The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2017 AFL season.
Thursday, March 23
Carlton v Richmond
7:20PM AEDT, MCG
The Blues have pulled the trigger on the first selection shock of the year, choosing to debut their top pick from last year’s draft, Sam Petrevski-Seton, despite the youngster not featuring in the JLT series due to a quad injury. It either says a lot about how highly they rate him, or how desperate they are to get games into players they believe will take them into the future. Either way, if he’s ready to play, it’s a positive. It gives Carlton fans another reason to show up and support the club in what they know will be a tough season. And, as we’ve come to expect in recent times, it starts with a round 1 clash against the unpredictable Tigers.
Richmond is a club that always seems to be heavily impacted by momentum. When they get on a roll, they’re hard to stop. But as the soon as they drop a couple in a row, they struggle to get themselves out of the hole. A first up win is an absolute must for them to build into another massive Thursday night game next week against Collingwood. Two wins to start off the season would set them up very nicely, and it’s far from an impossible task. You’d expect the likes of Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Dion Prestia to get on top of Carlton in the midfield and make it hard for the Blues to create enough scoring opportunities. The Blues don’t have a whole lot of fire power in the forward half, so for them to be a chance of winning they need to dominate the midfield. I can’t see it happening against the Tigers, who will be desperate to impress and prove that, after a few handy additions over the off-season, they’re a different side in 2017.
Betting tip: Richmond (-11.5) @ $1.95 (Ladbrokes)
Friday, March 24
Collingwood v Western Bulldogs
7:50PM AEDT, MCG
The Dogs continue to reap the rewards of their drought breaking premiership in a multitude of ways, one of those being that they open their 2017 campaign with three Friday night blockbusters out of their first four games. It gives them the perfect chance to show the football world that last year was no fluke and they’ll be challenging again in 2017.
Nathan Buckley and his charges would be hoping to avoid the limelight for a change, but at least on Friday night it’ll be all about their football. The Jordan De Goey incident is not the ideal way to begin a new season, especially when there is already so much pressure on the club to perform, but that’s what they’ve been dealt. The club will need to be diligent in ensuring they don’t let distractions like this one derail their season, as similar incidents have done in previous years.
They are probably in for a tough night against the reigning premiers regardless. The Pies have already copped a few injuries early on, and while they aren’t too serious, they’ll be without all of Jamie Elliott, Daniel Wells, Levi Greenwood and De Goey for at least the first game of the year. They’ve got an outstanding midfield and a young star forward in Darcy Moore who will trouble the Bulldogs’ key defenders if he gets decent delivery, however I doubt they’ll be good enough to beat the even spread of the Dogs. The Bulldogs wear down their opponents with intense pressure over four quarters and I don’t think the Magpies have the skills to withstand it. And let’s be honest, considering Collingwood’s luck in recent times, Travis Cloke will probably kick goals from all over the park and finish with seven straight.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs to win @ $1.46 (Sportsbet)
Saturday, March 25
Sydney v Port Adelaide
4:35PM AEDT, SCG
If Port Adelaide want to show everyone that they’re back to their best this year, what better way to start the season. A win against the Swans would make the rest of the league pay them some attention. That would be the dream scenario for the Power, and that is almost all it is, a dream. The Swans are as strong as ever. Playing for the first time since their crushing grand final defeat, they’ll be fired up and looking to crush the Power. I don’t think the Swans will lose too many on their home deck this season. They are always hard to beat there, but I’ve got the feeling they’ll take it to a new level in 2017.
And while I don’t expect them to get near the Swans, Port have a great chance to let some of their new players go head to head with some of the best in the competition. If Sam Powell-Pepper can win some contested ball against the Sydney midfield then you know he’s going pretty well for a young kid. Likewise if mature age recruit Brett Eddy can kick a few against Heath Grundy and Dane Rampe. Those are the kinds of things Port fans will be looking for, because the scoreboard definitely isn’t going to flatter them.
Betting tip: Sydney (-25.5) @ $1.92 (Sportsbet)
St Kilda v Melbourne
4:35PM AEDT, Etihad Stadium
This is one of the games I’m most looking forward to watching in round 1. Both clubs have been talked up all pre-season as big chances to make the finals, and now we finally get our first chance to see which of these clubs might be the real deal in 2017.
The Demons will need to overcome a few obstacles to win this one: they have a very poor record at Etihad, and the Saints have had their measure over the past five years. But they seem to be a different team now. An improved team with some mental toughness.
The same goes for St Kilda. After rebuilding for the last few years, the Saints have built a strong core of developing players and will push for finals this year. While I’m tipping the Dees make the eight and the Saints just miss out, I’m not confident backing Melbourne to knock the Saints off at Etihad. They may be a whole new team this year, but when the two teams match up so evenly it’s hard to ignore Melbourne’s horrible record at Etihad as a deciding factor.
Betting tip: St Kilda to win @ $1.85 (Marathon Bet)
Gold Coast v Brisbane
7:25PM AEDT, Metricon Stadium
The Suns and Lions will both fancy their chances to start the season off with a win at Metricon on Saturday night. The Suns head in as relatively comfortable favourites but they are far from a sure thing. After an up and down year that was plagued by injuries, they begin this season with a clean bill of health and are therefore expected to display some of their undoubted talent. However, they are still a very young team with a lack of experienced players to guide the younger players. In fact, while the Lions are also a young and inexperienced footy club, they’re probably the side with the more experienced midfield group. Dayne Beams, Tom Rockliff, Dayne Zorko and Stefan Martin is a fairly strong, experienced starting midfield who could get on top of the Suns for patches of the game.
They lack depth at either end of the group and that will probably prevent them from sneaking a win against their Queensland rivals, but I do think this will be a closer contest than many people are expecting. The Suns should win, but I’m backing the Lions to get within four goals or so.
Betting tip: Brisbane (+25.5) @ $1.72 (Ladbrokes)
Essendon v Hawthorn
7:25PM AEDT, MCG
It’s fitting that the two wildcards of the new season play against each other in the opening round. It’s hard to predict how either club will fare in 2017 due to both clubs having so many changes in personnel since last year, but the overall consensus is that both the Hawks and the Bombers are capable of making the top eight.
We’ll get a better idea of their respective fortunes when the clubs face off at the MCG on Saturday night. A win for the Bombers will have their supporters in raptures, filled with unreserved hope for the first time in years. And if the Hawks win and Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Mitchell slot in seamlessly, well, predictions of a Hawthorn demise may have been poorly thought out.
So what will it be? I’m not sure how well the returning Bombers will cope with the intensity of a proper AFL standard game over the full four quarters. I reckon it might be a close game until late and then the experienced Hawks will get on top and get them over the line against what I expect will be a very tired Essendon outfit. It’ll be a fascinating one to keep an eye on regardless of the result.
Betting tip: Hawthorn to win @ $1.61 (Sportsbet)
Sunday, March 26
North Melbourne v West Coast
1:10PM AEDT, Etihad Stadium
After a 2016 season that was plagued by an inability to win games outside of Perth, the Eagles have the perfect opportunity to get their season off to a flying start against the Kangaroos. West Coast are generally not too bad at Etihad, and while the Kangaroos also enjoy playing under the roof, I can’t see them being a match for the Eagles on Sunday.
The Kangaroos are in full rebuild mode. They’ll win a couple of games this year against some of the lower ranked clubs, but the days of them challenging other top eight clubs are over for the time being. There are always a couple of upsets in the opening round of an AFL season, but perhaps other than Port beating Sydney, the Kangaroos managing to beat the Eagles would be the most unimaginable upset of the round and one I just don’t consider a possibility. Unless Drew Petrie is acting as a double agent and starts handballing to his old team mates.
Betting tip: West Coast (-17.5) @ $1.91 (William Hill)
Adelaide v GWS
3:20PM AEDT, Adelaide Oval
I can’t wait for this game of footy. We all know of the expectations surrounding the Giants this year, and while the Crows are in the midst of a mini injury crisis, they’re a very good team when they play at the Adelaide Oval.
The Giants should, and will win, but don’t be surprised if the Crows give them a scare. This is the battle of the two best forward lines in the competition, and if the Crows can force the ball down there often enough, they’ll do some damage on the scoreboard.
There’s little to see in this one in terms of personnel changes, but it’ll be interesting to watch Tim Taranto play his first game after being seriously impressive in the JLT series. For the sake of the other 17 clubs, let’s hope he’s not as good as he seems – they really don’t need another budding superstar.
When it’s all said and done, this will be an entertaining game of footy that the GWS Giants will end up winning by 4 – 6 goals.
Betting tip: GWS to win @ $1.65 (Bet365)
Fremantle v Geelong
7:40PM AEDT, Domain Stadium
The opening round finishes off with a game that holds its most interest in the individual battle of Nat Fyfe v Patrick Dangerfield. The last time these two went head to head it was an epic contest with Fyfe ever so narrowly being crowned the victor. This one promises to be another exciting encounter.
Things couldn’t be more different since then, with the Dockers sliding down the ladder and Dangerfield moving to the Cats. The only similarity is that those two players will have an enormous influence on the fortunes of their respective teams. If Fyfe runs rampant as he did in 2015, the Dockers are going to be very hard to beat in Perth. And if Dangerfield continues on with his 2016 form, the Cats will be hard to be beat anywhere.
But enough about those two. There are some new faces on either side that will play important parts in this contest. Zach Tuohy comes in for the Cats, while Joel Hamling, Brad Hill, Cam McCarthy and Shane Kersten may all get an opportunity for the Dockers. I do find it tempting to consider an upset here considering it’s in Perth and the Dockers have a fit Nat Fyfe, but as a whole, I’m not sure they’ll be able to get it done against the Cats.
Betting tip: Geelong to win @ $1.54 (BetFair)
Best Bets of the Round
Hawthorn to win @ $1.61 (Sportsbet)
West Coast (-17.5) @ $1.91 (William Hill)