AFL footy returns for 2019 with the traditional clash between Carlton and Richmond Tigers on Thursday night.
West Coast Eagles will be beginning the defence of their premiership when they head to Brisbane to take on the Lions in their season opening.
We preview each of the nine games below:
Carlton v Richmond Tigers
Thursday, March 21
Carlton head in as the rank underdogs for this match and are coming from well back after registering just two wins in season 2018. The Blues finished the year as wooden spooners and won 16 fewer games than Richmond, who won 18 of 22. The Tigers bowed out of the finals series in a Preliminary Final upset against Collingwood but feature high up in premiership betting markets this season. Damien Hardwick’s side looked sharp in the recent JLT Community Series, winning both of their hitouts. They defeated another quality outfit in Melbourne by 12 points before accounting for Hawthorn by eight. Carlton registered a win against Essendon by nine points before dropping their second match to their traditional rivals, Collingwood by four. One of the key talking points out of Carlton has been the form of their star recruit, Sam Walsh, who was picked up at No.1 in the 2018 National Draft. Walsh looks ready to go and adds depth to a line up that features a number of promising youngsters. However, Walsh and the likes of their new captain, Patrick Cripps, face a tough assignment against a Richmond outfit that boasts the likes of Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt and Alex Rance. That quartet all looked sharp through the pre-season competition and will be hungry to get off to a good start in their quest to make up for the disappointment of last season.
Prediction: Richmond by 1-39 ($2.50 TopBetta)
Collingwood v Geelong Cats
Friday, March 22
Collingwood went agonisingly close in 2018, missing out on a premiership by just five points as West Coast snatched the ultimate prize in the Grand Final. Their quest to go one better begins in earnest on Friday against a Geelong side that could only manage 8th last season. The Magpies claimed both of their recent JLT Community Series games by defeating Fremantle by 27 points and Carlton by four. Geelong went down to West Coast by 24 before defeating Essendon by 28 in week two of the pre-season competition. Collingwood have been posted as slight favourites in the head to head betting and with their midfield quartet of Adam Treloar, Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom and Dayne beams will be hard to stop. Another key player for the black and white will be Brodie Grundy, who looks set to dominate in the ruck. However, the Cats have plenty of A-grade players headed by Patrick Dangerfield, while it will be interesting to see how the veteran, Gary Ablett fares. It remains to be seen if the two-time Brownlow Medalist spends most of his time up forward this season.
Prediction: Collingwood win ($1.63 TopBetta)
Melbourne Demons v Port Adelaide
Saturday, March 23
Melbourne have been posted as favourites for what is the third game of the AFL home and away season and come off a spectacular 2018 that saw them end a long drought by playing finals for the first time since 2006. Simon Goodwin’s side won 14 of their 22 games last year to qualify in 5th position before winning two finals en route to exiting in the Preliminary Final against the eventual premiers, Richmond. Port Adelaide fell away in the latter half of the season and slipped out of the eight, finishing in 10th with 12 wins. In the recent JLT Community Series, the Power won one of their two games, while Melbourne went winless. The Demons lost tight games to Richmond and Brisbane, while Port lost to Adelaide before accouting for North Melbourne. Despite their pre-season form, Melbourne do look to have an advantage. Max Gawn can get on top in the ruck against Scott Lycett and Paddy Ryder, while the Demons fleet of midfielders should gain the advantage at the clearances. A slight concern for Melbourne is their defence at the moment and they will be without a couple of key players in this part of the ground. Robbie Gray and Justin Westhoff can capitalise up forward for the Power and if that pair fire then the visitors can spring a surprise.
Melbourne by 1-24 ($3.40 TopBetta
Adelaide Crows v Hawthorn
Saturday, March 23
Little went right for the Adelaide Crows in 2018. Injuries and poor form meant that they couldn’t go anywhere near to reproducing their 2017 effort that saw them finish runners-up to Richmond. They ended last season in 11th position with 12 wins. Things were much brighter for Hawthorn, who qualified in 4th position in 2018 with 15 wins before bowing out of the finals in straight sets. However, the Hawks pre-season hasn’t quite gone to plan with their star midfielder, Tom Mitchell, going down with a broken leg. The 2018 Brownlow Medalist is out for the season. Alistair Clarkson’s side have lost both of their JLT Community Series games. They were no match for Brisbane when fielding an inexperienced side before going down to Richmond by eight points in week two. Adelaide won both of their encounters with wins against Port Adelaide and GWS. The Crows are firm favourites in the head to head betting for the Round 1 clash and with a number of their star midfielders ready to go, they should be hard to beat. Matt and Brad Crouch head in with outstanding form, as does Rory Sloane. Josh Jenkins, Eddie Betts and Taylor Walker will be the focal points up forward. Hawthorn will need big games from the likes of Jaegar O’Meara and Isaac Smith in the middle of the ground, while key bookends in Jack Gunston and James Sicily can have some influence.
Adelaide by 1-39 ($2.20 TopBetta
Western Bulldogs v Sydney Swans
The Western Bulldogs will be keen to get off to a good start in 2019 after floundering to finish in 13th position last season with just eight wins. They take on a Sydney outfit that once again made finals last year, finishing in 6th position before going down to the GWS Giants in the Elimination Final. Both sides head in with some indifferent form from the JLT Community Series. Sydney lost to GWS in week one of the pre-season competition by 22 points before defeating lowly Gold Coast by 42. The Bulldogs lost both of their encounters, going down to Brisbane by five and St Kilda by 14. The Swans head in as slight favourites for this encounter but it is a bit of a difficult one to predict with uncertainty over the fitness of Sydney’s star forward, Lance Franklin, who has been battling a groin injury. Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy and Isaac Heeney shape as key players for the red and white, who enjoy an edge in experience over the Bulldogs. Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli and Lachie Hunter should find plenty of the footy for the home side, while it will be interesting to see how the likes of Aaron Naughton and Josh Schache perform. Both youngsters head in with some good JLT form under their belt.
Western Bulldogs to win ($2.36 TopBetta
Brisbane Lions v West Coast Eagles
Saturday, March 23
Brisbane showed some promising signs in 2018 but managed to register just five wins for the season en route to finishing 15th. They have a lot of work to do to bridge the gap on the likes of West Coast, who won 16 of their regular season games last year before taking out the premiership in memorable circumstances. There have been some slight changes in the composition of both sides lists and Brisbane have managed to win both of their recent JLT Community Series games with those efforts coming against Hawthorn and Melbourne. West Coast looked sharp in their wins over Geelong and Fremantle in the pre-season competition. Premiership heroes in Dom Sheed and Shannon Hurn head in with strong form, while Willie Rioli snagged four majors in the Dockers game. Defensively, the premiers should prove to be hard to get past but the Brisbane outfit tend to move the ball quickly. Lachie Neale and Jarryd Lyons shape as key playmakers, while Eric Hipwood and Cam Rayner can have an influence up forward.
West Coast -14.5 ($1.96 TopBetta
St Kilda v Gold Coast Suns
Sunday, March 24
Both clubs only managed four wins during the 2018 regular season. St Kilda finished 16th after drawing against the GWS Giants and Gold Coast finished 17th. The Saints defeated North Melbourne by 25 points in Round 1 of the JLT Community Series before defeating the Western Bulldogs by 14 points in Round 2. In comparison, the Suns were five-point winners over the Bulldogs, followed by a 42-point loss to Sydney. St Kilda will be without former Sydney Swans-premiership player Dan Hannebery who was traded to the club following the 2018 season. Coach Alan Richardson will be under the spotlight early in the season and a loss to the Suns could see his job under threat earlier in the season than most would predict. The Suns team line-up is far from attractive, with key losses of former co-captains Steven May (to Melbourne) and Tom Lynch (Richmond); they don’t look to have the depth to be able to go four quarters with the Saints at Marvel and the Wooden Spoon favourites will likely begin their 2019 campaign with a loss. There is a chance that the Suns could get blown away, but I don’t see the Saints as having the firepower to do so and they should win by less than 40 points, unless their leading goalkickers from 2018, Jade Gresham (35 goals) and Tim Membrey (34) feast on the Suns backline.
Prediction: St Kilda between 1-39 ($2.15 TopBetta)
GWS Giants v Essendon Bombers
Sunday, March 24
The GWS Giants finished seventh on the ladder in 2018 after 13 wins, 8 losses and 1 draw. Essendon finished in 11th place with 12 wins and 10 losses. Pre-season form should generally be taken with a grain of salt. The Giants defeated Sydney by 22 points in Round 1 of the JLT Community Series before a shocking 7.15 kicking effort saw them 18-point losers to Adelaide in Round 2. The Bombers suffered a nine-point loss to last year’s wooden spooners, Carlton, before a 28-point defeat at the hands of Geelong. Essendon had a dreadful start to 2018 with losses to Fremantle, Western Bulldogs and Carlton in the first eight rounds of the season. They would build momentum during the middle-stages of the season to show what a force they could be when the team was at their best – they easily accounted for eventual premiers West Coast. I’m predicting the Bombers will be a serious finals contender this season and the addition of former GWS Giant Dylan Shiel to the midfield strengthens their core which already includes David Zaharakis, David Myers, captain Dyson Heppell and Tom Bellchambers. This match could go either way with the Giants led by co-captain Phil Davis in defence, but they will miss their other co-captain in Callan Ward. I give a slight edge to the Bombers and their price appeals for Sunday’s blockbuster match.
Prediction: Essendon ($2.00 TopBetta)
Fremantle Dockers v North Melbourne
Sunday, March 24
Fremantle had a lacklustre 2018 season as they finished in 14th place with 8 wins and 14 losses. North Melbourne just missed out on finals footy with a ninth-place finish after 12 wins and 10 losses during the regular season. Looking at the recent JLT Community Series, the Dockers lost by 27 points to Collingwood in Round 1 and were thumped by the reigning premiers West Coast to the tune of 51 points. The Kangaroos suffered 25 and 21-point losses to St Kilda and Port Adelaide during the pre-season. Jesse Hogan won’t make his Fremantle debut after coming over from Melbourne, citing mental health issues. He will be a key out for the Dockers. The Kangaroos also have some key players missing but their team looks strong enough to travel west and leave with a win. They did that in 2018 with an 86-58 victory and also destroyed eventual premiers West Coast by 40 points at Blundstone Arena in Tasmania. Full forward Ben Brown celebrates his 100th game and he will be looking for a bag to begin the season after kicking 61 goals in 2018. His career-best is 63 in 2017.
Prediction: North Melbourne ($1.84 TopBetta)