The following are previews with betting tips for Round 18 of the 2019 AFL season.
Friday, July 19
Adelaide vs Essendon
7:50pm AEST, Adelaide Oval
The stage of the season has arrived where we can begin making definitive predictive statements like: whoever wins this game on Friday night will play finals football in 2019. It may not be true, but it’s probably highly likely to be accurate (particularly if the Crows win). The stakes seem to go up a notch for certain games from this point onwards, and there are a few of those this weekend, beginning with Friday night’s clash between the seventh-placed Crows and the eighth-placed Bombers. The Bombers have now won three-in-a-row to seriously stake their claim for a finals berth, while the Crows bounced back from their Showdown disappointment by annihilating the Suns. It gave them a much-needed percentage boost, which is all that currently separates them from the Bombers. Essendon are going to find the going tough now that key defender Michael Hurley will be missing, but fortunately they are well stocked in that area and have a capable replacement in the similarly-named Michael Hartley. The bigger issue will be the omissions of Orazio Fantasia and Zac Clarke. The Crows are set to welcome back forward Tom Lynch, who is as important as anyone to the Adelaide game plan.
Instead of saying the winner of this game will play finals, a better statement might be: at least one of these two clubs will play finals. And since the winner will have a game’s head start on the other with just five games remaining, you’d be favouring whichever club that is. I think it’ll be the Crows — they’re at home, have re-gained a few important players, and are up against an Essendon side minus Hurley and without a ruckman.
Betting tip: Adelaide (-13.5) @ $1.88 (TopBetta)
Saturday, July 20
Richmond vs Port Adelaide
1:45pm AEST, MCG
And here’s a second high-stakes game: Port are a game behind the Crows and the Bombers, and are vying for a spot in the bottom half of the eight, while the Tigers are looking to consolidate their top eight spot whilst potentially pushing up into the top four. Richmond seem to be building some really good form now, and it’s a great time of year to do it. Tom Lynch bagged another three goals on the weekend, taking his season tally up to 37, while Jack Riewoldt made a successful return from his second long-term injury of the year. The match against GWS loomed as a tough one, but they dispatched of the Giants with ease. This one is a similar contest: Port are a good team, but the Tigers should have the edge at the MCG. The main concern for Richmond would be the scheduling: they’ve been unlucky enough to face Port on their ‘on-week’. It’s now been nine weeks Port have kept up an alternating win/loss pattern, and while they’d be happy to continue it into a tenth week, they’re going to need to end the trend if they’re to play finals footy.
I expect this to be a really interesting game of footy that is likely be played at frenetic pace, but I expect the likely outcome to be a five or six goal Richmond win. Port missing Ollie Wines, Brad Ebert and Ryan Burton probably ruins their chances — the Tigers should be too good at the ‘G and look to be building really nicely at the moment.
Betting tip: Richmond By 25+ @ $1.87 (TopBetta)
Carlton vs Gold Coast
2:10pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
It’s not often that Carlton enter a game as hot favourite but that’s the situation they’ll be in this week when they host the Suns at Marvel Stadium on Saturday. Remarkably, from their last five games the Blues have won three, and lost two by a combined margin of 11 points. That’s a strong form line, and it’s about to get even better; you’d expect the new-look Blues to make light work of the deteriorating Suns.
The Suns have lost their last two games by 92 and 95 points. That’s seriously ugly, and definitely not sustainable for Stuart Dew and his coaching staff. It won’t be that bad against the Blues, but it wouldn’t at all surprise if they still managed to lose by 8-10 goals. And the bad news is, realistically, if they drop this game they won’t win another in 2019. But even though this week is probably their best chance for another win, they just don’t look anywhere near it at the moment; they’re completely uncompetitive. It’s going to be another tough week for the Suns if they’re handed a significant loss by the Blues, and I expect that’s exactly what’s going to happen: the Suns are doing their best to limp to the finish line, but it’s still a long way out of reach.
Betting tip: Carlton By 25+ @ $1.72 (TopBetta)
GWS Giants vs Collingwood
4:35pm AEST, Sydney Showground Stadium
This is another of the weekend’s hugely significant games, and perhaps the hardest to predict. Neither team is in great form, but both have been close to premiership favourites at some stage of the year. The Giants have now had three consecutive losses, and with a knee injury set to sideline star midfielder Stephen Coniglio for a number of weeks, things are looking decidedly grim. The Pies were able to overcome their mini-form slump with a critical one-point victory over the Eagles on Friday night, and while it’s impossible to know just how important the win will be until everything is said and done, it’s fair to say it was Collingwood’s most defining win this year.
Both sides have been dealt a mixed bag at the selection table, with the Giants losing Coniglio but re-gaining Shane Mumford and Jeremy Finlayson, while the Pies lose all of Darcy Moore, Jamie Elliott and Levi Greenwood, but get Jeremy Howe, Taylor Adams and Travis Varcoe back. It’s hard to tell whether that’s a net win or loss. Either way, the Pies won’t be easy opponents for the Giants as they look to have a team-lifting win, similar to the one Collingwood had last week. I reckon it’ll be a ripping game of footy — I’m going with the Pies in a thriller.
Betting tip: Collingwood to win @ $1.97 (BetFair)
Brisbane vs North Melbourne
7:25pm AEST, The Gabba
The Lions continued their impressive streak of form with another victory over a strong opponent, this time dispatching of Port Adelaide by a lazy 48 points. The Lions are the real deal and are, somewhat stunningly, right in the hunt for a top two finish, which would give them a home final and put them in a really strong position to secure a grand final berth. While that might be getting too far ahead of things, right now it looks a realistic outcome: if the Pies lose to GWS, which is probably a 50/50 proposition, and the Lions beat North Melbourne, which you’d assume they will, the Lions would jump up to second position and from there it’s theirs to lose with just five weeks remaining.
North will throw everything at Brisbane though, having shown great combativeness each week since Rhyce Shaw took over as caretaker coach. They were so close to beating the Bombers and being in the hunt for a top eight spot, but the loss will probably make things hard from here. Still, they are more than capable of taking it up to the best teams and I expect they’ll make the Lions earn their victory in this one: I’m going with Brisbane by a couple of goals.
Betting tip: Brisbane By 1-39 @ $2.20 (TopBetta)
Fremantle vs Sydney
8:10pm AEST, Optus Stadium
Fremantle’s last chance to turn their season around was last week against Hawthorn, and despite the best efforts of inspirational skipper Nat Fyfe, the Dockers just weren’t good enough. They’ve got some decent reasons for the rapid decline over the past month: the number of long-term injuries they’ve suffered to key players would curtail most other clubs as well. But now they need to put an end to it and get back on the winner’s list. It should be relatively simple too: they’re at home, and up against a team below them on the ladder.
The Swans will also be desperate for a win after dropping one they should’ve won last week against the Blues. That loss has snuffed out any remote chance they had of sneaking into eighth position, but there’s still plenty for the Swans to play for; this week, it’s mostly about pride.
I think this will be a close game of footy, but one that probably won’t be all that fast-paced and thrilling, more of a slow grind. It’s going to be tough for Freo without Fyfe, but I expect the Dockers to get the edge over the Swans in the latter part of the game; up until then it should be fairly tight.
Betting tip: Fremantle By 1-39 @ $2.33 (UniBet)
Sunday, July 21
Geelong vs Hawthorn
1:10pm AEST, MCG
The Hawks have put themselves back within reach of the top eight with two really impressive wins over the past fortnight. First, they beat the Pies in an arm-wrestle, then they dominated the Dockers in Launceston. They face the ladder-leading Cats this week, and despite the unlikelihood of a victory, if they did manage to beat their fierce rivals they’d be officially back in the finals race. The battles between Geelong and Hawthorn have always been prone to turn into epic contests, and while the Cats seem the much better team in 2019, you definitely wouldn’t write Alistair Clarkson’s men off on Sunday afternoon.
I reckon it’ll be a fairly similar game to their match earlier in the year: the first quarter was tight, the second still relatively close, but the Cats got out to a five or six goal lead early in the second half and kept the Hawks at arm’s length for the rest of the day. That’s probably where these two teams are at; the Hawks are well-drilled and persistent, but not quite skilled enough, while the Cats have enough of a break on the rest of the competition that they can afford to sit in second gear and not take any costly risks. That’s what I expect on Sunday: the Cats to win this by a couple of goals without having to play their best footy.
Betting tip: Geelong to win @ $1.38 (BetFair)
Melbourne vs West Coast
3:20pm AEST, TIO Traeger Park
There’s a seriously gloomy possibility looming for the Demons this week: they could find themselves 17th on the ladder, above only the Suns, the club who are currently copping 100-point beltings. That will happen if the Blues beat the Suns on Saturday, and then the Demons lose to West Coast. Both of those outcomes are what you’d call likely, and the Dees will know it. All they have to do to avoid that happening is come out firing on Sunday and beat the Eagles. But that’s much easier said than done. West Coast will be filthy after their home loss to Collingwood, and because of that this becomes a must-win contest. If they drop an easy one in the run home it could cost the Eagles a home final and potentially a premiership, so you’d expect they’ll be highly motivated this week. The Dees weren’t bad against the Dogs on Sunday, but they’re clearly an average footy side at the moment, particularly without a spearhead up forward.
The Alice Springs factor might throw the Eagles off their standard preparation, but I’d expect they’ll adjust pretty quickly and start this contest strongly. The foot injury to returning ruck Nic Naitanui is a bitter blow, but the Eagles proved last season they’re capable of covering him. I’m thinking it’ll be a fairly low-scoring game, but the Eagles will never be seriously threatened.
Betting tip: West Coast to win @ $1.47 (Bet365)
St Kilda vs Western Bulldogs
4:40pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
St Kilda’s fourth consecutive loss, and tenth for the season, consigned coach Alan Richardson to the coaching scrap heap. It was a game they were never going to win, playing against the Cats in Geelong, and they actually performed reasonably well despite the loss. Richardson said the game that ended his tenure was actually a few weeks back when the Saints were thoroughly outplayed by North, but to honest, his papers were likely stamped long before that game. Ex-Carlton coach Brett Ratten will take over as care-taker coach, and I’m expecting him to have a really positive influence on the team. Of the other two clubs who have dumped their coach this year, both have won the following week; will the Saints be able to uphold the trend?
It’ll be a tough game against the Dogs, who are in good form at the moment, but the Saints are absolutely a chance of causing an upset. The Dogs have struggled against lesser teams, and despite getting over the line against Melbourne last week, they didn’t shut the Dees out of the game by any means. They’ve also lost midfielder Toby McLean, while superstar Marcus Bontempelli is recovering from a sore ankle. The Dogs are the better team so I’d expect they get the win here, but it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see the contest go right down to the final siren.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs to win @ $1.47 (BetEasy)
Best Bets of the Round
Adelaide (-13.5) @ $1.88 (TopBetta)