AFL Round 1 Preview & Betting Tips

The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2018 AFL season.

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Thursday, March 22


Richmond vs Carlton

7:25 pm AEDT, MCG
View a detailed form guide for Richmond vs Carlton


The Tigers and the Blues are again set to kick off the new AFL season, but the feeling is different this time considering the Tigers are the reigning premiers. The excitement from the end of last season has carried all the way through to the new year, and the Richmond fans are keen to get straight back to where they left off. Of course, along with that excitement comes added pressure, and the Tigers will need to be switched on from the opening bounce to make sure they don’t give the Blues a sniff, as the last thing they want is an upset loss in the opening round.

They’ll be missing a number of key players, which isn’t ideal but is probably to be expected considering they’ve had a shorter preseason than any other club. Daniel Rioli is still recovering from his broken ankle, while Bachar Houli and Dion Prestia haven’t proved their fitness in time to take part against the Blues.

It should be an exciting night for Carlton as they’re set to unveil four new players, including last year’s number three draft pick Paddy Dow. The Tigers have looked ominous in the JLT series but this is different kettle of fish. If the Blues can stay in touch until late in the game they’ll worry Richmond, as the Tigers would expect to win comfortably. But even without Rioli, Houli and Prestia, the gap in class is too large to expect an upset. The Blues would be happy with a three or four goal loss, but it’s more likely to be seven or eight in the end.

Betting tip: Richmond (-29.5) @ $1.93 (Bet365)

Friday, March 23


Essendon vs Adelaide

7:50 pm AEDT, Etihad Stadium
View a detailed form guide for Essendon vs Adelaide


The second game of the new season sees last year’s other grand finalist in the Crows take on the Bombers, whose expectations for 2018 have risen sharply following a succesful trade period where they managed to bring in three established young players. The Crows will be missing key midfielder Brad Crouch for the first portion of the season, while skipper Taylor Walker has been ruled out of lining up against the Bombers, as has fellow key forward Tom Lynch. Essendon aren’t without their own injury concerns, with Orazio Fantasia due to miss, along with David Myers and Travis Colyer.

Nevertheless, it should be a fascinating contest. Are the Bombers the real deal this year? And are the Crows still a scoring machine capable of going all the way? If it were played in Adelaide you wouldn’t give the Bombers a sniff, but being at Etihad and with the Crows missing a few important players you have to think the Bombers are a sneaky chance. Their biggest issue will be winning the midfield battle and then containing the Adelaide forwards, but if they can do that they’re more than capable of putting scoreboard pressure on the Crows. I reckon it’ll be a close contest, but I’m backing the Crows by a couple of goals.

Betting tip: Adelaide to win @ $1.94 (BetFair)

Saturday, March 24


St Kilda vs Brisbane

3:35 pm AEDT, Etihad Stadium
View a detailed form guide for St Kilda vs Brisbane


This is a big year for St Kilda in their rebuilding phase and it comes with plenty of expectation, so what better way to kick it off than with a home game against last year’s wooden spooners, the Brisbane Lions. It’s a game the Saints should win comfortably, and a big confidence-boosting and percentage-boosting win would be the perfect start to their campaign.

The Lions will be looking for more improvement from their younger players in 2018, and they won’t have to wait to see how number one draft pick Cam Rayner goes in the big league. He’ll be joined by fellow new Lions Luke Hodge and Charlie Cameron, and while Rayner may take a while to find his feet, those two should have an immediate impact.

Unlike many other clubs at the moment, the Saints and the Lions are both blessed with fairly healthy lists, so we should get to see the best of both clubs. St Kilda’s best should be good enough to play finals footy, whereas the Lions at their best are probably still a bottom eight side, and considering the Saints love playing at Etihad, it should be an easy win for the home team.

Betting tip: St Kilda -24.5 @ $1.92 (Sportsbet)


Port Adelaide vs Fremantle

4:35 pm AEDT, Adelaide Oval
View a detailed form guide for Port Adelaide vs Fremantle


The first game of the season at the Adelaide Oval sees Port hosting the Dockers in what should be an interesting clash. The expectation, both internally and externally, is that Port Adelaide will have a strong year in 2018 and should not only play finals footy but have a real crack at a flag. They’ve added solid mature players to their team and haven’t lost anyone of real substance, but we’re yet to find out if that’s set to make them a substantially stronger side. We’ll have a better idea after they take on the Dockers, who should also be stronger than they were last season. Nat Fyfe looks like he’s in tip-top condition, and they have a relatively healthy list to pick from to start the season.

In the corresponding game last season Port won by 89 points, so let’s hope the Dockers have learnt from that. It’s going to be tough for them and I do expect Port to get up, but I think the Dockers might keep them honest and end up only going down by a couple of goals.

Betting tip: Port Adelaide By 1-39 @ $2.20 (Sportsbet)


Gold Coast vs North Melbourne

7:25 pm AEDT, Cazaly’s Stadium
View a detailed form guide for Gold Coast vs North Melbourne


Stuart Dew gets his first opportunity to take the reins as senior coach of the Suns when they host the Kangaroos on Saturday night. It looms as a great opportunity for him and his team to set the new standard; at home, against one of the competition’s weaker teams. Whether they’re good enough to beat the Kangaroos is another issue, but it’s definitely a perfect opportunity for a win. The Gold Coast backline matches up pretty well against the Kangaroos’ tall forwards Ben Brown and Jarrad Waite, with Rory Thompson and Steven May more than capable of doing the job.

Both clubs are decent are either end of the ground but have relatively weak midfields, so you’d think whoever gets on top in the middle of the ground will get the four points. I’m not particularly confident in either team, but I reckon the Suns at home, in their first game under Dew, might do enough to win this one.

Betting tip: Gold Coast to win @ $1.88 (Ladbrokes)


Hawthorn vs Collingwood

7:25 pm AEDT, MCG
View a detailed form guide for Hawthorn vs Collingwood


The first of many Saturday night blockbusters has the Pies taking on the Hawks at the MCG. It’s a huge game for both clubs, but particularly for Collingwood, who are under immense pressure to have a successful year in 2018. The Hawks will also be keen to start their season off in winning fashion, but their mindset will be more about building for the future rather than being hellbent on winning every game possible in 2018.

New recruit Jarmen Impey will play his first game for the Hawks and he’ll love running up and down the wings of the MCG, while Jaidyn Stephenson — the Magpies’ first pick in last year’s draft and apparently the quickest player at Collingwood will make his AFL debut.

The stakes will be high and the crowd will be loud, but both these clubs are used to that. I expect it to be a close game, but I think the Hawthorn team looks slightly more balanced; I’m not convinced by the Magpies’ forward set up. Mason Cox has shown glimpses, but I don’t like him as the focal point of the forward line, so I’m backing the Hawks to triumph in a tight one.

Betting tip: Hawthorn (-3.5) @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)

Sunday, March 25


GWS vs Western Bulldogs

1:10 pm AEDT, UNSW Canberra Oval
View a detailed form guide for GWS vs Western Bulldogs


After a disappointing preliminary final loss to the Tigers to finish last season, the Giants kick off season 2018 against the team that knocked them out of the 2016 finals series. There has been a bit of a rivalry building between the Giants and the Dogs over the past few seasons, and this clash is sure to get fiery at stages. The Giants look like the stronger team on paper, but the Dogs have had a full preseason this year and look fresher and are perhaps back to their manic pressure style of footy that was on full display in the 2016 finals series.

The Giants will worry the Dogs when they go forward quickly. They’re much too big for an undermanned Bulldogs’ defence, especially if the Dogs persist with playing Easton Wood and Jackson Trengove as forwards. Which means all the Giants really need to do is get the ball in long and fast to create one-on-one contests for the likes of Jon Patton and Jeremy Cameron. If that happens, those guys will have an absolute field day. I expect the Dogs to be stronger in the midfield this year and their pressure should be better than it was last year, but the Giants will be much too dangerous for them. It might be a close contest for the first half, but the Giants will bust it open and run away with ease eventually.

Betting tip: GWS By 25+ @ $2.23 (UniBet)


Melbourne vs Geelong

3:20 pm AEDT, MCG
View a detailed form guide for Melbourne vs Geelong


The big news heading into this game is that Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield won’t be playing, so we’ll have to wait at least another week before we see the midfield trio of Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett. It’s a big blow for Geelong’s chances, but they have the absolute luxury of still having Selwood and Ablett there to shoulder the midfield load in Dangerfield’s absence. The Demons have a very good midfield of their own, but like Geelong, are missing one of their biggest stars, with co-captain Jack Viney sidelined indefinitely.

It should be a ripping game of footy on Sunday afternoon, and I expect it to go right down to the wire. If Dangerfield was playing I’d probably back Geelong, but as it is I reckon the Demons might get over the line. They bat deeper than Geelong and they’ve got really good players in every area of the ground. Jake Lever will be a massive inclusion for the Dees; Tom Hawkins is sure to have his work cut out against Lever and Oscar McDonald. I think this is the year the Demons take a big step forward, and I expect they’ll start it off on Sunday afternoon with a win over the Cats in an epic MCG clash.

Betting tip: Melbourne to win @ $1.92 (CrownBet)


West Coast vs Sydney

7:20 pm AEDT, Perth Stadium
View a detailed form guide for West Coast vs Sydney


The opening round of the season will close with the Eagles hosting the Swans in the first ever game at their new home ground, Optus Stadium. That’s not the only reason it’ll be an exciting game for Eagles’ fans— more importantly, they’ll get to witness the return of star ruckman Nic Naitanui from an 18-month layoff. The Swans will be out to ruin the party and make sure they get off to a much better start than they did in 2017.

In terms of key personnel, Sydney will be missing midfielder Dan Hannebery, while the Eagles will be without spearhead Josh Kennedy. Hannebery is incredibly important to the Swans, but Kennedy probably even more so to the Eagles. Without him, I’m not sure if they’re capable of kicking a winning score.

Naitanui will help the Eagles in the midfield, but the Swans mids are much better in the contest than West Coast’s midfielders. If Sydney get on top in the middle, which I expect they will, the Eagles won’t have a chance. They’ll need plenty of inside 50’s to kick enough goals to beat the Swans, and even though they’re generally very hard to beat over in Perth, I’m not sure they’ll be good enough to beat the Swans this week.

Betting tip: Sydney (-16.5) @ $1.93 (Bet365)


Best Bets of the Round

St Kilda By 25+ @ $1.90 (Ladbrokes)

Gold Coast to win @ $1.88 (Ladbrokes)


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