The following are previews with betting tips for Week 1 of the 2016 AFL Finals.
Thursday, September 8
West Coast v Western Bulldogs
8:10PM AEST, Subiaco Oval
After struggling to back up their 2015 form for the majority of the year, the Eagles have suddenly hit their straps at precisely the right time. In their past three matches, they’ve beaten the Giants, the Hawks, and the Crows, and only the Hawthorn game was in Perth. That sort of form means they head into the first week of finals as the ‘form team’ of the competition. That title can jump around ever so quickly in AFL footy – just ask the Crows – so while they head into the game as hot favourites, they’ll want to be switched on from the first bounce.
It’s well documented that the Dogs have been heavily affected by injuries all year, and now that it’s at the knockout stage they’ve decided to take a significant risk and recall four key players from injury layoffs. Easton Wood, Tom Liberatore, Jack Macrae and Jordan Roughead all return after at least one week out. Surely some of those guys aren’t 100% and wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t a final. Jake Stringer also comes back into the side after a few games in the VFL. Meanwhile the Eagles have lost Lewis Jetta, and in his place Mitch Brown is called upon to bolster their hampered ruck division.
The Dogs have been great all year considering the obstacles they’ve had to overcome, but you’ve got to think that this will be too much for them. They’ve got a poor recent history over in Perth, and while they bring some stars back this week, there’s no doubt at least one or two of them will be slightly underdone. I reckon Jake Stringer will have a big one after a few weeks in the VFL, but at the other end Josh Kennedy and co. should also score heavily. The Eagles should take care of the Dogs with relative ease and progress into week two of the finals, which will make the loser of the Cats v Hawks contest very nervous.
Betting tip: West Coast by 25+ @ $1.93 (bet365)
Friday, September 9
Geelong v Hawthorn
7:50PM AEST, MCG
Speaking of Cats v Hawks, this should be an absolute belter of a game. The rivalry is back in full swing, and the stakes don’t get much bigger than this – a massive qualifying final at the ‘G on a Friday night. Both clubs have had years that are probably best described as fascinating. They’ve both been premiership favourites at various stages of the year, and they’ve also both played some really poor footy at times. Both clubs have their fair share of superstar players who always perform, but it’s the guys on the fringes who will decide how far these clubs go this year.
The only time these two clubs met this year was in the opening round of the year, when the Cats won by five goals on the back of a massive game from Paddy Dangerfield. I’m expecting this one to be a much closer contest, but I’m also thinking there’ll be a different result this time around. The Hawks are September specialists and will come in much better prepared than they did in round one. They’re clearly showing some signs of slowing down, but they’re still one of the best teams in the competition and can still cut you to shreds when given enough time and space to utilise their foot skills. I fully expect the final margin of this one to be less than three goals, but I reckon the Hawks might be a tad too polished for the Cats and will just sneak through for a home preliminary final.
Betting tip: Hawthorn to win @ $2.44 (Pinnacle)
Saturday, September 10
Sydney v GWS Giants
3:30PM AEST, ANZ Stadium
This is no doubt a dream for AFL HQ. The two Sydney sides playing off in a Qualifying Final. What they’d love more than anything would be a GWS victory, but that’s probably pushing their luck a little. The Giants do like playing against the Swans, and will go into this week with nothing to lose, knowing they’ve got a second chance should they go down.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Giants go in their first ever finals series. Will the pressure get to them, or will they play with reckless abandon and pure freedom? If it’s the former and they struggle with the occasion, the experienced Swans will make them pay. If not, it could be a very, very interesting game. The Giants have enough talent to beat anyone on their day, but how they’ll handle the heat of finals footy is the main question that hangs over their head as they enter their maiden September appearance. I think the fact that they’re not expected to win will help relieve the pressure and enable them to play their usual carefree style against the Swans, but will it be enough?
The 2016 Swans are a great contested team, they’ve got serious depth, and a host of match-winning players. In other words, they’re made for September football. I’ve got them as premiership favourites at this stage and I think they’ll beat the Giants on the weekend but I don’t expect it to be by all that much. The Giants seem to save their best for the Swans, so if they’re not overawed by the occasion it should be a really close game and if the Swans get home by a couple of goals they’ll be very pleased with themselves.
Betting tip: Sydney to win @ $1.46 (William Hill)
Sunday, September 11
Adelaide v North Melbourne
7:10PM AEST, Adelaide Oval
The first week of finals action wraps up with the Crows hosting the Kangaroos in a sudden death elimination final. And in all honesty, it’s probably the least interesting game of the weekend. That is in terms of the result, because it would be an upset of the most monumental proportions if the Kangaroos managed to beat the Crows at the Adelaide Oval.
But to many, it may be the most significant game of the weekend, because if the Kangaroos do go down it’ll be the last time we see Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo in the blue and white stripes. This clearly adds a whole new dimension of emotion into the game which the Roos may be able to call upon, but sometimes that little bit of extra motivation isn’t enough when you’re playing against a really strong opponent away from home. And the Crows are no doubt one of the best sides in the competition this year. They were shown up against the Eagles two weeks back, but there’s not one side this year that hasn’t had an embarrassing moment or two.
The Crows will be desperate to make amends for dropping out of the top four, and while the Kangaroos have all the motivation in the world to get the win for their departing stars, I’m just not sure they’re good enough to beat the Crows. They’ve defied significant odds in the past two finals series, but I just don’t see it happening again.
Betting tip: Adelaide by 25+ @ $1.62 (Luxbet)
Best Bets of the Round
West Coast by 25+ @ $1.93 (bet365)
Adelaide by 25+ @ $1.62 (Luxbet)
All Bets: -8.88 units
Best Bets: -2.51 units