The following are previews and betting tips for the first weekend of Round 1 matches in the 2013 AFL season.
Adelaide v Essendon
After a turbulent off-season it is worth reflecting on the positive that this match is actually going ahead, because for a while it seemed like Essendon might cop a penalty for their involvement in potentially administering illegal supplements to their players! So, for now, we can forget the peptides and focus on the football.
After coming within a kick of qualifying for last year’s Grand Final, Adelaide are deserved favourites in the season opener against an Essendon team that limped through the second half of last season, losing their last seven matches to slip out of finals contention.
Given the truncated nature of their few pre-season games, I am not going to take much notice of either team’s February and March kick-a-bouts, so will go off the form from last year and the sides that have been selected for this Friday night clash. Some key Essendon players are under an injury cloud, with spearhead Michael Hurley and ball-winner David Zaharakis both named despite limited game time during the pre-season. In positive news for the Bombers, they will be boosted by the club debut of ex-St Kilda star Brendan Goddard, with the smooth mover likely be given the free-roaming role from which he can be so dominant.
Ultimately though, I look at Adelaide’s team and I see many quality players including the explosive Paddy Dangerfield, the dependable Ben Rutten and Daniel Talia, although nobody quite gets me excited like the mulleted colossus Taylor ‘Tex’ Walker. Big Tex is becoming the complete forward and is so difficult to contain, which was proved in the Crows final warm-up match when he kicked five goals, including three big launches from outside the 50m arc.
In a Friday night sell-out, Walker’s presence will engage the home crowd and his goals will tilt the contest in Adelaide’s favour.
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Adelaide to win by 16 points or more @ 2.00 (Centrebet)
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Taylor Walker for most goals @ 2.00 (Sportsbet)
Fremantle v West Coast
The second scene of the weekend will be enacted at Perth’s Patersons Stadium, which will play host to a typically ferocious derby between local rivals Fremantle and West Coast.
It will be a tough test for West Coast, my premiership fancies (see the season preview here), coming up against one of the best performed teams during the second half of last season. The key to Fremantle’s resurgence last season was the ability to absorb pressure defensively, with the likes of Luke McPharlin, Zac Dawson and Michael Johnson controlling the air, while Paul Duffield and his band of defensive rebounders swept the ball out of defence and into a spacious forward line, where Matthew Pavlich went to work and Michael Walters proved a dangerous and creative accomplice for the Fremantle skipper.
Unfortunately for the Dockers, giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands will miss the start to this season with a hamstring injury. Sandilands is a big loss for the Dockers, in more ways than one, with Fremantle’s winning percentage much lower without their hit-out chief. During the past four seasons Sandilands has missed 24 matches, and Freo have won just 37% of those matches, while they have taken the points 51% of the time he has been in the team.
Like Fremantle, West Coast has a solid backline, so I expect this to be a pretty low-scoring match, with West Coast having a slight edge thanks to the presence of Dean Cox in the ruck, while the Eagles also have more goalkicking options now that Josh Kennedy and Mark LeCras are back in the team. I’m going to back the Eagles at the line just to slightly increase the odds. West Coast winning by 4 points or more is paying 15c more than the head to head price, so I’ll take the Eagles at the line.
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on West Coast at the line (-3.5) @ 1.92 (Sportsbet)