2018 AFL Season Preview

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The start of the 2018 AFL season is now just over a week away and we are set for one of the most open editions of the competition in recent memory.

It is the Adelaide Crows that are currently on top of our betting market, but there are an incredible six sides at single-figure odds and a host of genuine Premiership contenders.

We have closely analysed all 18 sides in the AFL and our pre-season futures betting tips can be found below!

Adelaide Crows

2017 Finish: 1st (Lost Grand Final)

2018 Predicted Finish: Premiers

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 17-8

Home: 10-4

Away: 7-4

Against The Line

Overall: 16-9

Home: 10-4

Away: 6-5

Premiership Odds: $5

The Adelaide Crows were only narrowly denied their first Premiership since 1998 last season and they are every possible chance of going one better in 2018.

The Crows midfield developed into one of the best in the competition last season – Matt Crouch was nothing short of outstanding – and the acquisition of Bryce Gibbs gives them another star in a midfield group that is packed full of quality.

Jake Lever’s move to Melbourne does leave them a touch vulnerable at the back and that is the big challenge for coach Don Pyke, but it is still tough not to see Adelaide in the premiership mix once again.

They look close to a lock for a top four finish and they are a list that now has plenty of finals experience.

Back Adelaide Crows To Win The Premiership @ $5

Brisbane Lions

2017 Finish: 18th

2018 Predicted Finish: 16th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 5-17

Home: 3-8

Away: 2-9

Against The Line

Overall: 13-9

Home: 4-7

Away: 9-2

Premiership Odds: $151

There is a sense of optimism at the Brisbane Lions for the first time in a several seasons.

The Lions may have finished on the bottom of the ladder last season, but there were still plenty of positives to take from their campaign and there is no doubt that coach Chris Fagan has them heading in the right direction.

The signing of Luke Hodge is huge for a club that has lacked strong leaders in recent seasons and his inclusion will definitely help a backline that conceded more points than any other last season.

Their climb up the ladder won’t be rapid and they aren’t genuine finals contenders, but they should be able to avoid the wooden spoon.

No Bet

Carlton

2017 Finish: 16th

2018 Predicted Finish: 15th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 6-16

Home: 4-7

Away: 2-9

Against The Line

Overall: 13-9

Home: 7-4

Away: 6-5

Premiership Odds: $101

Carlton are a list that is light-on for quality and the fact they have lost Sam Docherty for the season is a particularly cruel blow.

Carlton showed some positive signs last season, but kicking goals continues to be an issue for the club and they simply do not have enough contributors in their forward line.

Brendon Bolton is a good coach and he instilled some toughness in the side, but you simply can’t ignore the fact that this list not only lacks elite talent but also doesn’t have a great deal of depth.

If Matthew Kreuzer or Patrick Cripps go down with an injury, the Blues will be genuine wooden spoon contenders.

No Bet

Collingwood

2017 Finish: 13th

2018 Predicted Finish: 13th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 9-13

Home: 4-7

Away: 5-6

Against The Line

Overall: 13-9

Home: 7-4

Away: 6-5

Premiership Odds: $34

Collingwood are a club that are stuck in no man’s land – they don’t look like genuine finals contenders, but they still haven’t completely bottomed out.

You would have said the exact same thing about Richmond 12 months ago and there has been murmurings of Collingwood ‘doing a Tigers’, but I can’t see it.

Collingwood still have one of the better midfield groups in the competition and that will ensure that they win their share of games, but they have big issues both up front and at the back.

Jamie Elliot is their only real goal-kicking threat and if he were to go down with an injury, it is very tough to see where the Magpies goals will come from.

The Magpies will continue to tread water this season and the pressure will be on Nathan Buckley once again.

Back Collingwood To Miss The Top 8 @ $1.72

Essendon

2017 Finish: 7th (Lost Qualifying Final)

2018 Predicted Finish: 6th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 12-11

Home: 8-3

Away: 4-8

Against The Line

Overall: 15-1-11

Home: 6-1-6

Away: 9-5

Premiership Odds: $15

Essendon returned to finals football last season and they are a club that can take another step-forward in 2018.

The Bombers were one of the most active clubs during the trade period and Jake Stringer, Devon Smith and especially Adam Saad will all add something to this Bombers list that now looks much more balanced than it did 12 months ago.

Consistency was an issue for Essendon last year and the gap between their worst football and their best was far too large, but they do have an upside that a number of other clubs expected to finish in a similar range do lack.

If both Joe Daniher and Cale Hooker can improve their goal-kicking, they can develop into one of the most dangerous forward duos in the competition and that could decide whether they are capable of taking that next step.

It will likely be another year or two before Essendon can join the elite of competition, but we have seen in recent years that teams are capable of improving quickly in the modern-day competition and they do represent a touch of value at their current price.

Back Essendon To Win The Premiership @ $15

Fremantle

2017 Finish: 14th

2018 Predicted Finish: 18th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 8-14

Home: 4-7

Away: 4-7

Against The Line

Overall: 11-11

Home: 5-6

Away: 6-5

Premiership Odds: $67

A couple of big wins early in the season overshadowed the fact that Fremantle were very poor in the second half of the season and there are plenty of concerns heading into 2018.

The Dockers are another side that struggled to score goals last season and their forward line is the worst in the competition – it is no surprise that the club has been strongly linked to both Jesse Hogan and Tom Lynch.

Nathan Fyfe remains the only elite player on their roster and he has had his injury issues in recent seasons as has Aaron Sandilands, while it could take a while for their new recruits to settle.

I don’t think that Fremantle are as far into their rebuilding process as the market suggests and they could be in the wooden spoon mix if Fyfe suffers another injury.

Back Fremantle For Most Losses @ $9

Geelong

2017 Finish: 2nd (Lost Preliminary Final)

2018 Predicted Finish: 4th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 16-9

Home: 10-3

Away: 6-6

Against The Line

Overall: 12-13

Home: 6-7

Away: 6-6

Premiership Odds: $8

Gary Ablett is back and confidence is sky-high at Geelong.

Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood are obviously the most talented midfield trio in the competition and if they all remain fit there is no doubt that the Cats will be in the premiership mix.

The strength of the midfield does overshadow the fact that the Cats do lack depth in both their forward line and in their defence – the defence in particular does look very thin following the loss of both Andrew Mackie and Tom Lonergan.

Geelong should win enough games to finish in the top four once again, but I’m still not sure that they have the overall quality to get through the preliminary final speed-bump that has ended their season in back-to-back years.

Back Geelong To Win Top 4 @ $2.50

Gold Coast Suns

2017 Finish: 17th

2018 Predicted Finish: 14th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 6-16

Home: 4-7

Away: 2-9

Against The Line

Overall: 9-16

Home: 4-8

Away: 5-8

Premiership Odds: $251

The big story at the Gold Coast this season will be the future of Tom Lynch and that speculation is likely to overshadow whatever they are able to achieve on the park in 2018.

Rodney Eade was simply the wrong choice for the Gold Coast and Stuart Dew does look like a much better fit, but it is still very tough to know what to make of this football club that continues to struggle for an identity.

The Suns have lost plenty of experience in recent seasons and they are another club that relies heavily on a couple of elite players – if Lynch or Steven May miss any significant time the Suns will badly struggle.

I don’t think that they will be as bad as they were last season and they can avoid the wooden spoon, but a maiden finals berth still seems a long way off.

No Bet

Greater Western Sydney

2017 Finish: 4th (Lost Preliminary Final)

2018 Predicted Finish: 8th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 15-10

Home: 10-2

Away: 5-8

Against The Line

Overall: 9-16

Home: 4-8

Away: 5-8

Premiership Odds: $7.50

The predicted dynasty has not come to fruition for Greater Western Sydney – is this the year they finally deliver on their potential or will they drop back to the pack?

There is a case to be made that the Giants were lucky to finish in the top four last season as they won a number of close games and they were then found badly wanting by both Adelaide and Richmond in the finals.

They have lost a number of key players in the form of Shane Mumford, Devon Smith and Nathan Wilson and they haven’t add much quality to their list during the off-season.

A top four finish is no longer a guarantee for the Giants and they will need to improve their record against the weaker sides in the competition this season as they simply can’t afford to drop games in what will be a very crowded battle for positions in the top four.

It would not surprise to see the Giants take a slight step backwards this season and I can’t get them as short as their current odds in premiership betting.

No Bet

Hawthorn

2017 Finish: 12th

2018 Predicted Finish: 11th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 10-12

Home: 6-5

Away: 4-7

Against The Line

Overall: 11-11

Home: 6-5

Away: 5-6

Premiership Odds: $23

Hawthorn are one of the toughest sides to analyse ahead of the 2018 AFL season.

The wheels fell off for Hawthorn in a big way last season, but this is a club that still has plenty of quality on their list and Alastair Clarkson is the best coach of the modern era.

The Hawks did play some excellent football at the end of last season – they beat both Adelaide and Sydney – and if they can play at that level for the entire season they will be in the finals mix.

Their midfield can be brilliant on their day, but they do lack depth and they are missing that overall toughness that was offered by the likes of Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell.

Hawthorn really could go either way this season and they will be one of the most interesting sides to follow from a betting perspective this season.

No Bet

Melbourne

2017 Finish: 9th

2018 Predicted Finish: 5th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 12-10

Home: 6-5

Away: 6-5

Against The Line

Overall: 8-14

Home: 3-8

Away: 5-6

Premiership Odds: $10

2017 could not have ended in a crueller fashion for the Melbourne Football Club, but they can make their long awaited return to the finals in 2018.

There is no doubt that Melbourne should have played finals last season – they had a very poor record in close games and if they win just one of those contests they would have finished comfortably inside the top eight.

Mental fragility is the only thing that can cost Melbourne a finals berth as they do have one of the strongest lists in the competition.

There is an argument to be made that they have the best young midfield group in the competition, Max Gawn is a truly elite ruckmen and they add Jake Lever to a backline that already had plenty oif talent.

Jesse Hogan had plenty of excuses for his slightly off-season in 2017 and the fact that he is set to play an entire season is a huge boost for Melbourne.

Melbourne take on Geelong in round 1, but after that their draw is very soft and they really should be encased in the top eight for the entire season.

It is now or never for Melbourne and I’m banking on them making a serious run this season.

Back Melbourne To Finish In The Top 8 @ $1.70

North Melbourne

2017 Finish: 15th

2018 Predicted Finish: 17th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 6-16

Home: 3-8

Away: 3-8

Against The Line

Overall: 9-13

Home: 3-8

Away: 6-5

Premiership Odds: $151

North Melbourne are another side that are set to be in the battle for the wooden spoon and it is tough to have any real optimism about them this season.

The Kangaroos did play some entertaining football at times last season and they were good to watch, but they didn’t really translate to wins and it will likely be very similar in 2017.

Their midfield is probably the weakest in the competition – they lack pace in a big way – and their defence is a worrying mix of veterans barely hanging on and young players that aren’t yet ready to take the next step.

Todd Goldstein was poor last season and the Kangaroos desperately need him to rediscover his best form as ruck is another area where they don’t have a great deal of depth.

Ben Brown is a star in the making and ensures that North Melbourne can be competitive, but the overall quality just isn’t there to make a serious climb up the ladder.

No Bet

Port Adelaide

2017 Finish: 5th (Lost Qualifying Final)

2018 Predicted Finish: 3rd

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 14-9

Home: 8-4

Away: 6-5

Against The Line

Overall: 13-10

Home: 6-6

Away: 7-4

Premiership Odds: $9

Port Adelaide went on a massive recruiting spree during the off-season and it is clear that the club believe their premiership window is well and truly open.

There is an argument to be made that Port Adelaide were flat-track bullies last season – they were excellent against the weaker sides in the competition, but went only 2-9 against other sides in the top eight.

They obviously need to improve that record if they are going to be serious contenders this season and I think that they are capable of doing just that.

Tom Rockliff has his issues at Brisbane last season, but at his best he is an elite midfield and the addition of him and Steven Motlop takes the pressure off Robbie Gray, who will have more opportunities to spend time in the forward line.

The pieces are all there for Port Adelaide – there are no obvious weaknesses on this list – and if they are able to approve their goalkicking as well as their composure in big games they will be in the top four mix.

Port Adelaide To Finish Top 4 @ $2.75

Richmond

2017 Finish: Premiers

2018 Predicted Finish: 2nd

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 18-7

Home: 10-2

Away: 8-5

Against The Line

Overall: 19-6

Home: 9-3

Away: 10-3

Premiership Odds: $8

A lot has changed at Richmond in the past 12 months.

The premiership drought is finally and the Tigers are a genuine chance of winning back-to-back flags.

You don’t want to read too much into JLT Cup form, but the way that Richmond has performed in the pre-season suggests that there is no premiership hangover and it should not be forgotten how dominant the Tigers were in the finals last year.

The Tigers were not just a team that got hot at the right time of the season – like the Bulldogs 12 months earlier – they were one of the best teams in the competition all season long and with a bit of luck would have challenged Adelaide for the minor premiership.

Richmond will likely need some luck with injuries to be in the premiership mix again – if Jack Riewoldt or Alex Rance went down with a long-term injury they would be in serious trouble – but if they remain fit there is no reason that Tiger Time can’t continue for another season!

Back Richmond To Win The Premiership @ $7.50

St Kilda

2017 Finish: 11th

2018 Predicted Finish: 12th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 17-10

Home: 10-3

Away: 7-7

Against The Line

Overall: 9-13

Home: 4-7

Away: 5-6

Premiership Odds: $34

It is hard to know what to make of St Kilda.

They played some excellent football at times last season – their win over Richmond was particularly impressive – but they fell off a cliff in the final month of the competition.

The Saints lack star power right across the park and that is even more of an issue this season following the retirements of Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna.

St Kilda were surprisingly quiet during the trade period and they really have added much quality to a list that really was found wanting when the whips were cracking last season.

This is still a very green list that can be extremely wasteful with the football and unlike a number of teams that finished in a similar position on the ladder last season I don’t think that they have done enough to improve during the off-season.

The finals drought will continue for St Kilda.

No Bet

Sydney

2017 Finish: 6th (Lost Semi-Final)

2018 Predicted Finish: 7th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 15-9

Home: 8-4

Away: 7-5

Against The Line

Overall: 14-10

Home: 7-5

Away: 7-5

Premiership Odds: $6.50

2017 was a rollercoaster ride for the Sydney Swans.

They started the season 0-6 and it looked as though their incredible run of success was over, but they bounced back in the second half of the year and looked like genuine premiership contenders before being flogged by Geelong in the second week of the finals.

There is every possible chance that Sydney will be slow out of the blocks once again – they play West Coast, Geelong, Port Adelaide, GWS and Adelaide in the first five weeks of the season.

If they can come through that opening stretch with three wins, they will be in a very solid position for the rest of the season and it would be tough for them to miss the finals from there.

Sydney do still have one of the most star-studded lists in the competition, but there is a genuine concern that they have now been ‘found out’ by their rivals and their reliance on Lance Franklin has only increased over the past 12 months.

I don’t see Sydney missing the top eight and they will look like a genuine contender at some point, but whether they can take the next step in the finals is a genuine question and they do look under the odds at their current price.

No Bet

West Coast Eagles

2017 Finish: 8th (Lost Semi Final)

2018 Predicted Finish: 10th

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 13-11

Home: 8-3

Away: 5-8

Against The Line

Overall: 11-13

Home: 5-6

Away: 6-7

Premiership Odds: $41

Their incredible final day win and their finals upset of Port Adelaide somewhat hid the fact that the West Coast Eagles were fairly inconsistent right across the season and  it could be even tougher for the side in 2018.

They have lost a pair of serious ball-winners in the form of Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell, while we are still unsure how many games star ruckmen Nic Naitanui will be able to play following his knee reconstruction.

West Coast now have one of the youngest midfields in the competition and that is the clear weakness for this side – a lack of proven ball winners could mean that their talented forward line simply doesn’t get enough footy.

Their defence remains a clear strength and they will ensure that they are not disgraced this season, but their midfield will get badly found out against the best teams in the competition and it would be a surprise if they finished in the top eight again.

No Bet

Western Bulldogs

2017 Finish: 10th

2018 Predicted Finish: 2nd

2017 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 11-11

Home: 7-4

Away: 4-7

Against The Line

Overall: 7-15

Home: 4-7

Away: 3-8

Premiership Odds: $23

Can the Western Bulldogs bounce back after a poor 2017 or will the premiership hangover linger for another season?

Kicking goals was a big issue for the Western Bulldogs last season and they were offensively one of the worst teams in the competition and there is a concern that their backline will not be able to compensate for that following the departure of Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd.

They have signed Josh Schache to try and alleviate their scoring woes, but the jury is still out over whether he will be able to combine effectively with Tom Boyd – who went backwards last season after his staring roll in the 2016 AFL Grand Final.

The Boyd/Schache combination will need to fire if the Bulldogs are any chance of becoming premierships contenders once again, but I am happy to take them on at their current price.

No Bet