The following are previews with betting tips for Finals Week 1 of the 2020 AFL season.
Thursday, October 1
Port Adelaide vs Geelong
7:40pm AEST, Adelaide Oval
The first week of finals kicks off with perhaps the biggest game of the weekend: the clash between the Power and the Cats. It’s big because I think it could easily go either way, and the result will shape the rest of the finals. If Port win they’ll book in a home preliminary final and that will pave an easier path towards the Grand Final. And the Cats, well if they win they might just avoid running into the Tigers until Grand Final day, and that’d be a huge win for them. So there’s plenty at stake, and both teams look to have close to a full team. The last time these two clubs met the Cats won easily, but that won’t mean much here. That game was in Queensland, and the Cats were probably at the top of their hot streak. Tom Hawkins dominated and Port didn’t have any answers, but you’d expect them to be much better prepared for this one.
The main problem in that contest was that their midfield was completely outplayed, and that hasn’t happened all that often this season. I’d expect Port to have learnt from it, and I think they’ll be much better on Thursday evening. That said, the Cats are a much more experienced side than Port Adelaide, and they know what it takes to play finals footy. They’ve got stars all over the ground, and they know they need to improve on their previous few finals campaigns. Port have been the best side all year, but I just think the Cats have more players capable of willing them home—Dangerfield, Selwood, Hawkins, Menegola; compared to Port’s Boak and Gray—and that’s why I’m backing them to win in a close one.
Betting tip: Geelong to win @ $2.15 (Sportsbet)
Friday, October 2
Brisbane vs Richmond
7:50pm AEST, Gabba
For the second consecutive season the Lions will host the Tigers in a Qualifying Final at the Gabba. Brisbane will be hoping the result is very different this time around, as they were comprehensively outplayed in 2019. I do think they’re a better team this year, and they’ll be better prepared mentally, but will that be enough to defeat the reigning premiers? The Lions haven’t beaten Richmond in any of their last 15 outings, and that sort of mental hurdle will be huge in a game as big as this one. The other mental hurdle the Lions might need to overcome is their goal kicking demons: if they happen to miss a few easy shots early, they could fall apart in front of the big sticks. So to put it simply, it’s all about how the Lions start. Get out of the blocks well and they’ll have enough confidence to challenge the Tigers, but if not, they’ll be in trouble.
Both teams have some significant inclusions, with Harris Andrews and Jarrod Berry back for the Lions, while Dion Prestia and Shai Bolton return for Richmond. All eyes will be on Prestia: he hasn’t played since Round 5, so it’s a little risky to bring him straight back in, but there aren’t many alternatives to gain match fitness this year.
It should be a ripping game of footy, but I’m leaning slightly towards Richmond at this stage. The Lions have a few too many questions marks, and the only one I can think of for Richmond is that in Tom Lynch’s absence they might struggle a little up forward. But they’ve still got more than enough threats, and they’ve got the big game experience to really rattle the Lions, yet again.
Betting tip: Richmond to win @ $1.76 (BlueBet)
Saturday, October 3
St Kilda vs Western Bulldogs
4:40pm AEST, Gabba
The Saints and the Dogs last met in Round 2, the first week after the COVID break, and it was a very one-sided affair: the Saints won with ease. But a lot has changed since then: the Dogs have improved significantly, while the Saints ended their season a little wobbly after a very impressive beginning.
The Saints also got the better of the Dogs last year, so they just might have the short-term wood over them. I think Rowan Marshall and Paddy Ryder make a tough duo for Tim English to deal with, and the Saints are able to match the Dogs in the contested ball but then spread harder and faster from the contest. In the end, I feel like that’s where this game will be won and lost: if the Dogs are to win they need to get right on top in the midfield and not allow the Saints any easy opportunities. They’ve been good at doing that throughout games, but they haven’t been great at stringing four quarters together this year. Perhaps the painful elimination final loss to GWS will be enough motivation for them to come out firing for the full game this weekend. They’ve made it publicly known they were embarrassed by that effort, and you’d expect them to make a stand in their first final since that game.
The Saints haven’t experienced finals footy since back in 2011, so it’ll be interesting to see how they cope with the intensity. Sometimes being a new-comer to finals can help, with the exuberance of the group carrying them forward, but other times the inexperience can really hurt. I’m thinking the Saints will put in a good account of themselves but I feel the Dogs have some unfinished business, and that they’ll come into this one really well prepared and ready to make a statement. I think it’ll be close, but I’m going with the Dogs.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs to win @ $1.67 (Unibet)
West Coast vs Collingwood
8:10pm AEST, Optus Stadium
These teams are probably the two potential surprise packets of the finals series: either could, on their day, beat almost any other team. The winner of this will play Geelong, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them beat the Cats and make it through to a preliminary final. But not to get ahead of ourselves; the Eagles are much closer to full strength with the return of skipper Luke Shuey, along with Jack Redden, Jeremy McGovern, and Jamie Cripps. That’ll make things tough for a still-undermanned Collingwood outfit, but the Pies usually play their best footy with their back up against the wall.
They’ll need a whole lot of luck to go their way, but I can see Collingwood winning this. They generally play pretty well in Perth, and they had a month over there earlier in the season so they’ll be well accustomed to the ground. The problem is, they’re not currently playing the sort of footy that will trouble West Coast. To beat the Eagles you need to play quick, daring footy, but Collingwood are very slow and stagnant at the moment. If they continually kick long down the line to contests that’ll play right into West Coast’s hands, but they just haven’t been great at moving the ball forward in recent times.
It’ll be very interesting to see how they approach it: I feel as if Nathan Buckley will have a plan to shake things up, because what they’ve done up until now won’t be good enough to beat the Eagles. But I’m not sure whether they’ll be able to execute something different in such a high stakes game, and that’s why I’m sticking with the Eagles in this one, to set up a huge semi-final against the Cats next weekend.
Betting tip: West Coast to win @ $1.45 (Sportsbet)
Best Bets of the Round
Geelong to win @ $2.15 (Sportsbet)