The following are previews and betting tips for the first week of the 2013 AFL Finals Series
Season tally so far
Bets = 291.75 units
Won = 293.50 units
Profit/Loss = +1.75 units (0.6% profit)
Last Week = -0.71 units (5.0% loss)
Cheeky Multi: 1 unit on David Mundy to score more dream team points than Nathan Fyfe, Steele Sidebottom to score more dream team points than Brad Ebert and Bryce Gibbs to score more dream team points than Kade Simpson. @ 6.31 (Sportsbet)
Hawthorn (1st) vs. Sydney (4th)
Background: These teams met as recently as last week, with Hawthorn surging in the last quarter to win a high quality encounter by 12 points. The Hawks also prevailed against the Swans in their early season clash, dominant all evening as they ran out comfortable 37 point victors on a cold Saturday night at the MCG. While it should also be noted that Sydney defeated Hawthorn in a classic Grand Final here last September.
Team News: Hawthorn’s victory last Friday night came at a cost as enigmatic forward Lance Franklin was given a one match suspension for a high bump. Franklin will be joined on the sidelines by unlucky pair Shane Savage and Taylor Duryea, who were both omitted. Savage has played every game since Round 13, while Duryea has only missed one game since Round 6, so both are very stiff to be dropped for the first final. But something had to give with gamebreaker Cyril Rioli, ruckman Max Bailey and defender Brent Guerra all returning in brown and gold.
Sydney have also recalled some key players, with in-form goalkicker Kurt Tippett, prolific midfielder Dan Hannebery, speed machine Lewis Jetta and shutdown player Nick Smith all returning. That quartet will strengthen the Swans considerably.
Who will win and why? Sydney’s ins make this game nearly a line-ball contest from my perspective. The Swans don’t fear the MCG, negating Hawthorn’s home ground advantage, while they can take great heart from the ultra-competitive showing against the Hawks last week without some key players.
Lance Franklin is also a decent loss for Hawthorn. I know the Hawks have performed quite well without him in the past, but those matches weren’t in finals against quality opposition. Without Franklin, Jarryd Roughead becomes the Hawks go to man, and if Hawthorn can’t move the ball fast enough down the field this will enable the organised Swans defence to ensure Roughead rarely gets into 1-on-1 contests.
Despite all this, Hawthorn finished on top of the ladder for a reason, so I don’t want to discount them fully. I think this could be a September classic and might go right down to the wire.
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on either team to win by 15 points or less @ 2.05 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Kurt Tippett to kick the most goals @ 4.25 (Sportsbet)
Geelong (2nd) vs. Fremantle (3rd)
Background: Simonds Stadium has controversially been chosen as the venue to host the second Qualifying Final. Geelong had a great home and away season to earn the right to host the home final, but the issue has been the decision to have the Cats play at their smaller home town stadium in preference to bigger venues in Melbourne. Personally, I don’t think it should be an issue unless Fremantle fans have not had enough access to tickets.
The choice of venue is very significant for on-field reasons though, with Geelong victorious in 42 of 43 matches played at the Cattery since the start of 2008, including a 41 point triumph against Fremantle here during the middle of the year.
Team News: Geelong have made just the one like-for-like change, swapping Nathan Vardy in for fellow ruckman Trent West. Fremantle, meanwhile, have made a heap of changes as coach Ross Lyon brings back all the players he rested last weekend. The only disappointing news for the Dockers is the loss of midfielder Clancee Pearce to an Achilles injury.
Who will win and why? Let’s put it this way. If the Cats were to lose in Geelong against interstate opposition it would be a huge shock. I know Brisbane pushed them to within 1 point last week, but Chris Scott’s team should be in the groove ahead of this match because it will be their third game in a row at this venue. Pretty handy considering it is where they train as well!
Fremantle paid the price for resting players last week as they were thrashed by lowly St Kilda, however coach Lyon could be vindicated for his selection policy if the Dockers can run over the top of the Cats this Saturday afternoon.
I said earlier in the preview that Geelong won by 41 points when these teams met here earlier this year, but that margin really flattered Fremantle because the Cats had 30 scoring shots to 9 and could have won by nearly 100 points if they kicked straight.
I think the Cats will be able to cover the line in this one.
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Geelong to win by 20 points or less @ 1.92 (Sportsbet)
Collingwood (6th) vs. Port Adelaide (7th)
Background: Port Adelaide have been this season’s bolter, leaping into their first finals series since 2007, which has been a considerable improvement on the lowly 14th and 16th placed finished during the past two years. The Power’s improvement during 2013 was perfectly illustrated by their 35 point win against this weekend’s opponent, Collingwood, in Round 14. Entering that match, Port had lost 6 in a row against the Pies, but were able to turn the tables with fierce tackling pressure and quick ball movement.
Team News: Collingwood have recalled grunt midfielder Luke Ball and flashy wingman Harry O’Brien for this sudden death match, while Port Adelaide have boosted their squad with the inclusion of classy midfielders Hamish Hartlett and Robbie Gray, while reliable defender Alipate Carlile makes a timely return to help defend against in-form Magpie forwards Travis Cloke and Ben Reid.
Who will win and why? Collingwood hold a couple of aces heading into this match, with the Magpies enjoying vastly superior big game experience, as well as the home advantage. Port Adelaide have a lot of leg speed though, and that has been an area where opponents have exposed the Pies this year.
Collingwood’s match with North Melbourne last Sunday was a very open and free-flowing game, but I doubt the Magpies will engage in that sort of battle against Port Adelaide. Last week the ‘Woods only had 39 tackles, well down on their season average of 64.8.
A more defensively oriented match, the sort typically played in the finals, should suit Collingwood more than Port Adelaide, so I will select the Magpies for the win. Port have recalled some very good players though, so I’d be very surprised if the margin balloons out over 40 points.
I will also have a small something on Chad Wingard to get 21 disposals or less. In 9 matches against top 8 opposition this year, Wingard has only gathered more than 21 possessions 3 times.
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Collingwood to win by 39 points or less @ 2.20 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Chad Wingard to have 21 possessions or less @ 1.80 (Sportsbet)
Richmond (5th) vs. Carlton (8th)
Background: Richmond return to finals action for the first time in 12 long years. Well known as one of the more passionate supporter groups, the Tiger fans will be making plenty of noise this Sunday as they watch their team play its most important match since 2001. Carlton have come through the ‘second chance draw’ to snatch the last finals place, rising into the top 8 after Essendon were demoted due to the Bombers’ questionnable supplements program.
These teams have already played two cracking contests this year. Richmond just withheld a fast-finishing Carlton to win the season opener by 5 points, while the Blues turned the tables to snare a crucial win just three weeks ago.
Team News: Richmond have included fit again skipper Chris Newman, while leading goalkicker Jack Riewoldt has been declared fit to play after overcoming a back injury. Matthew White is the only absentee so far for the Tigers, falling victim to a hamstring injury last week. Carlton fans would be delighted to learn that experienced trio Chris Judd, Brock McLean and Heath Scotland will all be back in the team this week. Significantly, McLean was best afield when the Blues beat the Tigers just three weeks ago.
Who will win and why? This should be a real beauty! Having not played at the business end of the season for 12 years, Richmond is a bit of an unknown quantity heading into this match. Carlton are also had to gauge, which was clearly demonstrated last week when they produced a classic Jekyll and Hyde performance to run all over Port Adelaide in the last quarter after playing some horrible football during the first three terms.
I rate Richmond as the better team, but for some reason Carlton seem to match up well against the Tigers and have beaten them in 10 of the past 11 meetings.
It will be great to see Ricmond trio Trent Cotchin, Brett Deledio and Dustin Martin go head to head with Carlton’s opposite numbers Marc Murphy, Chris Judd and Bryce Gibbs. Given that I have this match as 50-50, I can’t go past Carlton at the better odds.
Finally, I will chuck some cheeky coins on Carlton’s handball receiver Andrew Walker to get at least 24 possessions in this game. Walker is in great touch at the moment and has ammassed at least 25 possessions in 4 of his past 5 games.
Andy’s Bet: 0.5 units on Carlton to win @ 2.65 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: 0.5 units on Andrew Walker to have 24 possessions or more @ 1.80 (Sportsbet)