the Gold Coast. If the Crows win all of those matches, as expected, they’ll finish 1st or 2nd on the ladder and earn a home qualifying final, putting them in the box seat to then progress to a home preliminary final.

The immediate future is not quite as bright for Brisbane, with the Lions already out of finals contention and the focus already shifting to 2013. Despite a season which has seen Brisbane improve ahead of fellow 2011 non-finalists like Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide and Melbourne, the Lions are still well below the level required to play finals football. With Premiership champions Simon Black and Jonathan Brown nearing the end of their careers, Brisbane might still be a few years off returning to the finals.

There is too much on the line for Adelaide to let this one slip, and besides, the Crows are a better team than the Lions anyway!

Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Adelaide to win by 39 points or less @ 2.25 (Sportsbet)

Sunday Afternoon

Port Adelaide v West Coast Eagles

AAMI Stadium
1.10pm AEST

West Coast recorded a much needed win last weekend, outlasting Geelong to record their second win since early July, halting a slide which had seen them fall from top 4 certainties to only top 8 probables. Last week’s win has made a top 8 position secure for the Eagles, whose attention can turn back to reeling in the top 4. Finishing the season with matches against top 4 teams Collingwood and Hawthorn, the Eagles are still a chance, albeit unlikely, to steal the all-important finals double chance. However, a win in this match is vital, and even though Port Adelaide has lost 8 of its past 9 matches, the Eagles will still enter this match with caution as John Worsfold’s men have not won an interstate match against a host club since Round 5 (the Round 15 match against North Melbourne was at a neutral venue).

Just days after losing their coach Matthew Primus, Port Adelaide’s players put up a brave fight last weekend against Hawthorn, however once the elastic snapped the Hawks ran riot and punished the Power with an 11 goal final quarter to win by 72 points, inflicting Port Adelaide’s biggest loss of the season.

The outcome of this match depends on how well Port Adelaide starts. If the Power fall behind by a couple of goals early in the game, I’m not sure if the playing group will be up for the challenging of fighting their way back.

Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on West Coast to win by 25 points or more @ 1.49 (Centrebet, Sportingbet)

Western Bulldogs v Sydney Swans

Etihad Stadium
3.15pm AEST

This game sticks out as one of the most straightforward to predict of the round. Despite losing to Collingwood last Saturday night, Sydney still top the ladder, and because of last weekend’s loss, the Swans need to win their remaining three matches of the season to keep top spot. The Western Bulldogs, meanwhile, have long since shifted their focus to developing for next year and have lost 8 consecutive matches during a period when many new players have been blooded in the big league, with 7 of those losses by 38 points or more.

Interestingly, the Bulldogs have a host of top-line players to bring back from injury this week and the Doggies will field their best side in a long time. Goalkicking midfielders Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen and Shaun Higgins have all been selected to play and will boost the scoring options of a team thats highest score this season is only 104 points. To give that statistic some perspective, Sydney have scored more than 104 points in half of their games this season.

The bookies are usually pretty accurate at setting the line, and they’ve got Sydney at about 50 point favourites in this match, so I’m going to try something a bit different and make two 0.5 unit bets on the narrow margin markets.

Andy’s Bet: 0.5 units on Sydney to win by 40-49 points 7.80 (Sportsbet)

Andy’s Bet: 0.5 units on Sydney to win by 50-59 points @ 7.60 (Sportsbet)

Hawthorn v Gold Coast Suns

4.40pm AEST

Hopefully you’ve already made your money by the time this Sunday twilight fixture rolls around. Because with Hawthorn overwhelming favourites, and rightly so in my opinion, no value will be found anywhere in the head to head or margin markets.

I’d be leaving this game alone, but if you’re feeling keen, my recommendation would be to bet on the player markets. Gold Coast superstar Gary Ablett is still in Brownlow Medal contention and has been particularly brilliant this season during matches the Suns have played against the competition’s best teams. If Ablett is closer to $2 than $1.50 to win his most disposals group, it might be worth a little nibble.

Andy’s Bet: None

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