The following are previews with betting tips for the semi-finals of the 2021 AFL season.
Friday, September 3
Geelong vs GWS Giants
7:50pm AEST, Optus Stadium
The Cats were once again unable to bring their best footy to the opening week of the AFL finals. It’s been a disappointing trend for a club as strong and proud as Geelong, but they know they are still a chance: last year they lost the exact same fixture to Port Adelaide, and bounced back to win comfortably in their next two games to qualify for the grand final. It may be considerably harder this year, with a red-hot Demons team awaiting the winner of this game, but the task this week has been made easier with the suspension of GWS star forward Toby Greene. Greene can’t seem to help himself sometimes, and he’s regularly on the sidelines when his team needs him. It’s going to make GWS’s assignment much more difficult against the Cats, despite the good form they’ve built up over the last month. They were exceptional for the majority of the game against the Swans; even in the last quarter when they tired and the Swans were coming at them, they managed to do enough to hold on. A bit of that was luck of course, with Sydney missing multiple shots on goal, but it was also partly down to GWS’s grit and determination. Jesse Hogan provided a great option up forward, and he will no doubt give the Cats defence something to think about in this one.
The Cats have made a few changes to their team, dropping Luke Dahlhaus, Sam Simpson, and Shaun Higgins, and bringing in Zach Tuohy, Esava Ratugolea, and Max Holmes. I quite like those changes and think the Cats will be a stronger team for it; Dahlhaus has been average for a while now, and Ratugolea gives them a little more flexibility with their structure. Unfortunately for the Giants, not only have they lost Toby Greene but Tom Green is also out with an arm injury. He’s a great young midfielder and while that is one area they can probably afford to cover, a lesser player comes in to replace him. The Giants need all the help they can get this week if they’re to overcome the Cats, and I just don’t see it happening the way things stand. They’ve been brave in the back half of this season, but I think it’s going to come to end this weekend against a Cats team who will be absolutely desperate to keep their season alive.
Betting tip: Geelong to win @ $1.36 (PlayUp)
Saturday, September 4
Brisbane vs Western Bulldogs
7:20pm AEST, Gabba
This is going to be a really fascinating game of finals footy. The Dogs may have finally re-discovered their mojo in the second half against the Bombers on Sunday, and if that’s the case and they manage to continue that form into this weekend, then they’re good enough to take it right up to Brisbane. The Lions were incredibly disappointing in their qualifying final loss to the Demons, and to make matters worse, they lost key forward Dan McStay to concussion, a man who is very important for their structure forward of the ball. Judging by their changes — bringing Jack Payne in to replace him — and Chris Fagan’s strong preference to stick with a three-pronged forward line, the Lions seem likely to throw Payne back and move one of their key defenders, perhaps Marcus Adams, to the forward line. That’s a big risk in such an important game, but they don’t have too many alternatives if they want to keep their structure.
All of that makes it very difficult to predict a winner in this one. The Lions have the significant home ground advantage, as well as having had a slightly longer break between games. But as I’ve mentioned, their key forward depth is as weak as it has been all year, and they also seem to have some defenders — namely Harris Andrews and Darcy Gardiner — who don’t look fully fit. The Dogs, on the other hand, are travelling up to Brisbane after a tough slog in wet conditions against the Bombers last Sunday. They’ll be staying in hotel quarantine for most of the day of the game, and there is still a major question mark on their form. Was a strong finish to Sunday’s game a sign they’ve turned the corner? Or was it just that the Bombers tired and allowed the Dogs an easy kill?
I think the answer to that question will decide this game: if the Dogs are back to somewhere near their best, I think they’ll upset the weakened Lions here. But if not and they still struggle to win the clearances, then the Lions will do them in: despite the key forward issues, they’ve still got a host of dangerous medium and small forwards to cause damage should they be given enough opportunity. So, what will it be? I expect it’ll go down to the wire, but I’m thinking the Dogs might just do enough to cover the Lions and book a date next weekend with Port Adelaide.
Betting tip: Western Bulldogs to win @ $2.32 (WinnersBet)
Best Bets of the Round
Western Bulldogs to win @ $2.32 (WinnersBet)