It has been another incredible season in the AFL and it will all culminate on Saturday when the West Coast Eagles take on Collingwood in the 2018 AFL Grand Final.
It is fair to say that the majority of experts did not expect either of these two teams to have qualified for this stage of the season, with Bruce McAvaney a notable exception, but these teams earnt their place in the Grand Final with a pair of outstanding Preliminary Finals performances.
Collingwood stamped themselves as the real deal with a stunning upset win over Richmond, while the West Coast Eagles were nothing short of outstanding against a shell-shocked Melbourne.
Will West Coast conquer the MCG and claim a fourth flag or will Collingwood deliver coach Nathan Buckley the Premiership that he missed out on as a player?
West Coast Eagles
Saturday 29 September, 2.30pm, MCG
It has been an AFL season full of surprises and that continued right up until the penultimate weekend of the season.
Not only did Collingwood end Richmond’s incredible winning streak at the MCG, but they did show in absolutely emphatic fashion.
Mason Cox and Steele Sidebottom received plenty of plaudits for their outstanding performances, rightfully so, but there was a single poor Magpie on the field and they outpointed Richmond in just about every metric.
The question for Collingwood is whether they can replicate that effort?
It is fair to say that there is little chance Cox is able to perform at the same level again.
West Coast were able to keep him very quiet when these two sides met a fortnight ago and Cox faces a huge challenge up against the likes of Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass.
That puts the pressure on Jordan De Goey and you have to think that he’ll need to have a huge game if the Magpies are going to win the flag.
Collingwood will go into this clash as favourites and that is definitely one position in which they have thrived this season.
The Magpies have won 14 of their past 15 games as the punter’s elect and they have covered the line in nine of these victories.
However, that one loss as favourites did come against West Coast and they were comprehensively beaten on that day.
West Coast did start their preliminary final clash with Melbourne as narrow favourites, but nobody expected them to be as good as they were on Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles flew out of the blocks and they never really slowed down.
Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling, Jack Redden and Shannon Hurn were all brilliant, but it has been the way that the ‘bottom six’ in the West Coast list have stepped up over the past month that has propelled them into another Grand Final.
If this game was being played at Optus Stadium, which most West Coast fans think that it should be, the Eagles would start this game as clear favourites.
The question is just how much does the home-field advantage benefit Collingwood?
The MCG hoodoo was definitely an issue for West Coast a few seasons ago and they were haunted by their Grand Final loss against Hawthorn in 2015, but they won both of their games at the MCG this season and their interstate form has been excellent.
One of those wins at the MCG was against Collingwood and West Coast have actually won five of the past seven games between the two sides, which includes a pair of victories at the MCG.
I really don’t think that there is much between these two sides and that makes the $2.30 available for a West Coast victory.
Back West Coast To Win @ $2.30
There is expected to be a little bit of rain in Melbourne on Saturday and the Total Points line has been set at 161.5 points.
Recent fixtures between these two sides have generally been high-scoring affairs and Over 161.5 points have been scored in four of their past five fixtures.
The start of finals football has not curbed the scoring prowess of West Coast and they put up 121 points against Melbourne last weekend, while Collingwood almost dropped 100 points on one of the best defensive sides in recent memory.
Recent Grand Finals have also tended to be relatively high-scoring affairs.
Over 161.5 Points have been scored in six of the past eight AFL Grand Finals and it would be something of a surprise if that trend did not continue on Saturday.
Back Over 161.5 Points
First Goal Kicker
Josh Kennedy ($8) is favourite in our First Goal Kicker betting market from Jordan De Goey ($9), Jack Darling ($10), Brody Mihocek ($13), Jaidyn Stephenson ($15), Jamie Cripps ($15), Josh Thomas ($15), Liam Ryan ($15), Mark Lecras ($15), Mason Cox ($15), Will Hoskin-Elliot ($15) and Willie Rioli ($15).
There is a reason that Kennedy is on top of betting.
He remains one of the best forwards in the competition and he was able to kick the first goal in the Preliminary Final demolition last weekend.
He does look like the safe betting option.
The value selection is Travis Varcoe.
Varcoe was nothing short of outstanding against Richmond last weekend and he can prove to be a very dangerous player going forward.
The $23 on offer for him to get the Magpies off to a flying start is outstanding value.
Back Josh Kennedy @ $8 & Travis Varcoe @ $23
Norm Smith Medal
Steele Sidebottom is on top of our 2018 Norm Smith Medal betting market at a quote of $7 from Adam Treloar ($9), Brodie Grundy ($9), Scott Pendlebury ($9) and Josh Kennedy ($10).
Sidebottom was the best player of the ground against Richmond last Friday night and he ran his rivals absolutely ragged in the midfield.
There are few better big-game players in the entire competition and he was Collingwood’s best when these two sides met in the first week of the finals.
Sidebottom is the type of player that is capable of winning a Norm Smith Medal without even playing in the winning side.
Elliot Yeo has developed into one of the best players in the AFL and the Grand Final is his chance to stamp himself as a genuine superstar on the big stage.
Yeo had 36 disposals against Collingwood three weeks ago before he was a touch on the quiet side against Melbourne last weekend.
He may be the most influential player in this West Coast side and is a good bet to win the Norm Smith Medal.
Back Steele Sidebottom @ 7 & Elliot Yeo @ $9
The match we have all been waiting for is finally here and there is going to be genuine scenes at the MCG on Saturday when Adelaide and Richmond do battle in the 2017 AFL Grand Final.
The headlines have absolutely been dominated by Richmond as they head into their first Grand Final since 1982, but it is Adelaide that will start this clash as clear favourites following their dominant win over Geelong last Friday night.
Will Richmond finally deliver their long-suffering fans another flag or will Adelaide do as the market expects and end the fairytale? We have analysed both teams and our complete 2017 AFL Grand Final tips can be found below.
Saturday 30 September, 2.30pm, MCG
We have been treated to arguably the most exciting AFL season in recent memory and it would be fitting if this Grand Final lived up to the hype.
Adelaide have been the most consistent side in the AFL all season long and they head into this Grand Final on the back of two fairly dominant performances against Greater Western Sydney and Geelong.
It is tough to find a weakness in this Crows outfit – they have so many players that are capable of kicking goals and their midfield has developed into one of the best units in the entire competition.
There is no doubt that it is very difficult to score points against Richmond, but Adelaide did it comfortably when they met earlier this season and it is very tough to keep all of the Crows forward weapons under wraps.
Winning away from home has not been an issue for Adelaide this season – they have won seven of their ten games as away favourites and they are 6-4 against the line in this scenario for a clear profit.
The turnaround of the Richmond Football Club in the past 12 months has been nothing short of extraordinary and they could cap off what has been a truly stunning season with their first Premiership win since 1980.
There was always a question about how Richmond would handle the pressure of expectation during the AFL Finals and there were times in their games against Geelong and Greater Western Sydney where the old Tigers would have found a way to implode, but the way they have put their rivals away in the final quarter has been most impressive.
The big challenge for Richmond will be restricting the scoring power of Adelaide and their defensive pressure will need to be nothing short of outstanding.
Trent Cotchin was the obvious elephant in the room for Richmond, but he has been controversially cleared by the Match Review Panel for his contact with Dylan Shiel and will take his place in the 2017 AFL Grand Final.
This is huge for Richmond on a number of levels – Cotchin has been enormous during the AFL Finals to date and we wouldn’t know what sort of affect Cotchin’s absence would have had on the mental state of his teammates.
Richmond have been particularly impressive at the MCG this season and their record as home underdogs is outstanding – they have won three of their past four games in this scenario for a massive profit.
The market does look to have got this clash just about right, but there is a betting play that I am very keen on – the Under in the Total Points betting market.
The Under has saluted in 15 of the past 22 games played by Richmond and 13 of the past 22 played by Adelaide, while Grand Finals can often prove to be nervy, low-scoring affairs.
Back Under 170.5 Points
First Goal Kicker
The First Goal Kicker betting market is an interesting one as Adelaide in particular have so many players that are capable of kicking goals.
Jack Riewoldt was quiet for Richmond against Greater Western Sydney, but he is the obvious target for Richmond and it is rare to see him produce poor performances back-to-back.
Riewoldt is a deserving favourite in this betting market and he is genuine value at the current price of $8.
There are a number of different options for Adelaide and they do dominate this betting market, but it is tough to go past Eddie Betts.
Betts has waited his entire career to play in an AFL Grand Final and it really would not surprise if he is able to put his early mark on this clash.
Back Jack Riewoldt @ $8 & Eddie Betts @ $8.50
Norm Smith Medal
It should come as no surprise that Dustin Martin is a clear favourite in our 2017 Norm Smith betting market.
No player has ever won the Brownlow Medal and the Norm Smith medal in the same year, but no player has had a better opportunity to do just that than Martin.
If Richmond are any chance of winning this game, Martin will need to have a blinder and there is still value at his current price of $5.
Rory Sloane ($6.50) and Matt Crouch ($7) are the obvious contenders for Adelaide, but there is some value to be found deeper in betting and that is Sam Jacobs at $21.
Jacobs has been nothing short of outstanding for Adelaide this season and he really should be able to dominate the ruck contest.
If he is able to contribute with a couple of key goals at big moments he will be in the Norm Smith Medal picture at a juicy price – although ruckmen don’t have a great record in the Norm Smith Medal.
Back Dustin Martin @ $5 & Sam Jacobs @ $21
There is arguably no bigger day on the Australian sporting calendar than the AFL Grand Final and the 2016 AFL Grand Final is set to be extra special.
The Western Bulldogs have recorded upset wins over West Coast, Hawthorn and Greater Western Sydney to qualify for the Grand Final for the first time since 1961 and they are the sentimental favourites heading into this clash.
Sydney will go into the 2016 AFL Grand Final as clear favourites and they were simply outstanding against Geelong in the Preliminary Finals.
Can the Western Bulldogs fairytale continue or will Sydney prove too strong? I have analysed both teams and come up with betting suggestions for a host of different markets.
Saturday 1 October, 2.30pm, MCG
Sydney Swans 67 - Western Bulldogs 89
The Sydney Swans have been the most consistent side during the 2016 AFL season and they will go into the Grand Final as clear favourites.
Sydney bounced back from their surprise defeat against Greater Western Sydney to record dominant wins over Adelaide and Geelong and it may have been the loss that they needed to have.
The Swans have a list that is packed full of players with Grand Final experience and the memory of the 2014 Grand Final will ensure that they don’t take anything for granted.
Sydney have won 16 of their past 22 games as favourites for a narrow profit and they are 13-9 against the line in this scenario, while they have won four of their past six games as favourites at the MCG.
The worry for Sydney fans is that their side has lost their past two games against the Western Bulldogs and that is one of many reasons that the Victoria outfit will go into this game as finals fodder.
Very few AFL experts gave the Bulldogs any chance of beating West Coast in the first week of the AFL Finals – myself included – and not only did they do that, but they also accounted for Hawthorn and Greater Western Sydney.
Their performance against Greater Western Sydney was particularly gusty.
There were several occasions when the Giants seized control of the game and looked as though they would run away with things, but the Bulldogs refused to give in and toughed out an historic victory.
The return of Matthew Sucking is a big boost for the Bulldogs defence that was already outstanding against the Giants and he could prove key in what I expect to be a low-scoring game.
The Bulldogs have won six of their past 11 games as underdogs for a healthy profit and they have won all three of their games at the MCG this season.
There is plenty of data to suggest that the Western Bulldogs are more than capable upstaging Sydney and when you add in the momentum they have than they are great value at their current price.
Back Western Bulldogs To Win @ $2.55
First Goal Kicker
Lance Franklin ($7) is the obvious favourite in first goal kicker betting markets and there is then a fair gap to the likes of Jake Stringer ($10), Gary Rohan ($11), Tory Dickson ($11), Kurt Tippett ($13) and Tom Papley ($13).
Franklin kicks plenty of goals, but he is definitely under the odds at his current price – he has not kicked the first goal since Sydney beat Port Adelaide in round 20.
The value for Sydney lies with Gary Rohan.
Rohan has kicked the first goal in three of the past ten games played by the Swans and he is a prolific goal-kicker in his own right.
Clay Smith has been in outstanding form during the AFL Finals to date and he has kicked the first goal in two of the past four games played by the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs have proven to be slow-starters this season and they don’t kick the first goal very often, but if they do Smith is generally involved.
Back Gary Rohan @ $11 & Clay Smith @ $15
Norm Smith Medal
Sydney dominated the Norm Smith Medal betting market and Dan Hannebery, Josh Kennedy, Lance Franklin and Luke Parker are on top of betting from Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli.
Hannebery, Kennedy, Franklin and Parker all had big games in a losing effort against the Bulldogs earlier this season and it is highly likely that one of those four will be the star if the Swans are successful on Saturday.
The Swans have only played three games at the MCG this season and in all three of those games Hannebery finished with the most disposals for the Swans, while he is a proven big-game player.
I have looked a bit deeper for the value when it comes to a Western Bulldogs player in Norm Smith betting markets.
If the Bulldogs are to win this clash they will have to be excellent in their backline and it would not surprise to see another very big effort from Jason Johannisen.
Back Dan Hannnebery @ $8 & Jason Johannisen @ $26
AFL Grand Final Money Wire
The Ladbrokes Money Wire delivers you information on the big bets, key markets and all the moves ahead of the AFL Grand Final.