The 2015 AFL season is finally here after one of the longest off-seasons in the history of the competition and round 1 is packed full of quality match-ups.
It is a tough week for AFL punters and tipsters as there are plenty of matches between teams that are very evenly matched, but we have closely analysed all nine games this weekend to find the best betting plays.
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Carlton Blues vs Richmond Tigers
Thursday, April 2 – 7:25pm AEDT – MCG
The clash between the Carlton Blues and Richmond Tigers has become the traditional opener to the AFL season and these sides have been involved in a number of nail-biters in recent years. Carlton were incredible mediocre throughout the 2014 AFL season and while they have played some fair football during the NAB Challenge it is tough to see them playing finals football in 2015. The gap between Richmond’s best and worst football may be the biggest in the entire AFL, but at their best they have a superior list to Carlton. This will be another close encounter between these two sides, but the Tigers should prove too strong in the final stages and start their season on a winning note.
Melbourne Demons vs Gold Coast Suns
Saturday, April 4 – 1:40pm AEDT – MCG
This is a massive game for both sides that many experts predict can climb up the ladder in 2015. The Melbourne Demons did play well at times under Paul Roos in 2014, but the coach was not the miracle worker that Demons fans expected him to be and they were still extremely lackluster for the majority of the year. The Suns season came off the rails when Gary Ablett suffered a season-ending injury, but Ablett is back for this round one clash and will likely prove the difference between the two teams. If the Suns are serious about playing finals football for the first time they can’t afford to drop games like this one and I expect to make a statement against the Demons in round 1.
Sydney Swans vs Essendon Bombers
Saturday, April 4 – 4:35pm AEDT – ANZ Stadium
No matter what the result is at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, the Essendon Bombers players will simply be thrilled that they will be on the field after they were declared not guilty at the AFL anti-doping tribunal on Tuesday afternoon. Having said that, the Bombers face a very tough assignment against the Swans in round 1, especially as the majority of the team have not played in any NAB Challenge games and are well short of a run. The Swans have won their past four games against the Bombers in fairly convincing fashion and it is tough to see them faltering in the opening round like they did last year against the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
Brisbane Lions vs Collingwood Magpies
Saturday, April 4 – 7:20pm AEDT – The Gabba
This is one of the most interesting games of the opening round of the season as former Collingwood star Dayne Beams will be making his debut for the Brisbane Lions. There is never any love lost between these two teams after they met in two grand finals just over the decade ago and the presence of Beams will only add extra spice to this game. The Lions found some form at the tail end of 2014 and fans are confident that they are in for a big year in 2015, while Magpies supports are extremely pessimistic about their sides chances this year. This is the toughest game of the weekend to predict and it would not surprise if either of these teams came out and ran over the top of their opposition.
Western Bulldogs vs West Coast Eagles
Saturday, April 4 – 7:20pm AEDT – Etihad Stadium
The West Coast Eagles have had one of the worst off-seasons of any team in the competition and have lost key defender Eric Mackenzie to a season-ending injury, while they will be without the retired duo of Darren Glass and Beau Waters. The Western Bulldogs have had an equally disappointing pre-season and the list already low on talent is now without Ryan Griffen and Adam Cooney. I expect both of these sides to struggle in 2015, but the West Coast Eagles have won four of their last five meetings with the Western Bulldogs and I expect their midfield to prove too strong for their opposition again this weekend.
St Kilda Saints vs Greater Western Sydney Giants
Sunday, April 5 – 2:10pm AEDT – Etihad Stadium
This is another game that could go either way and is a key game for these two sides that will not be heading into 2015 with a great deal of confidence. The Giants have recruited well in the off-season and the addition of Ryan Griffen and Joel Patfull adds some genuine quality and hardness to the young side. St Kilda are well and truly in the midst of a transitional period, but they still have some very talented players on their list and their chances will be increased significantly if Nick Reiwoldt is cleared to play. This is the year for the Greater Western Sydney Giants to stand up and be counted and they have a great chance to start their season with a win against the Saints.
Adelaide Crows vs North Melbourne Kangaroos
Sunday, April 5 – 4:20pm AEDT – Adelaide Oval
There has been very little between these two sides in their recent meetings and that trend is likely to continue in 2015. The Crows underachieved significantly in 2014, but they have a new coach this season and they have looked very good in the pre-season. North Melbourne finally developed the ability to win close games last year and many experts believe that they can develop into a top four side in 2015. Adelaide may have been one of the form teams in the NAB Challenge and they do have home-field advantage, but I think that they have come up short at their current quote for this clash and I am more than happy to back North Melbourne at the juicy price of $2.20.
Fremantle Dockers vs Port Adelaide Power
Sunday, April 5 – 7:40pm AEDT – Pattersons Stadium
Port Adelaide eliminated Fremantle from the finals series in 2014 and both of these teams will be looking to stamp themselves as top four contenders this weekend. Port Adelaide were arguably the most exciting side in the entire AFL last season and they were able to bounce back from a flat end to the regular season to go fairly close to a Grand Final appearance. The Dockers were unable to replicate their feats of a year earlier, but under Ross Lyon they have developed into one of the most consistent sides in the competition. This is another game that could go either way, but Port Adelaide do offer a sprinkling of value at their current quote.
Hawthorn Hawks vs Geelong Cats
Monday, April 6 – 4:20pm AEDT – MCG
The Easter Monday clash between Hawthorn and Geelong has developed into one of the most anticipated games on the AFL calendar. The Hawks have ended the Kennett curse in recent seasons and beat the Cats on two occasions in 2014, but the Cats did win this fixture last year before their end of season fadeout. The premiership looks like it had closed on the Cats, but they have recruited aggressively in the offseason to try and stop their slide down the ladder. However, the Hawks are still the team to beat in 2015 and their midfield engine room, led by the likes of Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell, should prove too much for the Cats to deal with and they are a safe bet at their current quote.