The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2019 AFL season.
If you have not done so already, be sure to check out the 2019 AFL season preview, which contains futures betting tips for the premier, wooden spoon and Brownlow Medal.
Thursday, March 21
Carlton vs Richmond
7:20pm AEDT, MCG
The footy season will once again kick-off with the Tigers and the Blues doing battle at the MCG; while the end result seems fairly predictable, it should still prove to be an interesting night. Richmond fans will be eager to see how Tom Lynch fares in his first game working alongside veteran spearhead Jack Riewoldt, and for the Blues, the excitement will centre around watching Sam Walsh debut, as well as the five other recruits making their Carlton debut: Mitch McGovern, Alex Fasolo, Will Setterfield, Nic Newman and Michael Gibbons. Unfortunately ruckman Matthew Kreuzer has been ruled out for this week, but both Andrew Phillips and Matthew Lobbe showed they were capable of holding their own in strong JLT performances. The Tigers have ruck issues of their own to sort through, with Shaun Grigg no longer a viable back-up option to Ivan Maric following the ruck rule changes. Damien Hardwick has raised the idea of sending Lynch in to give Maric a breather, but it’s risky business forcing such a valuable asset—one who is already recovering from long-term injury—into the bash-and-crash life of a ruckman, even if only for brief stints.
If the Blues can manage to jump out of the blocks like they did in round 1 last year they might be able to keep the scoreboard looking respectable, but I’d expect this to be a fairly hefty win for the Tigers. I do think the Blues are set to improve this year but they’re still going to cop a few hidings from the best teams in the competition, and the Tigers definitely count as one of those.
Betting tip: Richmond (-36.5) @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Friday, March 22
Collingwood vs Geelong
7:50pm AEDT, MCG
Collingwood’s efforts to go one better than 2018 begins with a tricky assignment against the Cats on Friday night. I don’t expect Geelong to contend for the premiership this year but they’re still going to present as a formidable opposition, and they could definitely surprise a few clubs in the opening month of the season. They’ve got a tough run, so an early win would mean a lot to them; I expect they’ll throw everything they’ve got at Collingwood in this one, and while it mightn’t be enough to get over the line, an impressive showing should boost their confidence heading into a tough first six weeks where they play Melbourne, Adelaide in Adelaide, GWS, Hawthorn, and West Coast.
The Pies will be aiming to secure a top two finish this year in order to claim a home qualifying final, and winning games such as this one will be crucial. This contest should also give us first glimpse of the real effect of the new rules, with Brodie Grundy set to take full advantage against a capable but not awe-inspiring Geelong ruck unit. If the changes allow him—and other commanding rucks like Max Gawn—to be even more dominant than he was in 2018, then you can just about lock the Pies into a top four finish. They’ve got a midfield that should be able to win the ball even without a ruckman giving them first use; they should be almost unstoppable with Grundy leading the pack. Often rule changes don’t play out how you expect them to, but I just can’t see how these tweaks don’t translate to Collingwood becoming even stronger. Their main issue for now is still in the backline—and it looks like ex-Dog Jordan Roughead will have the first opportunity lining up on Tom Hawkins—but it didn’t stop them from making a grand final, and I don’t expect it to be an issue on Friday evening.
Betting tip: Collingwood to win @ $1.67 (PalmerBet)
Saturday, March 23
Melbourne vs Port Adelaide
1:45pm AEDT, MCG
Facing the Demons at the MCG is a difficult start for Port in what looms as a make-or-break season for coach Ken Hinkley, but it should tell us about the fortitude of some of the new faces. Port are one of the clubs who will look to the future when they run out in round 1: all three of their first-round draft picks from last year will take the field. Experienced recruits Scott Lycett and Ryan Burton will also be amongst the new faces, but overall it’s going to be a young Port Adelaide team; whether they have the confidence and willpower to stand up on the biggest stage against a strong Demons outfit will be interesting.
Both Jack Viney and Nathan Jones have recently proved their fitness for the opening round clash, as has Jake Melksham, and while important recruit Steven May will miss due to suspension, he won’t be desperately needed against a Power side without Charlie Dixon.
Port Adelaide are slightly hard to judge due to the upheaval from last season, but I can’t see them getting close to the Demons on Saturday. A spirited effort would see them keep the margin to within five goals, but I expect it might blow out to quite a bit more than that.
Betting tip: Melbourne By 25+ @ $2.00 (UniBet)
Adelaide vs Hawthorn
4:35pm AEDT, Adelaide Oval
The Crows begin their 2018 redemption campaign with a home clash against the Hawks, which will suit them perfectly; the Adelaide engine room looks to be in good shape with the addition of Brad Crouch, while the Hawks are weak in the midfield due to the loss of Tom Mitchell and the current unavailability of Chad Wingard. Nevertheless, the Hawks are almost an unknown entity; it’s hard to know who will run through the midfield, and what tricks Alistair Clarkson has come up with since Mitchell went down. There’s no doubt he’ll have a few options, some of which will work well, others that won’t, but whether he has the cattle to carry the Hawks to an away win against what should be a determined and experienced Adelaide side remains to be seen, and is probably highly unlikely. Once Wingard and Tom Scully return to full fitness and make their way into the team the Hawks will look much more dangerous, but for now they look a few classy players short of being a really threatening opposition; the Crows should make light work of them on Saturday afternoon.
Betting tip: Adelaide (-22.5) @ $2.12 (TopBetta)
Western Bulldogs vs Sydney
7:25pm AEDT, Marvel Stadium
The Swans and the Western Bulldogs kick off their 2019 campaigns in the first game at the newly named Marvel Stadium on Saturday night. These two clubs have had some close battles over the past few years, with the result always seeming to come down to frantic moments deep into the final quarter. Whether Lance Franklin is fit to play is a massive factor in this one, as the Dogs always struggle to contain him, and with Dale Morris out injured and Luke Beveridge wanting to play young key defender Aaron Naughton in the forward half, the Dogs will be light on for options to cover both Franklin and Sam Reid.
The other interesting aspect will be the midfield battle; the Dogs have a strong midfield and rely on clearance dominance to win games of footy due to their inefficiency going forward, while the Swans are still strong through the middle despite the loss of Dan Hannebery to the Saints. If one team can really get on top here it’ll be a major factor in deciding the match, and just going off JLT form, you’d have to suspect it’ll be the Swans who gain ascendancy. The Dogs looked lost moving the ball into their forward half, and while that might be easier for them under the roof at Marvel, it still looks like a major issue for them. I expect the Swans to take advantage and start their season off with a win away from home.
Betting tip: Sydney to win @ $1.65 (TopBetta)
Brisbane vs West Coast
8:20pm AEDT, The Gabba
The Lions hosting the reigning premiers on Saturday night is the first game in 2019 that I think has the potential to be an upset. I expect the Lions to be a much improved team this year; they should be aiming to make the Gabba a fortress, a place they’re really difficult to beat, and what better way to start that than by knocking off the reigning champs? The Eagles are weakened, with no Josh Kennedy up forward, and we’ve seen in the past few years that the teams who have gone deep into September often start the next year in a lethargic fashion.
If the Eagles aren’t on their game, I really think the Lions should be good enough at home to make a contest of it. They may not be good enough over the whole four quarters, but with a bit of luck going their way I could see them pinching a cheeky win. They’ve got enough talent all over the ground, and they’re not so young and inexperienced anymore. Their midfield is more than capable, and they’ve got a great ruckman in Stefan Martin. I’m not going so far as to back them in, but I do think it’ll be a really tight result.
Betting tip: Brisbane (+16.5) @ $1.62 (UniBet)
Sunday, March 24
St Kilda vs Gold Coast
1:10pm AEDT, Marvel Stadium
This is another game that has the potential to be an upset; the Saints host the Suns in what could be a contest between two of 2019’s wooden spoon contenders. The Saints are looking to improve on their disastrous 2018, but long term injury concerns over multiple key players has things looking bleak at this early stage.
The Suns, on the other hand, don’t necessarily have to improve on last year in terms of ladder position, they just need to be competitive and show signs of life. Everyone is aware they lost two of their best players and replaced them with youth, so time is on their side, but non-competitiveness would point to a continuation of the seemingly poor culture that the club has been cursed with since their inception. In all likelihood they’re not going to win many games this year, so when they get an opportunity to do battle with another bottom side they need to make the most of it. Being at Marvel, I still expect the Saints to do enough to get over the line, and you’d hope they would; the jungle drums will start beating immediately if they can’t overcome the inexperienced Suns at home.
Betting tip: St Kilda (-17.5) @ $1.62 (Ladbrokes)
GWS Giants vs Essendon
3:20pm AEDT, Sydney Showground Stadium
I’m looking forward to seeing how this contest plays out; the Giants and the Bombers are two of this year’s biggest unknown quantities in my mind. Both teams are loaded with talent, but haven’t functioned on the field quite as well as their talent might suggest. The Bombers have added Dylan Shiel, and while I don’t expect his addition to suddenly propel them into top four contention, he’ll clearly make them a better team. The Giants I’m not so sure about; they’ve still got an abundance of talent, but, on paper at least, their best 22 looks weaker than it has been in recent years. They’re good enough to play finals again, and they probably will, but I half expect the Giants might struggle through the year and find their wins really difficult to earn. And it starts here: the Bombers are a strong side, and they’re hellbent on making finals in 2019. They’ll be doing everything in their power to make a statement against the Giants, so it should be a great contest and one that I could see easily going either way, but I’m going to back in the Giants at home; I’m going to wait for the Bombers to convince me that they’re a genuine contender before I back them against a top six team.
Betting tip: GWS to win @ $1.77 (BetFair)
Fremantle vs North Melbourne
6:20pm AEDT, Optus Stadium
The week leading up to Fremantle’s first game of the season hasn’t exactly gone to plan, with controversy over prized recruit Jesse Hogan sending the media into a frenzy. He won’t be out there on Sunday, but fellow recruits Rory Lobb, Reece Conca, and Travis Colyer will be, and they should immediately improve this Fremantle side: Lobb provides a tall option in attack, while Colyer and Conca will add to the run up and down the Optus Stadium wings.
Their opponent, North Melbourne, have some important recruits of their own, with Jasper Pittard, Jared Polec, Aaron Hall, and Dom Tyson all set to play. Those guys are all capable, experienced AFL players, and will strengthen an already experienced Kangaroos team. It’s not easy to win over in Perth, even against a Dockers team that is probably a little unsettled just at the minute, but I think the hardened midfielders the Roos have at their disposal will be the difference, and they should be able to win enough ball to give Ben Brown and co. enough opportunities to kick a winning score.
Betting tip: Kangaroos to win @ $1.92 (TopBetta)
Best Bets of the Round
Melbourne By 25+ @ $2.00 (UniBet)