The following are previews with betting tips for Round 18 of the 2021 AFL season.
Thursday, July 15
Fremantle vs Geelong
8:10pm AEST, Optus Stadium
It was a funny old round last weekend, with five of the top eight teams losing. That opened the door for these two teams, with Fremantle pouncing into the top eight following their big win over the Hawks, and Geelong reclaiming their place in the top four after beating the Blues on Saturday afternoon. Even though they got the four points the Cats weren’t all that convincing, and with Gary Rohan going out of the team along with key defensive pillar Lachie Henderson, they’re going to need to be significantly better to topple the Dockers in Perth.
Fremantle haven’t been home in a month, but still managed to snare two wins from their previous three games to catapult themselves into finals contention. That said, the teams they’ve beaten aren’t exactly world-beaters; this week against Geelong we’ll get a proper indication of where the Dockers are at. A win at home against a weakened Geelong is absolutely not out of the question, and would cement them nicely into the top eight. If they’re serious about playing finals this week is a game they just have to win, and I reckon they’re a real chance. Sean Darcy has been one of the best ruckman all year, and he’ll have the opportunity to assert his dominance against a Cats side still trying to find their best ruck set-up. When the ball goes forward, all the Dockers need to do is clamp down on Tom Hawkins and see if the Cats can find other avenues to goal. It’s a winnable game, and I’m backing the Dockers to deliver a really strong performance and cover the line.
Betting tip: Fremantle (+8.5) @ $1.90 (BlueBet)
Friday, July 16
Richmond vs Brisbane
7:50pm AEST, Metricon Stadium
The Lions task of beating the Tigers at a venue they haven’t won at for years has been made a whole lot easier by the Covid-19 breakout in Victoria, with the game now likely to take place at Metricon Stadium in Queensland. It’s a shame for the Tigers, who were looking forward to celebrating Jack Riewoldt’s 300th career game, which they’ll still do but now at a foreign venue and with a much smaller crowd.
The Tigers haven’t had much luck lately, but they’ve been fairly fortunate over the past four years so it’s probably fair. After losing their fourth consecutive match last weekend they’ve fallen all the way down to twelfth, and now face a massive fight to climb back into the top eight to secure a finals berth. The Lions have also copped some recent big luck, with key forward Eric Hipwood tearing his ACL last weekend in a really unfortunate incident, and key defensive pillar Marcus Adams being ruled out for a while with recurrent stress fractures in his foot. The absence of those two will impact the Lions quite severely, you would expect, and it might take them a week or two to adjust. I still think Brisbane should get the win this week over the Tigers now that they can avoid their MCG hoodoo, but I reckon this might be a tight tussle that isn’t resolved until late in the last quarter.
Betting tip: Brisbane to win @ $1.35 (BlueBet)
Saturday, July 17
Gold Coast vs Western Bulldogs
4:35pm AEST, Metricon Stadium
The Dogs threw away a golden opportunity to cement their top two position when they lost to the Swans on Sunday afternoon, but they’re still nicely positioned as long as they get back on track and keep winning. It won’t necessarily be easy this week against a Suns team that is full of confidence after two consecutive wins against quality opposition. Both of those wins came away from home, and now the get the opportunity to head back to Metricon and make life really difficult for a genuine premiership contender in the Western Bulldogs.
Last time these two teams met the game was effectively over at half time, but the Suns have come a long way since then, and the Dogs aren’t travelling quite as well. In their past two games the Dogs have lacked some of the attacking fluency they displayed earlier in the year, with the Swans doing a great job of stifling the majority of their forward thrusts, forcing them to kick it high and long to contested situations. The return of Aaron Naughton will obviously make a huge difference, while the potential return of Josh Dunkley will help bolster an already dominant midfield group. If the Dogs are able to keep their stars healthy for the rest of the season they’re as good as anyone, and I expect them to bounce back strongly this week against the Suns. That said, Gold Coast will be up the challenge and I don’t think they’ll allow an easy win; somewhere around the three or four goal mark sounds about right to me.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs (-23.5) @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Melbourne vs Hawthorn
4:35pm AEST, MCG
Melbourne are a fascinating side this year. They lose to bottom four sides but they consistently beat the best teams, the most recent being Port Adelaide in Adelaide. It was a tough ask, but the Dees made light work of the Power. Their defence continues to hold up, and they’re a genuine premiership contender when their forward half functions as well. They continue to have good luck on the injury front, with their best 22 players still fit and healthy after another big contest. They should secure another four points this weekend when they take on the Hawks, who are probably still a little unsettled from the coaching transition announcement.
I dare say the Hawks aren’t going to get into any real rhythm for the rest of 2021, not that it really matters. In fact, with North Melbourne suddenly playing some good footy, the Hawks might be a chance to get the number one draft pick and really fast track their future development.
Melbourne have had their issues getting motivated against a bottom side, but I can’t see them dropping this one now that the business end of the year is approaching. I reckon they’ll win it by a pretty significant margin.
Betting tip: Melbourne (-43.5) @ $1.90 (UniBet)
St Kilda vs Port Adelaide
7:25pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
The Saints are on the march towards an unlikely finals berth, having won their past three games in convincing fashion. The most recent was the best of them, a 32-point upset of the Lions. They seem to have their 2020 confidence back, and that makes them a dangerous opponent, particularly for a team like Port Adelaide who just can’t afford to drop too many more games at this stage of the year.
The Power were, once again, hugely disappointing against another top four team last weekend, going down to Melbourne without ever being seriously competitive. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they suffered a few more injuries to key players. Zak Butters, in his return from a long-term knee issue, hurt the other knee, while Steven Motlop and Conor Rozee have also pulled up sore from that game and will miss this week. Those omissions make this a real danger game for Port, and I reckon they’re going to be in a bit of trouble. The Saints are playing with confidence, and their best players are all up and firing. The same can’t really be said for Port, except for maybe Travis Boak and Ollie Wines, so it’s hard to see where the spark comes from, particularly forward of centre. It should be a fairly close one, but I’m backing the Saints to take another big scalp and maybe even force themselves into the top eight.
Betting tip: St Kilda to win @ $1.96 (Sportsbet)
Sunday, July 18
North Melbourne vs Essendon
12:35pm AEST, Metricon Stadium
Another game to head north is the Sunday afternoon game between the Bombers and the Roos, and I reckon it might actually be a decent game of footy. North Melbourne proved on Monday night that they, without a shadow of a doubt, are a much improved football side compared to earlier on in the season. They have three wins and a draw this season; two wins and the draw have all come in the last five weeks. Their midfield unit is really quite strong, and they’ve got solid players at either end of the ground who are playing their role as best they can. They seem a well-drilled, disciplined team now, and I think that’ll stack up quite well against the Bombers.
Essendon are the opposite – not that they’re not well-drilled, but they play more free-wheeling, unpredictable footy, and they love to get the ball out into space to run and carry. If the Roos can force this into being a contested, high-pressure game then I reckon they’re a real chance of over-powering Essendon. The experienced bodies of Goldstein and Cunnington are incredibly difficult to stop when they’re up and running, and I expect the Bombers to have their hands full. That said, Essendon have probably been more consistent and been the slightly better side for the majority of the year, so I’m going to go with the Roos to simply cover the line. It should be an entertaining game of footy either way.
Betting tip: North Melbourne (+22.5) @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Collingwood vs Carlton
3:20pm AEST, MCG
The season is effectively over for these two clubs, but there’s still plenty on the line. Robert Harvey is trying to add his own twist on Collingwood’s playing style and audition for the permanent position, while David Teague is fighting for his own job, as are some of the Carlton players. That should mean there’s plenty of heat in this contest, but other than on that personal level, the result is fairly meaningless. Sam Walsh continues his brilliant season and it’s worth tuning in to watch him run around, but otherwise there’s really not much of interest to the impartial observer in this one.
The Pies have managed to improve their scoring a little over the past four or five weeks, but they’re still not kicking huge scores, while the Blues continue to frustrate their fans by not putting together four quarters of footy. I could easily see either side winning this one, but I’m going to stick with Carlton; I think their defence should be good enough to contain a vanilla Collingwood forward line and they’ll get enough of the ball to do some damage going the other way.
Betting tip: Carlton to win @ $1.87 (Bet365)
Adelaide vs West Coast
4:40pm AEST, Adelaide Oval
What a dire turn of events it’s been for West Coast over the past three weeks, just when things were starting to look rosy. They would have been excused for thinking they were on the up when Luke Shuey re-joined Tim Kelly and Elliott Yeo in the midfield, but things haven’t quite turned out the way they would have hoped. They were belted by the Dogs at home, then absolutely smashed by the Swans in Geelong, and to top it all off, on Monday night they lost to the bottom-placed team on their home ground. They’re still in the top eight, but unfortunately for the Eagles, premiership-calibre teams just don’t have that sort of horrid run. Not only are they now out of the running for top four, they’re just hanging onto the top eight and absolutely devoid of confidence.
The Crows haven’t had a great three week period either, but they’ll know they’re a red hot chance in this one if they apply some serious pressure from the first bounce. That’s what they noticed when they reviewed their loss to Essendon: yes, they failed to score, but it was their lack of pressure that stood out to the coaching group, so you can expect a big response in that area. Taylor Walker comes back into the team as does Tom Lynch, so it should be a much more dangerous Crows front half this week.
I keep expecting an Eagles response, but the longer it doesn’t come the more likely it is that they’re just going to struggle along for the rest of the year. I can really see Adelaide making them endure another week of pain, but I think it’ll be a close one.
Betting tip: Adelaide to win @ $2.17 (Sportsbet)
GWS Giants vs Sydney
6:10pm AEST, Metricon Stadium
Another game that has changed venue, not once but twice, the Giants and Swans clash on Saturday will now take place in Queensland, a much more pleasant environment weather-wise than it might have been down in beautiful Ballarat. It’s a big game for both clubs, so they’ll need to make sure their focus is on the contest rather than what else might be going on around them.
Sydney didn’t have any troubles with that last week when they outplayed the Dogs and caused yet another big upset, which now has them firmly entrenched in the top eight and perhaps even a sneaky chance of pushing for a top four position. The Giants, well their surprise loss to the Suns last weekend did their finals chances no good at all; instead of sitting in seventh place, they’re now tenth and looking like missing out. They’ve just been too inconsistent this year, and it’s going to cost them I’d think. The Swans have also had some ups and downs, but overall they’ve been a much better team, and I think their core of experienced players have been hugely important for them all year. I expect those same guys to stand up in this game and help the Swans bank another important four points, and ensure Sydney are one of the most dangerous teams set to finish outside of the top four.
Betting tip: Sydney to win @ $1.54 (Sportsbet)
Best Bets of the Round
St Kilda to win @ $1.96 (Sportsbet)