The following are previews with betting tips for Round 23 of the 2019 AFL season.
Friday, August 23
Collingwood vs Essendon
7:50pm AEST, MCG
The Bombers officially booked their spot in September with a 32-point victory over Fremantle on Saturday night, putting an end to a nervous couple of weeks. They were much better against the Dockers, but Fremantle didn’t put up much of a fight. We’ll get a better indication of where the Bombers are at when they face the Pies in Friday night’s blockbuster opening to the season’s final round, although maybe not: they’ve lost a bunch of important players due to ‘injury’. After confirming their finals spot, there’s now not a whole lot at stake for the Bombers this weekend. The result will determine who they play in their elimination final; if they lose, it’s likely to be either Collingwood or Richmond, if they win, they’re probably off to Sydney to take on the Giants. I’m not sure which would be Essendon’s preferred scenario; perhaps Collingwood at the ‘G, but that depends on how they go this week.
The Pies are still playing for a top four finish, and while they’re relying on other teams to lose, they’re still a pretty decent chance: they need to beat Essendon, and then hope either Richmond or West Coast falter. The Eagles aren’t likely to lose to the Hawks in Perth, but the Tigers have a tough game against the Lions, which could go either way. Even without those stakes, the fact that these two clubs could potentially face off in an elimination final in two weeks means the game will be played at high intensity. The coaches might want to hold back a surprise tactic or two, but they won’t want to give the opposition a sniff of ascendancy. That should make for an entertaining game of footy, and while I think it would be relatively close if the Bombers hadn’t lost so many key players, that’s going to make it hard for them. The Pies have been the better team for the majority of the year, and I think they’ll get the points pretty easily on Friday night.
Betting tip: Collingwood (-22.5) @ $1.75 (TopBetta)
Saturday, August 24
Sydney vs St Kilda
1:45pm AEST, SCG
We’ve been lucky with round 23 this year: this game, along with the North Melbourne vs Melbourne game, are the only two dead rubbers. The rest, regardless of how obvious the result may seem, will all potentially impact on the make-up of the final eight. And for a dead rubber, there’s a fair bit going on in this one: it’ll be the final game for Swans legends Kieran Jack and Jarrad McVeigh, and the 300th game milestone for superstar forward Lance Franklin. It’s also Brett Ratten’s last chance to impress the St Kilda hierarchy and put himself into the top rung of potential coach candidates. Last weekend’s loss to Carlton may have hurt in his chances in that regard, but I’m sure the Saints would still be relatively happy with how they’ve played since Ratten took over.
He can’t be expected to turn things around overnight, and there have been enough positive signs to make them think long and hard about appointing him permanently. A win on Saturday would do him wonders, but the Swans, on a day that will be an enormous occasion for them, will make things difficult. Particularly if Buddy Franklin can come in and influence the game straight away. It’ll be interesting to see how he goes, but I expect the Swans to be good enough to beat the Saints regardless of how much impact he has.
Betting tip: Sydney to win @ $1.42 (TopBetta)
North Melbourne vs Melbourne
2:10pm AEST, Blundstone Arena
The second dead rubber of the round is played in Tasmania between the Kangaroos and the Demons, two clubs who have had really disappointing years. North haven’t been too bad, but it’s hard to call the year a success when you lose your senior coach. They did have one of their best performances of the year on the weekend however, smashing Port by 86-points. They’ll take some confidence from that into the off-season, particularly if they get another win this weekend. The Demons have had a disastrous season, and they really don’t have anything to hang their hat on. Max Gawn has had another great year, but what other positive things could you say about the Demons in 2019? The year has been a nightmare, so how else could it end than with another loss? It’ll be Jordan Lewis’s final game of AFL football, but I don’t think he’ll have much to celebrate.
Betting tip: North Melbourne (-25.5) @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Geelong vs Carlton
4:35pm AEST, GMHBA
The Cats got a good look at one of the other premiership fancies on Saturday, and while they didn’t get the result they wanted, they’ll be relatively content with how the game panned out. It was played on Brisbane’s home deck, and while they lost the Cats did lead for the majority of the game. When it was played on their terms, in tight and congested, they were able to stifle the Lions and control the game. The issue was, when they got tired and the space opened up, the Lions were too dangerous. The loss shouldn’t impact their season; so long as they beat the Blues this weekend they’ll still finish in the top two and earn a home final.
You would expect that shouldn’t pose an issue, despite Carlton’s impressive second half of the season. The Blues are still no match for the very best, as witnessed two weeks ago when they lost to the Tigers, and Geelong are one of the hardest teams to beat when played in Geelong. It’s been an astounding few months for the Blues; they’re full of the unrestrained optimism they haven’t had since Brendon Bolton first took over as coach, but I think this weekend might put a temporary dampener on that: the Cats should win this, and I expect it to be by quite some margin.
Betting tip: Geelong By 25+ @ $1.66 (UniBet)
Gold Coast vs GWS Giants
7:25pm AEST, Metricon Stadium
GWS find themselves in a similar position to Geelong this week: the Giants need to win to secure a home final, but they won’t lose much sleep in the lead-up. The Suns have slumped to 17 consecutive losses and pose absolutely no danger to GWS, despite the Giants being in the midst of some disappointing form. They were expected to bounce back hard from the second half capitulation to Hawthorn, but instead they repeated the exact same failing against the Dogs on Sunday, this time perhaps even worse: it was at their home ground and the conditions were perfect. It hasn’t been the ideal month leading into finals for GWS but they should look a different team in their elimination final, with some seriously good players set to return, including the two Jeremy’s this week.
And you would expect they’ll head into the week off feeling pretty good about themselves after a big win over the Suns. The finish line has finally arrived for Stuart Dew and his team, but now is when the hard work begins: they have a big off-season ahead of them to turn things around for 2020.
Betting tip: GWS By 40+ @ $1.60 (TopBetta)
West Coast vs Hawthorn
8:10pm AEST, Optus Stadium
It won’t be any consolation for the Eagles that they took part in one of the games of the year on Sunday, because the six point loss to the Tigers was costly. They needed to win to ensure a top two finish, and now, while it’s still possible, their fate is out of their own hands. They’ll need to beat the Hawks first of all — which should be a fairly straightforward task at Optus Stadium — and then hope one of Geelong or Brisbane lose. Geelong losing to Carlton is unlikely; the Lions are a 50/50 proposition against the Tigers. That’s good news for West Coast, but they also need to overtake the Lions on percentage, and the gap is currently just over five percentage points. Needless to say, the Eagles will be going hard at Hawthorn on Saturday, hoping to make up that whole gap so that then all they need is a Brisbane loss of any margin.
It’s an intriguing situation, caused by one of the tightest ladder finishes in history. There’s nothing separating 1st to 5th, and almost nothing again from 6th all the way down to 14th. It’s an open season and the premiership is up for anyone to grab; the Eagles are as good a chance as anyone if they manage to snag a home qualifying final, so there’s plenty at stake this week. The Hawks are still mathematically in finals contention but are almost certain to miss out; after a big celebration against the Suns for Jarryd Roughead’s last game, I expect their season to fizzle out this weekend as the Eagles launch into another finals campaign.
Betting tip: West Coast (-26.5) @ $1.85 (BetFair)
Sunday, August 25
Western Bulldogs vs Adelaide
1:10pm AEST, Mars Stadium
The Dogs’ hot streak continued on Sunday with a second half destruction of GWS, paving the way for their first September appearance since 2016. They still need to beat the Crows this week to lock it in, but you would expect that to be fairly straightforward when you consider the current form of both teams. The Dogs are running riot, scoring with ease and completely shutting their opposition down defensively.
The Crows struggled with both of those aspects of the game in their clash with Collingwood on Saturday, conceding 114 points and only scoring 48 of their own. It was a must-win game for them, but they capitulated under the pressure. They’re just not good enough, despite what happens this weekend. They need to bring in some more young talent and start again, because their older, experienced players are no longer capable of carrying the team. The form of young key forward Darcy Fogarty is encouraging, as is Reilly O’Brien’s work in the ruck. They’ve got some good building blocks, now they need to add to it. I suspect they’ll lose this one and miss finals in 2019, which should only hasten the rebuilding process.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs to win @ $1.36 (BetFair)
Richmond vs Brisbane
3:20pm AEST, MCG
The most important and likely most entertaining game of the weekend comes on Sunday when the Tigers host the Lions at the MCG. The Lions sit on top of the ladder after a come-from-behind win over the Cats on the weekend, while the Tigers are in fourth spot following their brilliant win over the Eagles. Both games were tough, hard-fought contests, but now both teams need to go again. The job isn’t done, there’s still plenty on the line: the Lions need to secure their top two spot, while the Tigers can’t afford to drop out of the top four.
The MCG factor is clearly a huge advantage for the Tigers, but the Lions won’t mind. It’s the perfect time of year for them to get in a hit-out at the MCG, against good opposition too. If all goes to plan, they’ll need to play at the MCG once more this year and a good showing this week would build their confidence. They should match-up fairly well on the Tigers, with Harris Andrews a perfect opponent for Richmond’s Tom Lynch, and Stefan Martin sure to cause the Tigers some issues in the ruck.
The big test will be whether they can control the ball and contain Richmond’s run and carry. If they can do that, they’ll win; they’ve got enough weapons in the forward half to cause Richmond trouble, and the aforementioned Harris and co. will be able to control Lynch and Jack Riewoldt so long as the ball isn’t coming in too easily. I think the Lions are a better chance here than they’re being given; I’m still predicting the Tigers get the four points, but it should be another very close game of footy, and if some luck falls Brisbane’s way they’re good enough to steal the win.
Betting tip: Richmond By 1-39 @ $2.10 (Sportsbet)
Port Adelaide vs Fremantle
4:40pm AEST, Adelaide Oval
The last home and away game of the year sees Port Adelaide hosting Fremantle at the Adelaide Oval, and there’s a chance it could determine the make-up of the final eight. If the Dogs lose to Adelaide earlier in the day then Port will be a chance to sneak in. They would need to win by enough to overtake both the Dogs and the Crows on percentage, but it wouldn’t be an impossible task by any means, particularly not against Fremantle. Though the sacked coach curse might haunt Port if it continues; it could even lead to the demise of their own coach, Ken Hinkley, who stated during the week that he needs to make finals either this or next year in order to fulfil the obligations of his contract.
You would expect Port to do their part and beat Fremantle this week, but the rest of it falling into place is probably unlikely. They’ve only got themselves to blame: a stunningly bad performance against the Kangaroos on Saturday evening wasn’t good enough, not with finals on the line. They don’t deserve to make it after that effort, and I don’t think they will. It would only paper over the cracks if they did happen to fall in; there’s still plenty of work for Hinkley and his men to do before they’re a contender again, and while a year on Sunday might end the year on a positive note, the disappointment of missing finals will soon set in.
Betting tip: Port Adelaide to win @ $1.40 (TopBetta)
Best Bets of the Round
West Coast (-26.5) @ $1.85 (BetFair)