The following are previews with betting tips for Round 23 of the 2021 AFL season.
Friday, August 20
Western Bulldogs vs Port Adelaide
7:50pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
It’s season on the line for the Western Bulldogs on Friday night, after a horror fortnight has them clinging onto the top four spot they’ve held all year. Lose to Port in this one and all the Lions would have to do to take their spot is beat a depleted West Coast by at least a couple of goals. The Dogs will know it, and that might force some urgency back into their game. The problem at the moment is they are being dominated out of the centre clearances; the good news is they’ve got the personnel to fix it, but the hard part might be implementing the solution. Why is such a good midfield being beaten so easily? If Luke Beveridge can’t figure that out this week then his side will likely slide to fifth, and that would ultimately be the end of their premiership chances – I think it’s possible a team can win it from outside the top four, but the Dogs would be mentally shattered, having thrown away a top four finish they had almost penciled in.
So, will they be able to fix the issues against an in-form Port Adelaide? I can’t see why not. To me, it just looks like the Dogs aren’t working hard enough, and are playing in an overly confident manner, not paying their opposing midfield enough respect defensively. They’ll know what’s on the line this week, and should realise that ball watching and only playing an offensive game will see them beaten again. Port are a very good team right now and will have their eyes set on a potential top two finish, but I think the Dogs are going to find some form this week and that should see them able to hold off a dangerous Port Adelaide by a goal or two.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs to win @ $1.76 (BlueBet)
Saturday, August 21
Richmond vs Hawthorn
1:35pm AEST, MCG
If it wasn’t already completely closed, the door of Richmond’s dynasty was slammed shut by the Giants on Friday night in a surprisingly lopsided affair. The Tigers have had too many challenges this year to deal with, and at first glance they don’t appear likely to bounce back too rapidly. Sure, they’ll likely have better luck with injury next year and should be able to get Dustin Martin, Toby Nankervis, and Dion Prestia fit more often, but with David Astbury and Bachar Houli both retiring there are going to be some huge holes to fill in defence. I think they’re in trouble on Saturday afternoon as well, coming up against a red-hot Hawthorn in Alastair Clarkson’s final game as coach, and Shaun Burgoyne’s last game as a player.
Not only do the Hawks have plenty to play for, but they’re in sparkling form right now, having just beaten the Western Bulldogs with ease even without two of their best midfielders. If that form continues, which I expect it will, then the Hawks should have the Tigers covered in this one. I just don’t see Richmond having the same energy that the Hawks are sure to bring this weekend, and with so many key outs they basically don’t have a recognised midfielder save for Shai Bolton. It could be an ugly end to the year for the Tigers.
Betting tip: Hawthorn to win @ $1.38 (BlueBet)
Sydney vs Gold Coast
1:45pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
The Suns let themselves down again with a fairly ordinary display against the Bombers last weekend, and will now want to finish the season on a positive note with another long off-season awaiting. The Swans are merely waiting for their finals chance now, having been locked into a home elimination final. It has meant they’ve been able to rest a few sore bodies, but hopefully the soft draw running into the finals doesn’t mean they’ll be off the pace when they’re up against a top eight team. It’s a good chance that they’ll be playing the Giants in that final, and we know how much GWS like to play in a big game against their crosstown rival, so the Swans will need to be ready.
They’ll go through the motions this week and prepare as well as they can, and that should involve them putting their foot down against the Suns and recording a really significant victory. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t at least a 10 goal win for the Swans.
Betting tip: Sydney (-30.5) @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Brisbane vs West Coast
4:35pm AEST, The Gabba
This is one of the Round 23 games that will shape the top eight, but it’s perhaps the least exciting of the lot. The Lions are looking strong after steamrolling the Dockers and the Pies, while West Coast continue to struggle and look nowhere near the level required to play finals footy. To do so from here, they would need to beat Brisbane this week – an unlikely result on its own – and then hope that either GWS lose to Carlton or Essendon lose to Collingwood. So it’s not looking great for West Coast, but they’ve only got their own inexplicable form slump to blame. They’ve been a shadow of their former selves for the second half of the year, and it’s going to cost them.
Injuries have hurt, of course, and they’ve got a host of key players out again this week. I think that will make it almost impossible for them to overcome a Brisbane team gunning for a top four finish. That opportunity looked dead and buried a few weeks back, but a two-week slump by the Dogs has opened the door. If the Dogs win on Friday night, then this becomes a dead rubber for Brisbane, but a Dogs loss catapults this into being the most important game of their season. They’d need to make up a little percentage as well, but nothing that a five or six goal win wouldn’t cover. It’ll be interesting if that’s the case, and I think it impacts the result. If Brisbane have nothing to play for, they might only win by a couple of goals; but if they need the win and percentage, they should be able to power away from the Eagles and win by seven or eight goals.
Betting tip: Brisbane (-36.5) @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Geelong vs Melbourne
7:25pm AEST, GMHBA Stadium
The most exciting game of the round comes on Saturday night when the Cats host Melbourne, a preview of a matchup we will surely see sometime in September, perhaps on Grand Final day. There’s not a heap at stake here – the winner will finish on top, while the loser will finish second or third – but you would expect both teams to be up for the fight this close to finals. The Cats are always hard to beat in Geelong, but the Demons are more than capable. They are back to their very best, Melbourne, and I think they’ll make it difficult for Geelong to score. It might be the other end of the ground that is most interesting, though, now that Tom Stewart is out of the team. Will that allow the Melbourne forward line more opportunities to score than they would have previously gotten? And will it allow Melbourne to stifle Geelong coming out of defence?
It’ll be interesting to see how they match-up so close to finals; I think the intent will be there, but don’t be surprised if the coaches hold something back. It’ll be a great game of footy that could easily fall either way, but I’m sticking with the form side in Melbourne. The Dees match-up pretty well against the Cats and I think they’ll get the job done again here.
Betting tip: Melbourne to win @ $1.95 (BlueBet)
Carlton vs GWS Giants
7:40pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
Well, Carlton let down one retiring champion last week; will they do it again this weekend? If David Teague has anything left in his kit-bag, now is the time to pull it out. He’s in a dire situation, but more important than his individual position is making sure the Blues show some effort this week and farewell Eddie Betts in style. This year hasn’t gone to plan for him or the footy club, but they’ve got one last opportunity on Saturday evening to give Carlton fans something to smile about. They’ll be up against a strong GWS outfit though, and the Giants are gearing up for finals.
All GWS have to do is beat the Blues in this one and they’ll be locked in, so the equation is fairly simple. And after beating Geelong and Richmond over the past two weeks, you’d think that Carlton won’t pose too many issues. The emotion of Betts’s last game may make things tricky, but the Giants should still be able to wear them down over the course of the four quarters. They seem to be getting closer to their best 22 at the right time of the year, so it’ll be interesting to see how they go in an elimination final if they get over the line here. I reckon they’ll be a dangerous opponent first week up in a knockout game.
Betting tip: GWS (-21.5) @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Sunday, August 22
St Kilda vs Fremantle
12:15pm AEST, Venue TBC
St Kilda’s season is officially over after succumbing to the Cats last Saturday, but the Dockers are still alive. They obviously need to beat the Saints, and then hope that one of Essendon or GWS stumble (taking for granted the Eagles don’t beat Brisbane) . That’s definitely not out of the question, though probably unlikely. I reckon they might struggle to get over the Saints anyway; St Kilda haven’t had the best season, but at their best they’re still a good footy side and they have had a strong two weeks against Sydney and Geelong.
I also think that sometimes Fremantle struggle to piece wins together, being a relatively young side, and the travel to Tasmania might just do them in. Max King missing for the Saints does change things a little, but they’ve brought Paul Hunter back in which should allow Rowan Marshall to rest forward and provide another tall option. That might give the Dockers a bit of a sniff, and while it should be a good game of footy I still like the Saints in this one.
Betting tip: St Kilda to win @ $1.70 (BlueBet)
Essendon vs Collingwood
3:20pm AEST, MCG
A Round 23 Sunday afternoon would-be blockbuster provides the perfect opportunity for Essendon to cement their position in the top eight, or for arch-rival Collingwood to spoil the party. The Bombers are clearly the better team right now and are finishing the season off really strongly, so it’d be a surprise to see Collingwood challenge them significantly. Essendon seem to have gotten their midfield mix right, with a host of players now capable of moving through the centre and doing plenty of damage going forward.
It’ll be fascinating to see how the Pies try to contain that area of the ground, and whether some of their youngsters can stand up and challenge the more experienced Bombers. And, if Essendon can manage to get the four points and secure their passage into the finals, then it’ll become a matter of whether they can finally break their long, long stretch of not having won a final. But that’s for next week. Bombers by four or five goals here.
Betting tip: Essendon to win @ $1.28 (Sportsbet)
Adelaide vs North Melbourne
4:40pm AEST, Adelaide Oval
The round ends with a dead rubber between 17th and 18th, and with the Kangaroos already locked into bottom spot there’s really not much relying on the result of this one. If the Crows win they probably jump above Collingwood and potentially the Suns as well, so perhaps they might not have a huge desire to win this and devalue their draft hand. But they are also playing at the Adelaide Oval one last time in front of their fans and after a really difficult fortnight for the club a win might be just what they need.
North are a proud side and will give them a challenge, but they’ve probably fallen away a little over the last three weeks. Ben Cunnington missing changes their complexion immensely, and he’s probably been the difference in a few of their wins this season. They find it difficult to cover him, and fair enough, but they’re probably good enough to give the Crows a scare this week without him. That said, I do think Adelaide need to finish the season off on a positive note – despite the draft impact it may have – and I think they’ll do enough to get the four points in the final home and away game of season 2021.
Betting tip: Adelaide to win @ $1.95 (BlueBet)
Best Bets of the Round
St Kilda to win @ $1.70 (BlueBet)