The following are previews with betting tips for Round 20 of the 2021 AFL season.
Friday, July 30
St Kilda vs Carlton
7:50pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
Friday night sees the unlikely pairing of St Kilda and Carlton go head-to-head in a prime time position, and while it may not necessarily be earned, it’s nevertheless a game of huge consequence. The Blues were pitiful in their round 19 loss to North Melbourne, putting up no fight whatsoever in the second half to allow the Roos to run all over them. They could argue that they didn’t have much in the way of a forward half target, and they copped a few injuries throughout the game, but that doesn’t excuse the effort. It was a coach killing sort of performance, and David Teague is now under immense pressure just as the results of the external review are due to arrive. I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say his coaching career is on the line on Friday night, so we should find out how much the players want to keep him around.
The Saints, well, they’ve had a better second half to the season, but still haven’t managed to emulate the heights of 2020. They gave it their all against the Eagles last weekend but just came up short, and I think that just about rules them out of finals contention for this year. They’ll get a few important players back for this one on Friday night, but it’s all too little too late. It’ll also be fascinating to see Charlie Curnow run out for the Blues in his first game of footy in a few years, but I expect that might be the only shining light for Carlton in this one.
Betting tip: St Kilda to win @ $1.58 (Sportsbet)
Saturday, July 31
Western Bulldogs vs Adelaide
12:20pm AEST, Mars Stadium
The Dogs cemented their place in the top two with a hugely important win over the Demons last Saturday evening. They were undermanned, and despite being outplayed by the Dees in their previous encounter, found a way to turn the tables and record an impressive three goal victory. That they brought Josh Schache into the team to play as another key defender and Alex Keath happened to get injured was a stroke of good fortune, but Keath’s loss will be felt deeply over the next month. It remains to be seen whether Schache can hold down that role consistently, as impressive as he was, so the Dogs could potentially be vulnerable against someone like a Taylor Walker. If Schache can step up then the Dogs will have fortuitously plugged one of their biggest holes, but he’ll need to rely on his midfield stopping the ball coming in quickly.
The Crows snapped their losing streak with a nice win over the Hawks last weekend, and will be looking to put in another good showing here. It’s going to be incredibly difficult for them to match the Dogs in the middle of the ground, but they’ll fancy their chances when they get the ball into their attacking half. This will be the first time since early in the season we’ve seen the Dogs midfield back at something close to full strength with only Adam Treloar still unavailable, and I expect that’ll mean the Dogs win this one without too much stress.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs (-37.5) @ $1.90 (UniBet)
North Melbourne vs Geelong
1:15pm AEST, Blundstone Arena
The Cats are into outright premiership favouritism after another dominant performance, their second win over the reigning premiers for the year. It really does look like the Cats and the Dogs are the two best teams in it right now, but a lot can change in two months. The main thing about Geelong is that they are experienced, and they’ve built into this season nicely. They weren’t at their best in May but it didn’t matter; they’ve done enough to be currently sitting in second place and are seriously hitting their straps now that finals are approaching. That they’re doing it without Mitch Duncan and Jeremy Cameron is scary for the rest of the competition, but fortunately for the Roos neither of them will be back for this week’s game.
And North won’t give them an easy win. The Kangaroos have battled manfully for some time now, their most recent result against the Blues vindication of just how far they’ve come. Unfortunately Ben Cunnington will be out for some time, and Tarryn Thomas is set to miss this one after suffering from delayed concussion. Those guys are two of their very best players, and I’m not sure they’ll be able to match the Cats without them. They’ll still give it their all, but I suspect the Cats will be strong and should win by at least three or four goals.
Betting tip: Geelong (-32.5) @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Gold Coast vs Melbourne
3:10pm AEST, TBC
The Demons have lost their grasp on a top two spot after succumbing to the Dogs on Saturday night, having now recorded just one victory from their previous four games. It’s not a great run of form at this time of year for a premiership contender, but if they get things right after the next month it won’t impact them too heavily. The problem is that the Demons can’t score, and if they can’t rectify that issue then it won’t matter if they still manage to secure a top four finish – they’ll be found wanting in September. They’ve got different options to trial, but nothing seems to have worked for them so far. They’ll get another opportunity this week against the Suns, and it’s suddenly a must-win game for Melbourne.
The Suns will be looking to atone for a really disappointing second half against Brisbane last week. They were clearly the better team in the first half and looked like continuing their strong run of form, but only managed to kick the solitary goal after the main break. They’ll be disappointed they let it slip so badly and will be eager to do better this week, but I suspect they’ll struggle to score heavily against this Melbourne defence. It shouldn’t matter if the Demons only manage to kick 10 – 12 goals if they can restrict the Suns to significantly less.
Betting tip: Melbourne to win @ $1.22 (Bet365)
Collingwood vs West Coast
4:15pm AEST, MCG
The Eagles have just about solidified their place in the finals after two tough-fought wins in the past fortnight. They’re still not quite where they want to be, but they’re kept themselves in the hunt and are almost certain to play finals footy now. The problem is that they’re going to be in an away elimination final against a very good team, and unless they improve drastically over the next four weeks they’re set to be eliminated immediately. They’ll have a chance to test their travelling ability this week when they head to the MCG to take on the Pies, who are even more injury depleted now that skipper Scott Pendlebury is out for the remainder of the year with a broken leg.
It obviously hasn’t gone to plan for the Pies in 2021, but there’s plenty to look forward to. The main immediate danger they’ll want to avoid is making their 2020 trade period look even worse; if they win the wooden spoon they will have traded away the number one pick and will have missed out on drafting Nick Daicos along with another young gun. To avoid that they need to win another game or two in the run home, though I suspect it might not come this week against an improving West Coast outfit.
Betting tip: West Coast to win @ $1.68 (Bet365)
Essendon vs Sydney
7:40pm AEST, The Gabba
This is one of the more interesting games of the round, the Saturday night clash between Essendon and the Swans. The Bombers did themselves no favours last weekend by losing to the Giants in a very important game for their finals hopes, but they’re still alive and a win here could help push them back into the eight. It’ll have to come at the expense of the in-form Swans however, and that’s not going to be easy.
Sydney are quite clearly travelling as well as anyone in the competition right now, and have proven their ability to rectify things mid-game and outlast their opponent. They had a bit of luck at the tribunal during the week with Lance Franklin getting off his suspension, and he’ll no doubt cause the Essendon defence some trouble. But despite the form of the Swans, the recent history between these two teams has been full of extremely tight results. Everything at present says the Swans should win by a decent margin, but it’s hard to imagine a blow-out in a game between the two clubs. I reckon it’ll be a close one, but the Swans are the better team at this point in time and that should show come the final siren.
Betting tip: Sydney to win @ $1.38 (Bet365)
Sunday, August 1
Hawthorn vs Brisbane
2:10pm AEST, UTAS Stadium
The Lions gave their supporters a real fright in the first half against the Suns last weekend before kicking into gear after the main break and showing their premiership credentials. It wasn’t a thoroughly convincingly performance, but it’s kept them in touch with the top four and that’s all they can hope for right now. They’ve got another bottom team this week in the Hawks, but travelling down to Tasmania will make it slightly tricky.
The Hawks seem to be much harder to beat down there, and despite their troubles against the Crows last week they’re still a very well drilled team and will come out with a plan to nullify Brisbane. The Lions will be happy simply to take home the four points, but I think they’ll also be looking to improve on their forward half and see what their best combination is in the run home so that they’re able to attack the first week of finals confident in their slightly makeshift forward line. Not sure it’ll be a great game of footy, but the Lions should get the win.
Betting tip: Brisbane (-28.5) @ $1.91 (Bet365)
GWS Giants vs Port Adelaide
3:10pm AEST, TBC
This is a massive game in the context of this season, and while Port are favourites to get the four points, there are absolutely no guarantees. The Giants topsy-turvy season continues, but as we know, at their best they are very good. The Bombers found that out last week even though the Giants were undermanned, and they should get some reinforcements back this week, most notably stand-in skipper Toby Greene. When he’s playing GWS are always capable of winning, so Port will need to be on their game.
They were quite impressive last week without being great, the Power. It’s funny; their form-line doesn’t feel great, but they’ve won four of their last five and are sitting in fourth position on the ladder. There’s not much more they can do, other than to start beating fellow top teams. The Giants might not necessarily be a flag threat, but they’re currently a top eight team so it’s a good test for Ken Hinkley’s men. I expect their three young stars who all returned last week will be better for the run and that should mean they put in a performance this week that’s strong enough to withstand whatever the Giants throw at them, but I do think it’ll be a pretty tight contest throughout.
Betting tip: Port Adelaide to win @ $1.50 (Bet365)
Fremantle vs Richmond
5:10pm AEST, Optus Stadium
The threat of Richmond storming home and making a late impact on the season was reduced last Sunday with their 38 point loss to the Cats, but it doesn’t mean they’re out of contention. They’ve now got a fairly simple run home, and if they can manage to string four wins together they’ll be very likely of playing in an elimination final. The problem for Richmond is that no game is simple for them in their current form, and they’re likely to find it quite difficult to overcome the Dockers in Perth this weekend.
Freo are themselves still in the hunt for a top eight finish, though they’ve had a bad two weeks and have now lost skipper Nat Fyfe for the rest of the year, as well as star forward Michael Walters. That makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to imagine the Dockers doing what’s required to play off in September. But they’re still usually pretty hard to beat at home, ignoring their capitulation to Geelong a few weeks ago, and I expect this should be a close finish. I find it quite hard to split the two teams over in Perth in their current forms, but I’m going to back the Tigers in to close in a final eight position.
Betting tip: Richmond to win @ $1.60 (Bet365)
Best Bets of the Round
St Kilda to win @ $1.58 (Sportsbet)