The following are previews with betting tips for Round 4 of the 2021 AFL season.
Thursday, April 8
Sydney vs Essendon
7:20pm AEST, SCG
The Swans head into this Thursday night clash against the Bombers sitting in second place after a resounding win over the Tigers at the MCG. They’re now one of only three unbeaten teams and will be feeling pretty good about where things are headed in 2021. After a horror opening two weeks, the Bombers are suddenly feeling good as well following a mammoth win over the Saints on Saturday afternoon. It was a left-field performance that I don’t think anyone expected, but it was exactly what Essendon needed to get their season back on track. We know they’re not going to do that every week, and they’re unlikely to force themselves too far up the ladder, but if they continue to play some of the promising youngsters and can stay competitive then their fans will be happy enough. Speaking of promising youngsters: the Swans now have all three Rising Star nominees, which is unheard of.
It’ll be interesting to see how long those young guys can continue to play at such a high level, but until they begin to tire it’s hard to see the Swans dropping off too dramatically. If you can play like that against the Tigers at the MCG then you can beat just about anyone, and the Swans will take that attitude into the rest of the season. I’m sure a time will come when they have a form slump, but for now they’re firing on all cylinders and I can’t imagine the Bombers getting near them at home. Buddy is back to bolster a forward line that doesn’t need bolstering, while Dyson Heppell returns for the Bombers to add some experience and level-headedness to the Essendon defence. It’ll be an interesting game to watch, but I expect the Swans to win it fairly comfortably. Sydney by at least three or four goals.
Betting tip: Sydney (-22.5) @ $1.66 (UniBet)
Friday, April 9
Port Adelaide vs Richmond
7:50pm AEST, Adelaide Oval
Port and the Tigers met in a classic preliminary final last year; on Friday night they face off at the same venue in a game that, while not a final, is still massive for both clubs. The Tigers got the better of Port last year of course, but Port weren’t without their chances. They’ll head into this one as favourites, despite losing by a fair margin to the Eagles last week. That’s in part due to Richmond having their own struggles; they were torched by the young Swans on Saturday, and lost Dion Prestia and Trent Cotchin in the process.
That’s going to make things hard against a team as good as Port, but you can never write Richmond off. After a poor start to last year’s season they managed to turn things around despite being severely undermanned, so I’m still expecting them to bounce back and be very hard to beat this weekend. That said, Port match up well on the Tigers and should be able to trouble them; the reason the Tigers won last year’s prelim final is that they got on top of Port in the clearances. Without Prestia and Cotchin, Port should be able to at minimum neutralise that area of the game, and then their forward line should be able to maximise the opportunities they get. It should be a ripping game, as I don’t expect either team to be down two weeks in a row, but I have to go with Port here. Expect it to be another tight one.
Betting tip: Port Adelaide to win @ $1.61 (UniBet)
Saturday, April 10
Western Bulldogs vs Brisbane
1:45pm AEST, Mars Stadium
The Lions got their first four points of the year with an after the siren win over the Pies last Thursday night, but they’re still hard to get a read on. Was it the type of brave victory that gets their season back on track? Or was it a win that perhaps papered over some cracks? I’d say it’s probably a bit of both. It was desperately needed; no one is claiming the Lions are back to their best, but if they can bank enough wins to keep themselves alive while they’re going through a rough patch then it’ll hold them in good stead for later in the season. They still haven’t had a chance to return home since the lockdown in Brisbane, so it’ll be interesting to see what their energy is like on Saturday. You’d think after an exciting victory they’d be feeling pretty good, but the length of the unexpected stay in Melbourne might be making things difficult.
They’re also no guarantee to get ruckman Oscar McInerney back for this one, and that might make things really hard for them. Brodie Grundy was imposing for most of the night on Thursday, and the combination of ex-Lion Stef Martin and Tim English will also pose a big problem for the Lions if McInerney doesn’t get up. The Dogs will have troubles of their own, with the Lions forward line a particular area of concern if they don’t dominate the midfield. But with the sort of midfield rotations they’ve got this year, you probably expect the Bulldogs to get the better of the Lions, and that should tilt this one in their favour. I reckon it might be a scrappy game in Ballarat, but I’m going with the Dogs by a couple of goals.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs to win @ $1.50 (Bet365)
St Kilda vs West Coast
4:35pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
A few different clubs put their hands up, but the Saints were the worst performed side from Round 3 in my view. To lose by that much against a side as mediocre as Essendon was a sign that things aren’t right at Moorabbin, and they to need to fix it urgently if they’re still to make finals in 2021. One of their issues has been their lack of a ruckman, so Rowan Marshall’s return this week will make a huge difference, particularly up against the Eagles and Nic Nat. But that won’t change the complete lack of effort and intensity that they dished up against the Bombers. Too many of their experienced players weren’t prepared to work hard and it showed. If they turn up with that sort of attitude again this week the Eagles will beat them by 100+ points.
It won’t matter that the venue is Marvel Stadium; the Eagles aren’t bad under the roof at all, and with the form they displayed against Port last week they would just about be premiership favourites if it wasn’t for injury concerns over key players. Elliott Yeo is still on the slow road back, while skipper Luke Shuey pinged another hamstring in the last quarter after a best afield display. That was a huge setback for the Eagles, who will now concentrate on getting him right to make sure he can contribute in the back-end of the season. I don’t think they’ll have to worry too much about his absence in this one; I do expect a much better showing from the Saints, but I still think the Eagles will be much too good and should run out five or six goal winners.
Betting tip: West Coast (-14.5) @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Collingwood vs GWS Giants
7:25pm AEST, MCG
If there’s anyone under more pressure than Nathan Buckley this year then it’s Leon Cameron at the Giants. His team now sits at 0-3 and it’s hard to see where the first win comes from. To be fair, they were actually looking much better against the Giants before injury struck and they were forced to play undermanned. Unfortunately, that’s going to impact them for quite a while: Stephen Coniglio, Matt de Boer and Phil Davis will all spend significant time on the sidelines, adding to the long GWS injury list. And that’s not going to help Leon Cameron; he doesn’t have the luxury of time up his sleeve, and he won’t be allowed to point to injuries as an excuse for missing finals. But it’s just so hard to see them winning games at the moment.
The Pies aren’t one of the top teams this year but they’ll still provide a challenge most weeks, as they did against the Lions on Thursday night. In reality they should’ve won that game, and they’ll be chomping at the bit to redeem themselves here. Brodie Grundy is building into some nice form, but the forward line still looks to be relatively impotent. Nevertheless, if they can possess the ball and get it forward often enough I can’t see the Giants defence clamping down on them for long enough, and I suspect the Pies will do enough to get the four points.
Betting tip: Collingwood By 25+ @ $1.80 (Bet365)
Gold Coast vs Carlton
7:25pm AEST, Metricon Stadium
This is one of the more fascinating games of Round 4. The Blues got on the winner’s list last week against Fremantle with a strong display led by skipper Patrick Cripps and spearhead Harry McKay, while the Suns fell short against the Crows and were dealt the cruel blow of an ACL injury to Jarrod Witts. He was the player they could least afford to lose considering their current ruck stocks, and it’s going to be very hard to replace him. In fact, they can’t really replace him until the mid-season draft. Until then they’ll have to lean upon makeshift ruck options, which could unsettle the opposition, but in all likelihood is going to mean they get belted in the clearances.
How they adapt against the Blues will be a real point of interest; same goes with how Carlton look to exploit them. I feel quite sorry for Stuart Dew and the Suns; he would’ve thought he was on track for a finals berth this year, and now he’s lost Matt Rowell and Jarrod Witts and the season is teetering on the verge of destruction. I expect the Suns will still be a competitive unit, but they might be lacking the necessary pieces to win a whole lot of games now. I’m backing the Blues in a tight one.
Betting tip: Carlton to win @ $1.81 (Sportsbet)
Sunday, April 11
North Melbourne vs Adelaide
1:10pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
Prior to the season this game might have been viewed as the battle between the two bottoms teams, but the Crows have come out firing and find themselves sitting inside the top eight. Unfortunately, North haven’t managed to do the same; their belting on Good Friday really highlighted where they are at. They were decent for the first quarter and a half before falling away drastically and barely giving a yelp after half time. They’re a young, inexperienced side, so that sort of thing is to be expected, but David Noble will no doubt be looking for a better effort this weekend. There won’t be too many games this year the Roos will head into with genuine belief they’re a chance of winning, but this might be one of them.
Despite Adelaide’s good form, they’re still a young side who will fluctuate over the course of the year. I said last week that Tex can’t kick a bag every week, and he came out and kicked another six. Will he do it again? The Kangaroos aren’t stocked with key defensive options at the moment so there’s every chance he will have another big day. I think we’ll see a bit more fight from North in this one, but it’s almost impossible to pick them as winners after their effort last week. I’m going with the Crows by four goals.
Betting tip: Adelaide (-19.5) @ $1.91 (bet365)
Melbourne vs Geelong
3:20pm AEST, MCG
The Cats are 2-1, but they could easily be 0-3. Their form hasn’t been great, and they’ve only just held on in both of their wins. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at this time of year; as I said earlier, as long as you bank wins at this point of the year it doesn’t matter if you’re not at your best. They’ll face another challenge this weekend when they take on the undefeated Demons in a huge MCG clash that should tell us plenty about both teams.
The Dees were solid again last weekend but were up against a depleted GWS, meaning we still haven’t learnt a whole lot about their credentials for 2021. My guess is that they’re a top eight side, but I’d be surprised to see them finish much higher than seventh or eighth. If they can beat the Cats on Sunday they might change my mind, but I’m not convinced they’ll do it. Geelong are a big, experienced team, and one of the few clubs who continue to play a slower brand of footy in 2021. I’m not sure Melbourne are good enough to change the way Geelong want to play, and if the Cats can dictate play for the majority of the afternoon they’ve got the weapons to secure a victory. I think it’ll be relatively similar to their game against the Hawks: low-scoring and slow, but the Cats will ultimately get the four points that they’re after.
Betting tip: Geelong to win @ $1.85 (bet365)
Fremantle vs Hawthorn
4:40pm AEST, Optus Stadium
Round 4 finishes with the Dockers hosting Hawthorn in Perth as both clubs look to bounce back from losses suffered in Round 3. The Hawks were admirable against the Cats on Easter Monday but lacked the composure to steal a win when Geelong were flagging. They’ll take plenty of confidence from the game and they’ll be better for the experience next time they’re in a similar position.
The Dockers weren’t great at all against Carlton, which was quite disappointing after their solid win over the Giants the week before. Maybe their opponent puts that win in perspective; the Giants aren’t travelling all that well. But it also shows us that there’s still a significant gap between Fremantle in Perth and Fremantle away from home. This week they’re back in their comfort zone, and with the likely return of skipper Nat Fyfe you’d back them to beat the Hawks. All of their young gun midfielders were down against the Blues, and I’m expecting them to return to form this week. If they do, Freo should get up by a couple of goals.
Betting tip: Fremantle to win @ $1.54 (bet365)
Best Bets of the Round
West Coast (-14.5) @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Geelong to win @ $1.85 (bet365)