It’s all fun and games up until May.
If you’re an AFL punter, now’s the time to start considering those future bets and taking a serious look at the Brownlow market as we head towards the meat of the season.
For all 18 clubs, it’s also a vitally important time as far as the ladder is concerned. Injuries have struck hard, and several coaches are on the hot seat following disastrous starts to the season.
Here’s a look at Five Burning Questions ahead of Round 7:
1. Are the Blues Really an Upset Chance?
The Blues fought gallantly last week against the Hawks, and at one point, looked home and hosed for all money. You can never write off Hawthorn though, and while the Blues surrendered a six-goal half time lead to eventually lose by five, fans still have to be encouraged by the result.
Carlton opened as the favourites against North Melbourne this week, but have since drifted out to $2.10 following the loss of Mitch McGovern to a hamstring injury. The star forward joins a long list of casualties following the Tasmania trip, including Kade Simpson and Matthew Kreuzer.
It’s been a while in between drinks since the Blues took care of North Melbourne – four years to be exact. This should be a lively affair, but if the Blues choose to take the game on for a change – as opposed to last week’s laid back effort in the third quarter – they have plenty of Patrick Cripps led firepower to outmuscle a very uninspiring Kangaroos outfit.
2. Can the Yellow & Black Survive Without Jack?
Just when Richmond rediscovered some of their mojo, head coach Damien Hardwick was dealt another blow with the news of Jack Riewoldt’s PCL injury.
The good news is last year’s Coleman Medal winner has avoided surgery, but it leaves the Tigers’ forward line looking a little thin. There’s no doubt Hardwick has a plan in mind – and it probably involves Dustin Martin inside the forward line – but you can also expect to see plenty of aggression from Richmond’s half forward’s against the Dogs this week as they try and trap the ball inside 50.
3. Can the Lions End Their Decade Long Hoodoo?
Brisbane have two goals in mind this week: rejoin the Top 4, and snap their 10-year long hoodoo against the Swans.
The last time the Lions defeated Sydney was in 2009 at The Gabba, and as the odds suggest, it appears not even the bookies are giving the Swans a chance to snap their three-game losing streak.
Brisbane bounced back with a win of their own last week against the Suns to rejoin the eight. They’ll rest a little easier knowing Buddy Franklin won’t make the trip north, but the Lions still need to work on winning the first quarter, something they’ve accomplished only twice all year. Despite the Swans’ slow start, they still lead the league in rebound 50’s, so the Lions do need to be wary.
4. Is Tex Walker Back to His Best?
Having now won two straight, the general feeling is the Crows could be a sleeper.
Largely, it’s due to Tex Walker’s resurgence over the last fortnight. The 29-year-old booted three goals against the Suns and four against the Saints last week, and since we should see him lineup at full forward, Tex should enjoy a favourable match up against Fremantle’s Alex Pearce.
Career-wise, Tex has enjoyed playing against the Dockers. He owns 29 career goals against Fremantle, the fourth-most against any club he’s faced. A big part of his success relies on Adelaide’s ability to win the clearances, an area they’ve improved in over the last two weeks.
Both of these sides rank Top 10 in contested possession, but it’s been a big strength for the Dockers so far. Fortunately, Adelaide ranks third in disposals, making them a strong chance to control the midfield battle.
5. Who are the Brownlow Favourites?
Patrick Cripps leads the charge this year, and when you peak at his numbers, it’s no real surprise. Carlton’s co-captain has already cracked 30 disposals or more in four games to go along with 44 tackles – which by the way, ranks third in the competition.
Cripps is followed by Patrick Dangerfield, who currently leads the league in inside 50’s. Next up, it’s Brisbane quiet achiever Lachie Neale, the league leader in disposals.
Rounding out the Top 5 is Nat Fyfe and Stephen Coniglio. Here’s a look at all the odds:
- Patrick Cripps: $4.00
- Patrick Dangerfield: $5.00
- Lachie Neale: $6.00
- Nat Fyfe: $8.00
- Stephen Coniglio: $15.00