AFL Finals Week 3 Preview and Betting Tips

The following are previews and betting tips for week 3 of the 2012 AFL finals series.

Season tally so far

Bets = 237 units
Won = 231.31 units
Profit/Loss = -5.69 units (2.4% loss)


Andy’s bet: 1 unit on Collingwood to win by 24 points or less and Hawthorn to win by 25 points or more @ 5.62 (Sportsbet)

Friday Night

Sydney (3rd) v Collingwood (4th)

ANZ Stadium
7.50pm AEST

BackgroundSydney’s famous Olympic stadium will play host to yet another classic sporting contest this Friday night as Sydney host Collingwood in a tantalising Preliminary Final matchup. Everything will be on the line too, with the winner progressing to next weekend’s Grand Final, while the loser will be out of the Premiership race.

The recent history between these clubs is staggeringly one-sided. Collingwood has an 11 game winning streak against Sydney and, importantly, 7 of those victories have been secured at this venue. Despite their head to head supremacy the Magpies have never managed to blow the Swans away, with 45 points the greatest winning margin during the impressive streak. Also worth noting is the low-scoring nature of these contests. In 9 matches between these teams at this venue since 2003, neither team has scored more than 100 points. Defence has been king.

Team newsThe teams may have been released for this match on Thursday night, however there are injury worries for key players and I recommend waiting to place your bets until an hour and a half before the first bounce. That way you can check the final teams and starting substitutes, meaning you’ll be as informed as possible before parting with your cash.

Ageing Collingwood goalsneek Alan Didak has already been ruled out of the Magpies team due to the calf injury he sustained last weekend and his place in the team has been taken by speedy forward flanker Ben Sinclair. Even though Didak possesses mercurial skills, he is not as quick as he once was and doesn’t provide enough defensive pressure when the ball is not in his hands, which was shown last week when he failed to lay a single tackle. Tall utility Chris Dawes has been selected to play despite straining a medial ligament during the last quarter of the match against West Coast last week. If you are planning to back Collingwood, it might be worth waiting until Dawes’ place in the team is confirmed just before the match starts.

Sydney’s team news is quick and straightforward. Key defender Heath Grundy returns after serving a one game suspension, while tough half-forward flanker Ben McGlynn has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury. Given that Sydney’s change is not a straight positional swap, Lewis Roberts-Thomson could be shifted forward this week after deputising for Grundy in the backline last week.

Who will win and whyThis match is just about too close to call. The recent head to head history suggests Collingwood should be strong favourites, however the Magpies have been a bit up and down this season and head into this match after a taxing few weeks of brutal finals coupled with the death of former teammate and close friend John McCarthy. Sydney, meanwhile, produced a shock away win in Adelaide to earn a rest last weekend, so John Longmire’s team should have the fresh legs to run this game out better than their potentially weary opponent.

So it comes down to which factor I place greater importance on, recent history or fresher, healthier bodies. I’m going to side with the Magpies because I think the mental edge and self-belief they’ve gained from numerous wins over Sydney will be more influential than a potential second half fadeout from a tired Collingwood team. If the game is still in the balance as it draws towards its conclusion, I think the tired players might be able to get through on adrenalin anyway.

When Collingwood has been exposed this season, it has been by quick ball movement. Carlton’s speedy small forwards have bested them twice, while Hawthorn’s expert kicking skills have got them three times. Collingwood’s best results this campaign have been two away wins in Adelaide and Sydney, matches that were very slow moving games packed with stoppages. Sydney’s preferred game style is to congest the game, get numbers around the ball and win the contested possession count, which suits the Magpies to a tee, allowing the black and white defenders plenty of time to set up a solid defensive structure.

If the Swans are to win this match, they’ll have to tweak their game-plan and get the ball in the hands of speedsters like Lewis Jetta and Rhyce Shaw, otherwise it will be the same old story and the Magpies will slowly get on top of them. I reckon Collingwood has the edge over Sydney and will progress to a third consecutive Grand Final.

For my sneaky player bet, I’m on emerging Sydney midfielder Dan Hannebery to collect the most disposals in Sportsbet’s second tier group (note that he’s in the top group at TAB Sportsbet and Centrebet). Hannebery won this group in Sydney’s previous final and has the canny knack of placing himself at the right spot to break clear from the edge of the stoppages. He’ll give you a good showing for your money.

Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Collingwood to win by 39 points or less @ 2.85 (Sportsbet)

Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Dan Hannebery to win Most Disposals Group B @ 3.65 (Sportsbet)

Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Total Match Score under 170.5 points B @ 1.85 (TAB Sportsbet)

Saturday Twilight

Hawthorn (1st) v Adelaide (2nd)

5.15pm AEST

BackgroundMuch of the recent history between these clubs is irrelevant, as they’ve only clashed twice at the MCG since 2004. Adelaide caused a minor upset over Hawthorn here in 2009, catching the Hawks during their Premiership hangover season, while the 56 point belting Hawthorn dished out to Adelaide at this ground earlier this campaign is likely to be the most useful indicator as to how this game might pan out.

Hawthorn has been imperious since a shock defeat to Richmond in Round, with Hawks winning 13 out of 14 matches since that slip-up. The only loss in that period was from an after the siren goal by their bogey-team, Geelong. Incredibly, Hawthorn’s average winning margin since Round 9 has been a whopping 66 points. The Hawks aren’t satisfied with winning, they like to crush their opposition while they’re at it! It has been a season in which media pundits have been quick to exalt in the evenness of the competition, however Alastair Clarkson’s team has been a truly dominant free-scoring machine.

For Adelaide, it is difficult to be optimistic. The Crows rarely play at the MCG and have won only one of their past seven matches at football’s most magical finals cathedral.

Team newsTwo of Hawthorn’s damaging left-footed brigade return from injury for this match. Goalkicking midfielder Jordan Lewis and long kicking wingman Clinton Young are fit to resume their places in the side, with knee injury victim Brendan Whitecross an unfortunate casualty, while Tom Murphy has been omitted. Adelaide has made just the one like for like change, recalling forgotten defender Andy Otten in place of Sam Shaw, the latter succumbing to a hamstring injury.

Who will win and why? For those with an eye to the future, Hawthorn is still $1.59 at Betfair to win the Premiership. If the Hawks win this week, I don’t think they’ll be any longer than $1.30 next week. The $1.59 might not seem like good odds, but Hawthorn looks a class above the rest of the competition during this finals series.

I’m sitting at my computer keyboard trying to work out what Adelaide can do to stop the rampant Hawks and I’m really struggling to find a way the Crows can win. Taylor Walker was Adelaide’s best player last week and booted five goals during his teams narrow Semi-Final win over Fremantle. However, Walker’s influence is likely to be nullified by Josh Gibson, Hawthorn’s spoiling machine. Gibson held Walker to three goalless kicks when these teams last met, and the Hawk is in supreme form, fisting the ball away from the opposition 16 times when the Hawks beat the Magpies a fortnight ago. Those 16 spoils were the second most spoils ever recorded in a final, coming behind the 21 spoils Gibson made in a finals match last year.

Scott Thompson and Paddy Dangerfield are often midfield weapons for the Crows, however Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell and Brad Sewell are the league’s premier clearance double-act, while the Hawks midfield also looks to run a fair bit deeper, with plenty waiting in the wings to give Mitchell and Sewell a chop-out if the main-men are having an off day. Perhaps the main area Adelaide can exploit is in the ruck, with in-form ruckman Sam Jacobs likely to dominate the hit-outs against David Hale and Jarryd Roughead. If Jacobs can direct enough of those taps to the advantage of his teammates, then the Crows might be a small chance.

Adelaide’s backline is now a weak point after two key Crow defenders have suffered season ending injuries in the first two weeks of the finals. Daniel Talia’s absence means Ben ‘The Truck’ Rutten will play on champion Hawthorn forward Lance Franklin. As Rutten’s nickname suggests, he will contest strongly  against Franklin in physical duels, however Franklin’s mobility will almost certainly be too much for Rutten to handle. The problem for Adelaide is that their only alternative is young Luke Thompson, who only played his second game for the season last week, so he would be an even bigger risk against Franklin than Rutten would be. The other defensive weakness for Adelaide is the lack of a suitable matchup for Cyril Rioli. Brent Reilly and Michael Doughty are not quick enough to go with the fleet-footed Hawk, while youngster Brodie Smith may be overawed if assigned to follow the mercurial Hawthorn number 33.

Adelaide is a good footballing side, led by some excellent individual players, however I believe this is a great Hawthorn team possessing a perfect mix of brilliance and toughness, and I can’t think of anything better than watching them strut their stuff from 5.15pm this Saturday.

Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Hawthorn to win by 40 points or more @ 1.96 (Centrebet)


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