Nothing tops the excitement of Round 1 as all 18 clubs officially set their sights on that one special day in September.
This year’s opening game should have a familiar feel to it as fans are finally welcomed back to the MCG for the traditional clash between Richmond and Carlton, followed by what is arguably the game of the round on Friday between Collingwood and the Dogs.
As if tipping wasn’t already heard enough, punters are also faced with an evenly matched battle on Sunday when the Giants host the Saints in a potential finals preview.
For complete analysis on each and every game, be sure to read our 2021 AFL Round 1 Preview below.
Thursday March 18, 7:25pm, MCG
Footy returns to the MCG for the first time in 256 days when Richmond hosts Carlton in the traditional season opener.
After claiming back-to-back flags last year with a Grand Final win over Geelong, the Tigers head into 2021 the firm Premiership favourites with Damien Hardwick retaining much of the same roster that has seen Richmond dominate over the last four seasons.
Carlton, on the other hand, will be looking to make their first finals appearance since 2013 after showing steady signs of improvement under David Teague.
While a top eight spot is a realistic goal this year for the Blues, it’s hard to ignore the fact the Tigers have won 10 straight over Carlton dating back to 2013.
The Blues gave Richmond a scare in the first half of last year’s season-opener before falling away in the fourth term to lose by 24.
With an injury cloud hanging over Eddie Betts, Levi Casboult and Jacob Weitering, we should see the Tigers roar in their usual dominant fashion.
Tip: Back Richmond to Cover the Line (-20.5 Points) @ $2.00
Friday March 19, 7:50pm, MCG
No surprise to find almost even money on offer between the Pies and Dogs on Friday night.
Anything short of a top eight spot would be a letdown for Collingwood this season, but missing out altogether wouldn’t shock following a forgetful offseason that culminated with former president Eddie Maguire resigning.
Speaking of the top eight, plenty of fans and pundits alike fancy the Dogs to not only play finals, but potentially venture inside top four territory.
Luke Beveridge’s side battled its way through the truncated COVID season to finish seventh on the ladder before ultimately losing a thrilling elimination final to the Saints.
With a young list full of talent, the Dogs can only improve on those efforts with Adam Treloar and Stefan Martin now in the fold.
Collingwood has won four straight over the Dogs dating back to 2018, but with Steele Sidebottom, Chris Mayne and Taylor Adams all 50/50 to play, the Dogs do standout as a huge value play head-to-head.
Tip: Back the Bulldogs to Win @ $1.85
Saturday March 20, 1:45pm, MCG
This shapes as one of the most difficult games to get a feel for on Saturday between two fringe top eight sides.
Melbourne hasn’t won in Round 1 since 2017, so it is a little surprising to find the Dees as the firm favourites in what is no doubt a make-or-break year for head coach Simon Goodwin.
Fremantle, meanwhile, has been a popular pick to play finals this season behind what is arguably one of the best defensive structures in the league.
The Dockers have a long list of young talent set to enter their prime and they also found themselves in more close games than not last year.
As far as the Dees go, your guess is as good as ours.
The addition of Ben Brown speaks for itself, but since he’s set to miss the first month of the season with a knee injury, it’s difficult to know where Melbourne will find points from against an elite defensive team like the Dockers.
Fremantle had its fair share of troubles away from home in the weird and whacky 2020 season, but they still managed to play to a 4-1 record as the away underdog.
Right now, the Dockers look a much clearer picture than Melbourne, so it’s hard to go past Freo with some insurance on offer.
Tip: Back Fremantle to Cover the Line (+13.5 Points) @ $2.00
Saturday March 20, 4:35pm, Adelaide Oval
The Cats have spent the offseason re-stocking in the hope of returning to the big dance.
After coming up short to Richmond in last year’s Grand Final at the Gabba, Geelong wasted no time getting busy on the trade market by striking a huge deal with GWS in exchange for star forward Jeremy Cameron.
Also joining the Cattery this year is former North Melbourne midfielder Shaun Higgins and three-time Premiership winner Issac Smith – both of whom will contribute massively to what is shaping up to be one of the most experienced lists in the league.
Meanwhile, in Adelaide, things are quite the opposite.
The Crows are in the midst of a lengthy rebuild that has recently seen them lose Brad Crouch and Rory Atkins to free agency.
As far as Saturday’s game goes, you only need to consider all of the above to get a feel for what to expect.
While it can sometimes take a few games for a new roster to gel, the Cats are impossible to tip against based on their talent advantage.
With the chance to get the sour taste of last year’s Grand Final out of their mouth against an inferior opponent, Geelong should be winning this by plenty.
Tip: Back Geelong to Cover the Line (-25.5 Points) @ $2.00
Saturday March 20, 7:25pm, Marvel Stadium
Two bitter rivals square off on Saturday night as footy finally returns to Marvel Stadium.
The Hawks are the slight favourites in betting following a big preseason with over North Melbourne, but really, there isn’t a whole lot separating these two sides.
The Bombers clawed their way back from a six-goal deficit against the Hawks last year at the Adelaide Oval thanks to a huge return game from Joe Daniher.
Unfortunately, the big man has since departed The Hangar in favour of greener pastures up in Brisbane, leaving the bulk share of the work in the hands of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Jake Stringer.
In terms of expectations, it’s hard to know where to place these two teams.
So long as Alastair Clarkson is at the helm, the Hawks will likely always be a finals threat, but there’s no denying this young lineup looks very vulnerable with key defender James Sicily still nursing an ACL injury and veteran names like Paul Puopolo and Ben Stratton retired.
Likewise, the Bombers are much worse off than they are a year ago with Daniher, Adam Saad and Orazio Fantasia all departing via free agency.
The last three games between these two sides have gone over the total, and with a serious lack of defensive talent on the field overall, it wouldn’t be surprising if a similar outcome unfolds.
Tip: Over 170.5 Total Points @ $1.88
Saturday March 20, 7:45pm, Gabba
The Lions return to their Gabba fortress on Saturday night hoping to make a statement against the Swans.
With just about everything working in their favour last year, Brisbane’s season ended abruptly one stop short of the Grand Final with a demoralizing loss to Geelong.
Much like the Cats though, the Lions addressed their shortcomings during the offseason by signing key forward Joe Daniher in an attempt to rid themselves of the goal-kicking woes that cost them down the stretch.
Unfortunately, Brisbane’s forward line suffered a slight setback last week with fellow forward Cam Rayner tearing his ACL, but the good news is the Lions have a tremendous amount of depth to fall back on all over the field.
The Swans, on the other hand, continue to rebuild.
Sydney drafted two very talented players in the draft, but a win against this star-studded Lions team does look a tough ask after losing key defender Aliir Aliir during the trade period.
Tip: Back the Lions 1-39 @ $1.91
Sunday March 21, 1:10pm, Marvel Stadium
The projections for these two clubs couldn’t be further apart.
After dominating to win the minor premiership last year, the Power are heavily favoured to finish inside the top four after adding names like Aliir Aliir and Orazio Fantasia during the trade period.
North, on the other hand, have been well-backed to secure the wooden spoon after a mass exodus that has seen Ben Brown, Shaun Higgins and Mason Wood depart the club.
Plenty was made of Port’s dominance in the forward line last year, but the Power were also a great defensive side allowing the second-fewest goals to opponents.
When you factor in North ranked second-last in goals scored in 2020, this one could get ugly in a hurry.
Tip: Back Port to Cover the Line (-30.5 Points) @ $1.90
Sunday March 20, 3:20pm, GIANTS Stadium
The Giants will take to their home turf for the first time in over eight months on Sunday in what looks to be one of the most intriguing contests of Round 1.
GWS struggled mightily to adjust to hub life last year up in Queensland, a far cry from their Grand Final runner-up performance a year earlier in the loss to Richmond.
The Saints enjoyed a much more pleasant COVID season that culminated in their first finals appearance since 2011.
St Kilda has been a popular pick to play finals again this year, although this does look to be a difficult start to the season away from home.
The Saints are 0-2 at GIANTS Stadium since GWS entered the competition, while they’ll also have to go about their business without James Frawley and Dan Hanneberry.
Leon Cameron also has some injury concerns to address in what is shaping up to be a ‘finals or bust’ kind of year.
Jesse Hogan and Lachie Whitfield look unlikely to play, but that hasn’t swayed the bookies from installing the Giants as favourites in betting.
Overall, GWS are one of the few team’s worthy of a mulligan heading into 2021.
The Giants opened 6-4 before hub-life kicked in last year and there is still enough talent and quality on their list to suggest they can get back to finals.
With home-field advantage and a renewed sense of hope, the market might just be right on this occasion.
Tip: Back the Giants 1-39 @ $2.20
West Coast Eagles
Gold Coast Suns
Sunday March 21, 5:10pm, Optus Stadium
West Coast will be eager to begin the season on the right foot on Sunday when they take on the Suns in front 45,000 fans at Optus Stadium.
The Eagles’ Perth fortress proved to be a difference maker last year as West Coast turned its early season woes around with five straight home wins through the month of August.
After finishing the season fifth on the ladder, West Coast’s season culminated with a shock one-point loss at home to Collingwood in the elimination final – a performance Adam Simpson’s side has no doubt been stewing on all offseason.
As for the Suns, let’s just say the glass is finally half full.
Gold Coast’s season took a turn for the worst last year after Rising Star favourite Matt Rowell suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, but the good news is the league’s most exciting young player is set to suit up in Round 1 alongside a strong supporting cast featuring Izak Rankine, Ben King and Jack Lukosius.
Betting against West Coast at home is tough, but the Suns have typically been a gritty team early on in the season.
Given, the Suns have never won against the Eagles in Perth, but the current line is still pretty generous for a team that was competitive on several occasions last year.
Tip: Back the Suns to Cover the Line (+27.5 Points) @ $1.90
The AFL announced on Wednesday that the 2020 season will go ahead just in time for Thursday’s season-opener between Richmond and Carlton.
As is the case with the NRL, footy will be played behind closed doors indefinitely, making betting and tipping even harder than it was to begin with.
No crowd could take some of the pressure off the players, resulting in lower scoring games. Or, it could favour the away side with no home crowd to compete with.
There are plenty of factors to consider this week, but we’ve chosen to keep it simple and tip how we normally would in our complete 2020 AFL Round 1 Preview below.
Thursday March 19, 7:20pm, MCG
This time last year the Blues gave the Tigers a real run for their money in the first three quarters, but the question is, can they do it again?
Carlton will fancy themselves if they don’t have to face the Richmond army at the ‘G on Thursday night.
David Teague’s side came within 28 points of eventual champs when they met for a second time in Round 21, and they certainly have enough talent up forward to give the Tigers back line plenty of problems.
With their last meeting in mind, the bookies are favouring the defending premiers by -22.5 here, which looks a little long for the first game of the season.
Richmond has won nine straight over the Blues dating back to 2013, so backing against the Tigers outright isn’t advised. Carlton did, however, cover the line in seven of their 11 games as the line underdog on the road last year, so if you include the strange circumstances, there’s every chance the Blues keep this close.
Tip: Back Carlton to Cover the Line (+22.5 Points) @ $1.90
Friday March 20, 7:50pm, Marvel Stadium
It’s a shame this game will be played behind closed doors because we should be in for a belter between two sides with serious top four credentials.
Collingwood are always one of the toughest teams to get a read on at the start of the season – especially on the back of last year’s miserable finals defeat to the Giants.
The Bulldogs also tasted defeat against GWS in the finals, but Luke Beveridge’s side has only gotten stronger after adding Josh Bruce during the offseason.
There isn’t much separating these two clubs and it would be shocking if more than 10-points decided it.
Collingwood has won three straight over the Dogs dating back to 2017, but the one trend worth hanging your hat on is the Doggies’ perfect 4-0 record last year as the line underdog at home.
This is also an extremely tough start to the season for the Pies with games against Richmond, Hawthorn and Brisbane to follow. With everything else going on right now, don’t be surprised if they underestimate this gritty Bulldogs outfit.
Tip: Back the Bulldogs to Cover the Line (+2.5 Points) @ $1.90
Saturday March 21, 1:45pm, Marvel Stadium
The Bombers have had an entire offseason to stew on their 55-point loss to West Coast in the finals last year, so what version of the sash will we see on Saturday?
Anything short of repeat top eight performance will be seen as a bust with John Worsfold facing a make or break year, and he certainly won’t hold fond memories of last years 72-point Round 1 loss to GWS.
Speaking of bad memories, the Dockers don’t have to look back very far to find their last meeting against the Bombers.
Fremantle lost by 32-points at home to the Dons in Round 22 last year, but with Justin Longmuir entering his first full season as head coach, there is a little optimism about the Dockers as a potential sleeper.
There are a handful of games that could produce an upset this week and it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if the Bombers were on the receiving end. Despite where they finished last year, there isn’t as much between these clubs as the current market suggests, so take the Dockers to keep the pressure on the Dons in the first half.
Tip: Back Fremantle to Cover the 1st Half Line (+6.5 Points) @ $1.90
Saturday March 21, 4:35pm, Adelaide Oval
This is another game that could swing in the balance and turn out to be a rather close affair.
The Crows and the Swans are both tipped to miss the eight in our season preview, making this one of the toughest games to try and tip from a betting perspective.
Adelaide lost their home-opener to Hawthorn by 32-points last year, but this is a much easier test against a rebuilding Swans team minus Buddy Franklin.
To their credit, Sydney has won three straight over the Crows, but they haven’t played Adelaide at home since 2017.
Last year Adelaide finished 3-2 at home against teams that finished in the bottom eight, so back that trend to continue.
Tip: Back the Crows to Win @ $1.70
Saturday March 21, 7:25pm, Giants Stadium
One team looking to make amends and the other looking to avoid a hangover – what more could you want?
The Giants will understand how important a win is here as they look to put their horror Grand Final loss behind them.
Likewise, Geelong has plenty of lost time to make up for after losing to the Tigers in the Prelim, setting up what should be a cracking game between two flag contenders.
The Giants got the better of the Cats when they met in Round 4 last year with a four-point victory, but the whole “behind closed doors” thing makes this one of the trickiest games to predict.
Ordinarily, you’d feel pretty confident in backing GWS at home, but there isn’t much of a home-field advantage here.
Instead, this game should be a real arm wrestle between the Geelong backline and the GWS forward line, as well as a fairly even battle through the midfield.
With that in mind, and the fact the last four games between these two have all gone Under, take this one to be low scoring.
Tip: Under the Points Total
Saturday March 21, 7:25pm, Metricon Stadium
A new season brings fresh hope to all 18 teams, and that couldn’t be truer for last year’s wooden spooners, the Gold Coast Suns.
Opening the season at home to Port Adelaide is a favourable spot for Stuart Dew’s side after losing by only a point to St Kilda in Round 1 last year.
The Suns showed plenty of fight in the first month of the season to pick up wins over the Dockers, Bulldogs and Blues, but unfortunately, the fun stopped there as they failed to win another game from Round 4 onward.
Port Adelaide are obviously the more talented team and the odds more than reflect that. But after an offseason that featured very little player movement, there’s just something about the Suns here that stands out.
Gold Coast are the ugly ducklings and sometimes it pays to back them. This is a young team with a point to prove against a Power side that has plenty of critics to answer.
Tip: Back the Suns to Cover the Line (+16.5 Points) @ $1.90
Sunday March 22, 1:10pm, Marvel Stadium
Two coaches stepping into their first full season square off on Sunday in a game that should tell us plenty.
Brett Ratten knows how to bring out the best in a young team, which has led to many pundits tipping the Saints to finish inside top eight this season.
It’s also a new era at Arden Street as Rhyce Shaw looks to prove the doubters wrong. We got a good taste of North Melbourne’s new front man for half a season last year, and there is still enough talent for the Kangaroos to challenge for a finals spot.
As far as this game goes though, you’d be mad not to take a play in the head-to-head market. The Roos have won three straight over St Kilda dating back to 2017, but really, this game is nothing more than a coin flip.
I’m happy to side with St Kilda here though purely based on North’s horrible back line. The addition of Paddy Ryder to the ruck should go a long way, and the Saints typically beat up on weaker teams like the Gold Coast, Demons, Blues and Dockers last year. The $1.80 presents enormous value.
Tip: Back St Kilda to Win @ $1.80
Sunday March 22, 3:20pm, MCG
Brisbane fans have been licking their lips at the mere thought of this game ever since the schedule was released last year.
The Lions have held Hawthorn’s number dating back to 2017, which includes a pair of blowout victories both home and away over the Hawks last season.
Brisbane’s expectations have skyrocketed ever since finishing second on the ladder, which could work one of two ways. The Lions are still one of the most talented sides in the competition, but whether the pressure becomes too much for the younger guys remains to be seen.
Things are similar at Hawthorn with the club looking to return to the finals after finishing ninth last year. Alastair Clarkson has another bright squad on his hands, but several players are still a year or two away from really hitting their stride.
Brisbane fed off their surprisingly strong support on the road last year, particularly in Melbourne, so the lack of a crowd makes this interesting.
The Hawks, meanwhile, haven’t lost in Round 1 since 2017, so there’s every chance they keep this close. Hawthorn’s forward line will need to be at its best if they wish to keep up with the quick-scoring ways of Brisbane, but if they can contain Charlie Cameron, they look seriously good value at the line.
Tip: Back Hawthorn to Cover the Line (+4.5 Points) @ $1.90
Sunday March 22, 6:20pm, Optus Stadium
Are we in for a repeat of the 2018 Prelim here?
The last thing the Demons need right now is a trip to Perth to face the Eagles. West Coast has a point to prove after losing to Geelong in the Semi’s last year, while Melbourne is simply trying to figure out what went wrong over the last 12 months.
Building a case for the Demons to win on the road seems almost impossible when you factor in how poorly they played in front of goal last year. Inside 50s weren’t a problem, but accuracy in front of goal was as Melbourne continues to let chances slip through their fingertips.
Since there is no crowd, there should be a little less pressure on the Demons though without the usual chorus of boos heard at Optus Stadium. Therefore, take the Eagles to win, but maybe not by much.
Tip: Back West Coast 1-39 @ $2.30
The road to that glorious September sunshine starts this week as the 2019 AFL season gets underway on Thursday night.
Typically, Round 1 can be a bit of a crapshoot, so it’s always worth mixing in a few favourites with a few bold upsets to start the season on a winning note. Fortunately, we’ve previewed every game and every team, and our complete 2019 AFL Round 1 Preview can be seen below.
Thursday March 21, 7:20pm, MCG
Carlton 64 - Richmond 97
To say it’s been a dramatic offseason would be an understatement. Richmond got busy signing Tom Lynch to a lucrative seven-year deal, while the Blues lucked out as co-captain Sam Docherty suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
Since it is Round 1, try not to let the wide price for Carlton sway you. The Blues were up for a fight this time last year booting five unanswered goals in the opening term to lead the premiers at halftime. Of course, Richmond’s prowess proved too much for the eventual wooden spooners, but there’s no reason Carlton can’t keep Thursday’s game close for the second-straight year.
For Richmond, it’s the start of something new after an embarrassing loss to Collingwood in last year’s Prelim. Lynch’s inclusion should speak for itself on the goal-sheet, but it’s also a huge year for Dustin Martin as he looks to bounce-back from what was a quiet season (at least by his usual standards).
As for Carlton, you hate to put too much stock into Round 1, but this game could set the tone for their season. The Blues should be up and about following a win over the Bombers and a close loss to Collingwood in the JLT Series. Whether or not they can handle Richmond’s relentless forward pressure will be the test.
It’s worth keeping in mind the Tigers have won seven-straight over the Blues, while they also finished 6-3 against the line last season. In their last five meetings however, Carlton have lost by a combined average of 26.8 points, leaving Thursday’s line looking a little generous.
Tip: Back Carlton to Cover the Line (+36.5 Points)
Friday March 22, 7:50pm, MCG
Blockbuster, headline act, whatever you want to call it – can this game live up to the hype?
The Cats met the Pies only once last year in what was a low-scoring, 111-point affair. Geelong walked away the 21-point victor, a result that went on to kick-start Collingwood’s seven-game undefeated streak.
Like so many of the big clubs, it’s been a busy offseason for the Cats. By pairing Luke Dahlhaus with Patrick Dangerfield, Geelong have not only bolstered their midfield, they’ve also locked up the 26-year-old sensation long term.
Collingwood’s offseason was a little quieter, although the Pies did get to work re-signing some of their top contributors. Tyson Goldsack, Jamie Elliott, Darcy Moore and Levi Greenwood inked new deals, while the club also lost long-time forward Jarryd Blair.
As far as Friday’s game goes, there’s a couple things to consider. Firstly, the Cats have won three-straight games in Round 1 dating back to 2016, while the Pies haven’t won the opening round since 2015. And second, Collingwood finished 8-1 as the home favourite last year, however they are just 2-2 in the same scenario against Geelong.
After a monumental collapse in last year’s Grand Final, don’t be surprised if we see a bit of a hangover effect on Friday night.
Tip: Back Geelong To Win @ $2.28
Saturday March 23, 1:45pm, MCG
Out with the old and in with the new – that’s been the philosophy for both clubs this past offseason.
Melbourne waved goodbye to Jesse Hogan in a trade with Freo and welcomed in Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij from the Suns. Port also got to work after missing the finals last year – trading forward Chad Wingard to Hawthorn in exchange for Ryan Burton.
It’s safe to say Port will fancy themselves for the eight this year, but there’s plenty of lost time to make up for. The Power sat atop the ladder by Round 3 last year, only to lose their final four games to miss the finals completely.
Melbourne, well the Demons certainly exceeded expectations overall, but they fell well short against West Coat in last year’s Prelim Final. Simon Goodwin’s side failed to prepare, going on to lose by 66-points in what was a huge learning curve for a young side.
As the market suggests, the Dees are heavily favoured to open with a win on Saturday. Melbourne finished 7-4 as the home favourite last year, while they also finished 14-5 in all games as the spread favourite.
Tip: Back Melbourne to Cover the Line (-26.5 Points)
Saturday March 23, 4:05pm, Adelaide Oval
It’s only fitting that two of the biggest question marks entering the 2019 season clash on Saturday.
The Crows, who somehow missed the eight by only four-points, should feel confident entering the season despite losing Mitch McGovern to Carlton. Meanwhile, Hawthorn’s outlook is probably less optimistic following the season-ending injury to Tom Mitchell.
We’ve been burned by Alistair Clarkson’s coaching genius before though, and there is something to be said about this Hawks outfit that rallied for a Top 4 spot despite the retirement of Cyril Rioli, as well as injuries to the likes of James Sicily and Shaun Burgoyne last season.
Hawthorn have won their last three trips to Adelaide Oval to face the Crows, but after an 0-2 JLT season that saw the Hawks fall away in the second half of both games, play it safe and take Clarkson’s side at the line.
Tip: Back the Hawks to Cover the Line (+20.5 Points)
Saturday March 23, 7:25pm, Marvel Stadium
This is more than just a rematch of the 2016 Grand Final – it’s the chance for the Dogs to pick up where they left off last season.
The Bulldogs finished 13th on the ladder in 2018, but the last time we saw them in action they were taking the Tigers to the sword at the MCG. Speaking of close games, the Dogs lost by only seven-points during their lone match against the Swans last year, and after what has been a successful offseason in exhibition matches, don’t look past a Round 1 upset on Saturday.
The Dogs lost reliable players like Jordan Roughead to free agency, but in return they gained Taylor Duryea from Hawthorn, a gutsy midfielder that could fill Luke Dahlhaus’ shoes.
Sydney also said goodbye to long-term faithful Dan Hannebery and Gary Rohan, but on the plus side, the Swans gained 27-year-old Daniel Menzel in free agency.
With all that in mind, it goes without saying this game is tricky. Including the Grand Final, the Dogs have won three of their last five against the Swans, however their 2-5 record as the home underdog over the last 12-months is less than encouraging.
Instead, it’s worth noting that in those last five games, only once has the Total gone over 170-points. Value wise it’s not much, but as we try to get a feel for both sides, play it safe with the Unders.
Tip: Back Under 178.5 Total Points
West Coast Eagles
Saturday March 23, 7:25pm, The Gabba
The reigning premiers return to The Gabba on Saturday night, a venue that’s turned into a bit of a stomping ground for the Eagles over the last decade.
West Coast have won seven-straight over the Lions dating back to 2010 by an average margin of 33.2 points, leaving the line looking a little short in this one despite what could be a big season from Chris Fagan’s young Lions squad.
For Brisbane, it’s been quite an up and down offseason. Lachie Neale and Lincoln McCarthy were the top grabs, but the shock trade of Dayne Beams to Collingwood now leaves the Lions short one of their biggest leaders.
Still, Brisbane are coached by perhaps one of the most innovative and positive minds in the game. Fagan has helped this team grow enormously, so a Round 1 upset at home over West Coast isn’t entirely off the cards… is it?
West Coast’s premiership side remains relatively intact, but they’ll still be without Nic Naitanui at least until Round 9 or 10. Nic Nat has tormented the Lions in recent years, but the same can be said for Daniel Rich, who has racked up 98 disposals in his last five games against the Eagles.
That’s what it will take for the Lions this week: a big effort from Rich, Dayne Zorko and most importantly, the back line against Josh Kennedy. After losing to the Eagles in the final round last season, the Lions are more than up for a bit of revenge.
Tip: Back the Lions to Win @ $2.32
Gold Coast Suns
Sunday March 24, 1:10pm, Marvel Stadium
If you’ll recall, the Saints and the Suns put on a show when they met last year on the Gold Coast. St. Kilda held on for a narrow two-point win in what was arguably the sloppiest game of the season, so what does this Round 1 rematch hold instore?
The Saints made some moves during the offseason adding Dan Hannebery and Sam Rowe. Gold Coast weren’t so lucky as Tom Lynch departed for Richmond, while the Suns also lost Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij to the Demons.
It’s not exactly ‘Top 8 or bust’ for St. Kilda this year, but if the Saints finished towards the bottom of the ladder again, mark it as a huge disappointment.
St. Kilda won only two games on the road last year, two more than the Suns won at home. Given the unknown nature of both clubs, picking a winner is tough. The Saints started as the favourite at home only twice last season, finishing 1-1 at the line. Gold Coast, meanwhile, were 6-5 as the away underdog, and with a generous line on offer, the Suns look good money to keep this close.
Tip: Back the Suns to Cover the Line (+25.5 Points) @ $1.90
Sunday March 24, 3:20pm, Sydney Showground (Spotless Stadium)
Could we be looking at a potential Top 4 clash here?
GWS finished seventh on the ladder last season, bowing out in the Semi-Finals to Collingwood in a 10-point loss at the G’. As for the Dons, an injury plagued season cost Essendon a spot in the eight, but Bomber fans will take stock in the fact 2018 ended on a high note defeating the Power by plenty at Adelaide Oval.
When these two sides met last season, it was a surprisingly one-sided affair as Essendon walked away with a 95-60 win at Spotless Stadium. Mark Baguley unleashed three goals on the day alongside Jake Stringer, as the Giants struggled to cope with the Bombers’ relentless forward pressure.
This time around, the Bombers will go without former captain Brendon Goddard, while the new inclusion of former Giant Dylan Shiel adds a nice little subplot to Sunday’s twilight affair.
As the away underdog the Bombers finished 5-6 last year, however they were a much more impressive 4-2 on the road. With a little uncertainty and a few key departures (Shiel and Tom Scully), the Bombers look great odds for another upset.
Tip: Back the Bombers To Win @ $2.07
Sunday March 24, 3:20pm, Optus Stadium
The AFL has hardly saved the best till’ last, but for what it’s worth, this Round 1 twilight affair could provide a sneak peek into the wooden spoon race.
North Melbourne lost a couple of big guns during the offseason, namely Jarrad Waite (retirement) and Billy Hartung. In return, the Shinboners added Jared Polec and a handful of other players on one-year deals.
Fremantle’s season hinges on the health of Nat Fyfe, but the Dockers did land Jesse Hogan in a trade with the Demons, as well as 26-year-old forward Rory Lobb from the Giants. Both moves have helped bolster Freo’s lackluster forward pack after scoring the third-fewest goals in 2018.
On paper, the Dockers clearly win on talent, but keep in mind, this is roughly the same side that lost to North Melbourne by 28-points at home last year. As the odds suggest, throw a dart and hope for the best, but considering Freo do hold a 6-5 record as the home favourite over the last 12-months, the Dockers are probably worth a small play.
Tip: Back the Dockers to Win @ $2.00
The 2018 AFL season is here and we can’t wait for what will be a massive weekend of action.
It will be an emotional moment for Richmond fans when the Premiership is unfurled on Thursday and they are dominant favourites to account for Carlton in the season opener.
That is just the start of what is set to be a massive weekend of AFL action and our complete AFL Round 1 tips can be found below!
Thursday 22 March, 7:25pm, MCG
It should come as no surprise that Richmond will start this clash with Carlton as dominant favourites.
The Tigers were nothing short of outstanding during the 2017 AFL Finals and they have shown no signs of a Premiership hangover during the preseason – they recorded big wins over both Essendon and North Melbourne in the JLT Series.
Richmond have had a very stable off-season and they head into their season opener with a very similar side to the one that took on the Adelaide Crows in the 2018 AFL Grand Final.
The Tigers won 11 of their 14 games as favourites last season and they were able to cover the line in ten of these wins.
Carlton showed some promise during the 2017 AFL season, but they still lacked consistency and they will be without All-Australian defender Sam Docherty for the entire season.
Kicking goals was a big issue for Carlton 12 months ago and once again it is tough to see where their points will come from.
The Blues won six of their past 19 games as underdogs last season for a small profit and they were 13-8 against the line when being given a start.
The market looks to have this match just about right as Richmond deserve to be dominant favourites, but there is still value in the Total Points betting market.
Backing the Under was a profitable betting play in games involved either of these teams last season and it would not surprise if this was a fairly low-scoring affair.
Back Under 174.5 Points
Friday 23 March, 7:50pm, Etihad Stadium
Essendon 99 – Adelaide 87
This will be a very interesting clash between two teams that are expected to be in the finals mix once again in 2018.
The Adelaide Crows were the most consistent team in the AFL last season and it is a shame for the club that they saved one of their worst performances of the season for the AFL Grand Final.
Adelaide have lost Jake Lever to Melbourne, but they have finally gotten their hands on Bryce Gibbs and they now have one of the most complete midfields in the competition.
They will go into this clash as favourites and they did win 7 of their ten games as away favourites last season, while they were 6-4 against the line when giving away a start.
Essendon returned to the top 8 last season and big things are expected of the Bombers after they added the likes of Jake Stringer, Adam Saad and Devon Smith to their list during the Trade Period.
The Bombers were one of the best betting sides in the entire AFL last season and they won five of their seven games as home favourites for a huge profit.
This is another game where the value does look to lie in the Total Points betting market.
The Under saluted in seven of the 11 away games played by the Crows away from the Adelaide Oval last season, while the Under was also a profitable play in Essendon games in 2017.
Back Under 189.5 Points
Saturday 24 March, 3:35pm, Etihad Stadium
St Kilda 107 – Brisbane Lions 82
This will be an interesting test to see where each of these teams are at the start of the season.
Consistency and a lack of depth was the big issue for St Kilda last season and they haven’t done much during the off-season to fix their depth.
St Kilda will start this clash as clear favourites and they did win five of their seven games as home favourites last season, but they were only 2-5 against the line in this scenario.
The Brisbane Lions were unable to avoid the wooden spoon in 2017, but they still took some big steps in the right direction and they should improve against in 2018.
Adding a player with the experience of Luke Hodge is massive for a club that has badly lacked leadership in recent seasons and he is the perfect on-field coach for what is a young defence.
Brisbane only won two of their 11 games as away underdogs, but they were a most impressive 9-2 against the line in this situation and were generally underestimate by the market.
I don’t think that there is as much between the two teams as the current betting market suggests and the Lions are a great bet to beat the line with a healthy start.
Back Brisbane To Beat The Line (+24. 5 Points)
Saturday 24 March, 4:35pm, Adelaide Oval
Port 110 – Fremantle 60
Port Adelaide are clear favourites to start their season with a win over Fremantle.
Port Adelaide’s season may have finished in disappointing circumstances as they were knocked out in the first week of the AFL Finals, but they still only just missed the top four and they were far more consistent than they have been in recent seasons.
The Power won eight of their 11 games as home favourites and they were able to cover the line in six of these wins.
Fremantle started 2017 fairly strong and they recorded a couple of big upset wins, but that did somewhat hide the fact that they won only two of their past 12 games and were putrid in the second half of the season.
The Dockers do have a young list with potential and they are a tricky team to analyse ahead of the 2018 AFL season.
Fremantle won only three of their ten games as away underdogs last season, but they were 6-4 against the line.
This is a game that the market looks to have just about right and this is a match that I am happy to stay out of from a betting perspective.
Gold Coast Suns
Saturday 24 March, 7:25pm, Cazaly's Stadium
Gold Coast 55 – North Melbourne 39
There is very little in betting between these two sides that are expected to be in the wooden spoon mix.
It was another season to forget for the Gold Coast Suns in 2017 and they have lost plenty of experience in the form of Gary Ablett, Brandon Matera and Adam Saad.
The Suns have been a very tough side to trust from a betting perspective throughout their history and they won only one of their four games as home favourites last season.
North Melbourne were expected to struggle in 2017 and they did at times, but they probably weren’t as bad as the majority of experts thought they would be ahead of the season.
Their midfield still lacks talent, but they do have an excellent forward line and Ben Brown was nothing short of outstanding last season.
The Kangaroos won only two of their ten games as away underdogs last season for a clear loss, but they were 6-4 against the line in this scenario.
Both games played between these two sides last season were high-scoring affairs and that has generally been the pattern when these teams have met.
The Total Points line has been set at 159.5 points and as long as the rain stays away that does not look like anywhere near enough.
Back Over 159.5 Points
Saturday 24 March, 7:25pm, MCG
Hawthorn 101 – Collingwood 67
This is another game where there is not a great deal between the two sides and it is Hawthorn that will go into this clash as narrow favourites.
Hawthorn were extremely slow out of the blocks in 2017, but they did improve significantly in the second half of the season and they are a side that could go either way in 2018.
The Hawks won only three of their seven games as favourites last season and they were a poor 2-5 against the line in this scenario.
Collingwood went another season without playing finals in 2017 and they have done very little to improve their list during the off-season.
There is no coach in the AFL under more pressure than Nathan Buckley and an opening round win would help ease the pressure on the constantly under-fire coach.
Collingwood did win four of their ten games last season for a clear profit and they were 8-2 against the line in this situation.
This is a game where I really have struggled to separate the two sides and it is Collingwood that represent just a touch of value at their current price of $2.
Back Collingwood To Win @ $2
Sunday 25 March, 1:10pm, UNSW Canberra Oval
GWS 133 – Bulldogs 51
The GWS Giants and the Western Bulldogs have played a number of outstanding games in recent years – most notably their famous Preliminary Final in 2016 – and this should be another cracker.
2017 represented another missed opportunity for the Giants and what was expected to be an inevitable dynasty may not be inevitable at all.
The Giants were a tricky side from a betting perspective last season – they generally got the job done when they were expected to, but their record against the line was very poor.
They did not lose a game as home favourites last season, but they were 4-7 against the line in this scenario.
A premership hangover was blamed for the woes of Western Bulldogs in 2017 and they are another team that could go either way this season.
Will they follow in the path of Hawthorn – who bounced back after their premiership hangover in 2009 – or will they become the first team in the modern era to miss the finals in the two seasons after winning the flag?
Winning away from home was a serious issue for the Bulldogs last season and they lost all four of their game as away underdogs, while they were only a middling 2-2 against the line in that scenario.
This is yet another game where the value lies in the Total Points betting market.
The Under saluted in an incredible ten of the 11 games played by Hawthorn away from home last season and the Total Points line of 173.5 points does seem excessive.
Back Under 173.5 Points
Sunday 25 March, 3:20pm, MCG
Melbourne 94– Geelong 97
The market cannot split Melbourne and Geelong ahead of this Sunday afternoon blockbuster at the MCG.
Geelong were once again in the Premiership mix in 2017 and there is plenty of excitement around the city following the return of The Prodigal son Gary Ablett.
The Cats now under one of the greatest midfield trios in the history of the AFL, but there are injury clouds over Ablett and Joel Sellwood, while Patrick Dangerfield is all but certain to miss the opening round of the season.
Geelong do have an outstanding record against Melbourne and they did beat the Demons by a big margin last season.
It was a long offseason for Melbourne fans after their final round meltdown cost them a top eight finish and anything less than a return to the AFL Finals will be considered a huge failure in 2018.
Melbourne generally struggled against the best teams in the competition last season and they need to improve their record against the likes of Geelong if they are going to take the next step this season.
The Cats may go into this clash without Dangerfield, but their record against Melbourne can’t be ignored and they do represent genuine value at their current price.
Back Geelong To Win @ $1.92
West Coast Eagles
Sunday 25 March, 7:20pm, Optus Stadium
West Coast 86 – Sydney 115
The West Coast Eagles may have the homeground advantage at the brand-new Optus Stadium, but it is the Sydney Swans that will start this clash as clear favourites.
2017 was nothing short of a bizarre season for the Swans.
They started the season 0-6 and looked to have no answers whatsoever, but they lost just two games for the remainder of the regular season and they finished comfortably inside the top eight.
The Swans did win five of their eight games as away favourites last season and they were able to cover the line in each of those wins.
West Coast not only managed to make the finals last season, they went on to beat Port Adelaide and that definitely shadowed the fact that they did struggle at times last season.
It is rare to see West Coast as such heavy underdogs in front of their home fans and they were able to win eight of their 11 games as home last season and they did beat Sydney comfortably.
It really is difficult to oppose West Coast in Perth and they can cover the line with the healthy start of 17.5 points.
Back West Coast To Beat The Line (+17.5 Points)
It is finally here!
The 2017 AFL season gets underway on Thursday night and we are set for what should be a truly fascinating opening round of action, so we have put together our 2017 AFL Round 1 tips.
There are no absolutely dominant favourites in round one and every single game is set to be a competitive affair, but we are still confident that we have found some winners.
Thursday 23 March, 7:20pm, MCG
Carlton 89 - Richmond 132
The traditional start to the AFL season is the always intriguing clash between Carlton and Richmond.
Carlton made a promising start to the season in 2016 before they faded badly in the final third of the year and it looks set to be another rebuilding year for the Blues.
Scoring points was there biggest problem last season and they really have not done a great deal to improve on that this season.
Richmond were one of the biggest disappointments in the entire competition last year and they are at long odds to return to the finals.
The Tigers have signed Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy to add depth to their midfield, but they have lost Brett Deledio and Ty Vickery in the process.
Richmond will start this clash as favourites and this is a position in which they struggled last season.
The Tigers won only six of their ten games as favourites last season and were an extremely putrid 2-8 against the line in this scenario.
Carlton were actually a profitable betting side in the AFL last season and they won five of their 17 games as underdogs for a clear profit.
There is nowhere near as much between these two teams as the current betting market suggests and Carlton are excellent value to start the season with a win.
Carlton To Win @ $2.85
Friday 24 March, 7:50pm, MCG
Collingwood 86 - Western Bulldogs 100
This will be a big moment for fans of the Western Bulldogs as their side will run out as defending premiers for the first time in 62 years.
The Western Bulldogs were nothing short of outstanding in the 2016 AFL Finals and there is every chance they will be even better in 2017.
I have no doubt that the Bulldogs will be in the premiership mix come the business end of the season, but I have my concerns about how well they will start the year.
The premiership hangover is a real thing – especially for a young side – and there is every chance that the Bulldogs will be slow out of the gates.
Collingwood were the biggest underperformers in the AFL last season and the pressure really is on Nathan Buckley to turn them around in 2017.
They are a team that lacks an on-field identity and that will need to change if they are any chance of returning to finals football.
The Magpies did win three of their six games as home underdogs last season for a clear profit and they are capable of a stellar performance on their day.
This will be closer than the current market suggests and I am keen to back the Magpies with a start of 15.5 points.
Back Collingwood To Beat The Line (+15.5 Points)
Saturday 25 March, 4:35pm, Etihad Stadium
St Kilda 90 - Melbourne 120
This is an intriguing clash between two sides that are expected to push for a place in the top eight.
St Kilda only missed out on the finals by percentage last season and they only need to improve slightly to make the jump into the top eight this season.
If they are to make that leap they will need to win games like this one and they go into this clash as narrow favourites.
St Kilda did win all three of their games as home favourites last season, while they have won their past 14 games against the Demons.
There is no doubt that Melbourne are a side on the rise and they have added some serious talent to their side in the form of Jordan Lewis, Michael Hibberd and Jake Melksham.
Inconsistency was an issue for the Demons and they will be hopeful that these mature recruits will make them a more reliable week-to-week proposition.
Melbourne were a profitable betting play as underdogs last season, but the fact that their record against St Kilda is so poor is a serious concern.
This is a game that the market looks to have got just about right, but it is still set to be a fascinating affair.
Saturday 25 March, 4:35pm, SCG
Sydney 82 - Port Adelaide 110
The Sydney Swans are the shortest-priced favourites of the weekend and are expected to make short work of Port Adelaide.
Sydney were only narrowly denied another premiership by the Western Bulldogs last season and they are sure to be in contention once again.
The Swans are the consistent force of the AFL and they look a lock to finish in the top four once again.
Sydney won 10 of their 14 games as home favourites last season and more impressively they were 9-5 against the line in this scenario.
Port Adelaide took another step backwards in terms of their position on the ladder last season, but they weren’t actually as bad as that suggests.
Their percentage was the best of the teams that missed out on the AFL Finals and they are still capable of playing some excellent football on their day.
This is a big season for Ken Hinkley and he is sure to have his side ready to fire early.
The Power actually won two of their four games as away underdogs last season, but they were no match for Sydney and they have not beaten the Swans since 2013.
Sydney really should be able to get their season off to a winning start, but their is no value at their current price and this is another game that I am happy to stay out of.
Gold Coast Suns
Saturday 25 March, 7:25pm, Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast Suns 96 - Brisbane Lions 98
Both the Gold Coast Suns and the Brisbane Lions had seasons to forget and they will be looking to make a positive start to the season.
Off-field problems continue to distract the Suns and there has been plenty of drama surrounding GaryAblett during the pre-season, but it should not be forgotten that the Suns have one of the most talented lists in the competition.
Anything is possible for the Suns this season – they could just as easily compete for the wooden spoon as a spot in the top eight – but they really should be able to make a winning start to the season.
The Suns did not start many games as favourites last season, but when they did they generally got the job done and they beat the line in four of their six games as home favourites.
Chris Fagan has taken over at the Brisbane Lions and is a very shrewd appointment, but it is tough to see him turning this list around in a season.
The Lions were lucky not to win the wooden spoon last year and they played uninspiring football right across the season.
Brisbane won just one of their 11 games as away underdogs and they were a very poor 3-8 against the line.
The Suns should really make a winning start to their season and the line of 19.5 points will not be enough.
Back Gold Coast To Beat The Line (-19.5 Points)
Saturday 25 March, 7:25pm, MCG
Essendon 116 - Hawthorn 91
This is a massive moment for the Essendon Football Club as their suspended players are set to return to a heroes welcome.
There is no doubt that Essendon will be a much better football team in 2017, but expectations may have been hyped somewhat after their promising pre-season.
Taking a year out of your career is a setback for any player, but when there are 12 of these players on the same list it is sure to have even more of an impact.
In saying that, there is a fair bit to like about Essendon heading into this clash against Hawthorn.
As I said earlier their pre-season has been excellent and even with all their issues last season they still managed to be a profitable betting side.
The Bombers covered the line in ten of their 16 games in Melbourne last season and there is no doubt that they will head into this clash full of energy.
Hawthorn have gone through plenty of upheaval during the off-season and they will be one of the most interesting teams to follow in 2017.
They have added the likes of Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Mitchell to what is already a strong side, but they have lost both Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell.
Losing that much experience is tough for any side and there could be somewhat of a leadership vacuum at the club, which places plenty of pressure on the returning Jarryd Roughead.
The Hawks were one of the worst betting teams in the entire AFL last season and they covered the line in just five of their 20 games as favourites.
Essendon will give Hawthorn a scare in this clash and even if they can’t win, they are a great bet to cover the line with a start of 15.5 points.
Back Essendon To Beat The Line (+15.5 Points)
West Coast Eagles
Sunday 26 March, 1:10pm, Etihad Stadium
North Melbourne 93 - West Coast Eagles 136
North Melbourne are expected to be the big sliders in the AFL this season and it is the West Coast Eagles that will start this clash as clear favourites.
No club has lost more experience during the off-season than North Melbourne and their senior list contains an astonishing 15 players that are yet to make their AFL debuts.
A number of players will be thrown into the deep end this season and it really would not surprise if North Melbourne were in wooden spoon calculations at some stage this season.
North Melbourne lost all eight of their games as underdogs last season and their record against the line when getting a start was a very poor 2-6.
West Coast fell away at the tail end of 2016, but it should not be forgotten that they were legitimate premiership contenders for the majority of the season.
There is no doubt that West Coast are a much better team in front of their home fans and their betting statistics show that fact – they won four of their six games as away favourites and they were a poor 2-4 against the line in this scenario.
The real value in this betting looks to be in the Total Points market.
Both North Melbourne and West Coast were big Unders teams in 2016 and at Etihad Stadium the Total Points line of 182.5 points looks fairly high.
Back Under 182.5 Points
Sunday 26 March, 3:20pm, Adelaide Oval
Adelaide Crows 147 - GWS Giants 91
This should be a highly entertaining game between two sides that are expected to be genuine premiership contenders.
The Greater Western Sydney Giants only narrowly missed out on a maiden premiership in 2016 and they are clear favourite to claim the flag this season.
There is little doubt that this Greater Western Sydney side should improve with that finals experience under their belts and they now have one of the most experienced lists in the entire AFL.
It is no surprise that the Giants will go into this clash as clear favourites and they were tough to beat in this scenario last season – they won seven of their eight games as away favourites, but were only 4-4 against the line in this scenario.
Adelaide played some blistering football at times in 2017 and for a large part of the season they were considered one of the leading premiership contenders.
They fell away slightly at the very end of the season, but they are still a side with plenty of talent.
Whether they are able to maintain their exciting, attacking style from last season is the question and the Crows are a side that have a high ceiling as well as a low floor.
The Crows were able to turn the Adelaide Oval into a fortress in 2016 and they won all three of their games as home underdogs for a clear profit.
The one betting market that does stand out in this clash is the Total Points betting market.
It is fair to say that the Crows and the Giants are two of the most entertaining teams in the entire competition and backing the Over in games involving either side last season was a highly profitable play.
The total point line has been set at 188.5 points and that does not look like anywhere near enough in a game that involves two sides with such attacking fire-power.
Back Over 188.5 Points
Sunday 26 March, 6:40pm, Domain Stadium
Fremantle 73 - Geelong 115
Fremantle have the home ground advantage, but it is Geelong that will go into this clash as clear favourites.
Patrick Dangerfield took his game to another level with Geelong last season and he was obviously the key-man for this side that only narrowly missed out on a Grand Final appearance.
A reliance on Dangerfield and Joel Selwood is the obvious issue for the Cats and there are some issues with their forward line, but this is still a side that will be in the mix come September.
Winning away from home was somewhat of an issue for Geelong last season and they won only six of their ten games as away favourites for a clear loss, while they were 6-4 against the line in this scenario.
Fremantle plummeted down the ladder in 2016, but it really would not surprise if they were the big improvers in 2017.
It should not be forgotten that Fremantle finished in the top four in 2015 and they will be a completely different side if Nathan Fyfe and Aaron Sandilands are able to stay fit.
Whether they are capable to return to finals football is a different question, but there is no doubt that they will win more than four games.
The Dockers only won two of their eight games as home underdogs last season, but they were a credible 4-4 against the line in this scenario.
It really would not surprise if Fremantle make a strong start to the season and I am keen to back them to cover the line with a start of 12.5 points.
Back Fremantle To Beat The Line (+12.5 Points)
The opening round of the AFL season is one of the most anticipated moments on the Australian sporting calendar and the 2017 season gets underway with the now traditional opener between Richmond and Carlton. The best AFL odds on the opening game of the season can be found at Ladbrokes.
We will get our first look at the second-tier Essendon side when they face the Gold Coast Suns on Saturday before the Sydney Swans host Collingwood in a blockbuster at ANZ Stadium.
The opening round of the season will be played over Easter Weekend and that means we get the always intriguing Easter Monday clash between Hawthorn and Geelong in the first week of the season.
Thursday 24 March, 7:20pm, MCG
Richmond 92 - Carlton 83
Richmond have won their past meetings with Carlton and go into the traditional AFL season opener as dominant favourites to make a winning start to the season.
Richmond fans start every season full of confidence that this can finally be the year that their side can develop into a genuine top four outfit, while Carlton were truly awful last season and if they can avoid the wooden spoon 2016 will be considered an improvement.
The Tigers have a reputation as being an unreliable football team and that theory is confirmed by their betting data in the past 12 months – they have been a losing betting proposition as favourites and they are a horrible 3-8 against the line as favourites at the MCG.
The loss of Brett Delido is a massive one and you simply can’t back the Tigers at their current price without one of their starts in the outfit.
It should come as no surprise that Carlton were a shocking betting team last season and they won just two of their 17 games as underdogs last season, while they are 8-11 against the line as underdogs.
There really isn’t a betting play that stands out in this fixture and I am happy to stay out and wait for better betting games later in the week.
Recommended Bet: No Bet
Saturday 26 March, 1:40pm, MCG
Melbourne 80 - GWS Giants 78
This will be a very interesting game between two sides that are expected to improve again this season.
Melbourne showed promising signs at the start of 2015 before they regressed badly in the second half of the season, but they showed some promising signs during the NAB Challenge.
The Greater Western Sydney Giants made a big leap last season and they could have snuck into the top eight if their side wasn’t badly hit by an injury crisis in the middle of the season.
The Giants will start this game as favourites and if they are serious about playing finals football they really need to be winning games like this one.
The AFL’s youngest franchise were a very safe bet as favourites last season at Spotless Stadium, but their record away from home was poor and they were 2-3 against the line as home favourites.
The Demons were a profitable betting play as underdogs last season in head to head betting and their NAB Challenge form suggests to me that they will make a promising start to the season.
The $2.30 on offer for the Demons to score an upset first round win for the second time in as many seasons is worth a bet.
Recommended Bet: Back The Demons To Win @ $2.30
Gold Coast Suns
Saturday 26 March, 3:35pm, Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast Suns 121 - Essendon Bombers 60
What do you say about the Essendon Bombers in 2016?
The club has been gutted by the WADA suspensions of the majority of their best players and it is tough to see them winning more than a handful of games this season.
The Gold Coast Suns were expected to push for a finals berth last season, but without Gary Ablett they were extremely poor and expectations have been fairly measured in 2016.
It comes as no surprise that the Suns are favourites for this clash – a scenario that they haven’t been in for the majority of their time in the AFL.
The Suns have a very poor record against the line as favourites, while the Bombers were 10-7 against the line as underdogs this season.
In saying that, I still don’t want to back the Bombers and we need to see how their top-up players perform for a couple of weeks before we can even consider them as a betting proposition.
Recommended Bet: No Bet
Saturday 26 March, 7:25pm, Etihad Stadium
North Melbourne 107 - Adelaide 97
This is one of the most interesting games of the round as both these sides are considered legitimate chances to play finals football this season.
North Melbourne were only a game away from the Grand Final again last season, but it is fair to say that they overachieved and they were not particularly impressive for the majority of the season.
Adelaide showed a tremendous amount of character to rally following the tragic murder of their coach Phil Walsh and they played a quality brand of football to qualify for the finals, but many experts believe that they will struggle to replicate that in 2016.
North Melbourne will start this game as favourites and this is a position where they thrived in last season – they lost just one game as favourites at Etihad Stadium and they were 9-4 against the line.
The Adelaide Crows were a losing betting proposition as underdogs last year and they were 2-4 against the line away from home.
I am backing the Kangaroos to get out of the blocks quickly this season and they are a good bet to cover the line of 13.5 points
Recommended Bet: Back The Kangaroos To Beat The Line (-13.5 Points)
Saturday 26 March, 7:25pm, SCG
Sydney Swans 133 - Collingwood 53
The Sydney Swans remain a consistent force in the AFL and they should play finals football again in 2016, but in recent seasons they have been fairly slow starters.
Collingwood were one of the big disappointments last season, but their list is simply packed full of quality and it is difficult to see them being that bad again in 2016.
The Swans are set to start this game as favourites, but we need to remember that Collingwood have been a bogey team for the Sydney Swans in recent years and the Magpies have won 13 of the last 16 games played between the two sides.
Sydney went a terrible 3-8 against the line as home favourites last season and they were a losing betting proposition across the majority of metrics.
On the other hand, Collingwood went 6-0 against the line as away underdogs last season and you can’t ignore their excellent record against the Swans.
I expect the Magpies to bounce back in a very big way this season and they are a great bet to beat the line with a start of 7.5 points.
Recommended Bet: Back The Magpies To Beat The Line (+7.5 Points)
Sunday 27 March, 1:10pm, Etihad Stadium
Western Bulldogs 103 - Fremantle 38
The Western Bulldogs were the big improvers last season under new coach Luke Beveridge, but they face a tough challenge replicating that feat now that rival coaches have had an off-season to analyse their interesting approach.
Fremantle set the pace for the majority of the AFL season and they were the minor premiers, but come September they were spent forces and they never looked like genuine premiership contenders.
The market can’t split these two teams ahead of this fixture and it is very easy to see why as there are a number of questions surrounding both sides – none more so than the fitness of Nat Fye, who had surgery in the post-season to fix a fractured leg.
The Bulldogs were very good at Etihad Stadium last season, while the Dockers were 8-3 away from home but they were only 1-2 as away underdogs.
Like the bookies, I can’t split these sides, but the one market that does stand out is the Over/Under betting market.
The Dockers are the best defensive team in the competition and the Under saluted in 64 percent of their games last season, while the total went under in 59 percent of the Bulldogs games last season.
Recommended: Back The Under (175.5 Points)
Sunday 27 March, 2:50pm, Adelaide Oval
Port Adelaide 133 - St Kilda 100
Port Adelaide were the only team to beat Hawthorn twice last season, but they still missed out on finals football in what was a very disappointing regression under Ken Hinkley.
St Kilda showed signs of improvement in 2015 and they were far more competitive against the better teams in the competition, but there are questions over whether they can continue that upward spiral this season.
The Power are one of the shortest-priced favourites of the weekend and this was a scenario in which they struggled last season – they were 5-5 as home favourites and they were a very poor 7-10 against the line.
St Kilda went 4-6 as away underdogs last season and that saw them finish in the positive, but their record against the line was poor in just about every scenario.
This is a very tricky game to assess as there is no way that I could possibly get Port Adelaide as short as $1.20, but I don’t really want to play the Saints at the line.
The only play I could recommend here would be an extremely small bet on the Saints at their current price of $4.75, which really is over the odds based on how the Power performed last season.
Recommended Bet: Back The Saints To Win @ $4.75
West Coast Eagles
Sunday 27 March, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
West Coast Eagles 166 - Brisbane Lions 102
This is the biggest mismatch of the season and based on betting the West Coast Eagles are set to start the 2016 AFL season with a very big win over the Brisbane Lions.
West Coast may have failed to fire in the AFL Grand Final, but they were still very impressive throughout the season and I expect them to finish in the top four once again.
In contrast, the Brisbane Lions produced another very forgettable season in 2015 and there aren’t many outside the club that believe they will perform any better this season.
West Coast are $1.03 favourites and the Eagles have started as $1.05 favourites or shorter in the past four seasons on ten occasions and won ten times, so it is extremely difficult to see them getting beaten.
The line is where the interest will be here and the West Coast Eagles were an outstanding 9-1 as home favourites against the line last season, while the Lions were 7-11 as underdogs.
The line of 57.5 points is massive, but the Eagles have covered a line of greater than 50 points on six occasions in the past three seasons and all the data suggests that they will do the same again this weekend.
Recommended Bet: Back The Eagles To Beat The Line (-57.5 Points)
Monday 28 March, 3:20pm, MCG
Geelong 116 - Hawthorn 86
The rivalry between Geelong and Hawthorn is one of the most intense in the AFL and this is always one of the highlights of the AFL calendar.
Hawthorn embarrassed the West Coast Eagles in the 2015 AFL Grand Final to win their third straight flag and it would take a braver man than me to suggest that they can’t make it four in a row this season.
Geelong missed the finals for the first time in nine years last season, but a very soft draw and some shrewd recruitment, highlighted by the signing of Patrick Dangerfield, means that the Cats are expected to return to the top four very quickly.
Hawthorn have now won the past four games played between the two sides and they are favourites to make it five in a row on Easter Monday.
The Hawks were a very small losing proposition as favourites in head to head betting markets last season, but they were 15-11 against the line as favourites.
Geelong were 5-6 as underdogs last season, which gave punters that backed them each time in this scenario a very small profit, but they had the same record against the line for a small loss.
The Cats might take a while to click this season and you have to stick with the winners, so Hawthorn are a good bet to get their season off to a winning start.
Recommended Bet: Back The Hawks To Win @ $1.70