2016 AFL Finals Week 1 Preview & Bets

Welcome to the AFL Finals Week 1 preview. It has felt like an eternity, but finally we have reached the most exciting time of the AFL season. The week off hasn’t exactly killed momentum, but it has felt like an unnecessarily long wait. The E.J Whitten Legends Game and women’s exhibition match filled in the weekend nicely, but the craving of high intensity finals football has lasted long enough.

Adelaide’s loss to West Coast on the Friday night of Round 23 added a completely new dynamic to the final eight matches of the home and away season. Suddenly a home Qualifying Final and double chance was open with the Crows sliding to fifth. Geelong and GWS took their opportunities, while Hawthorn scraped home against Collingwood to hold its top four position. It has set up two mouth-watering Qualifying Finals, with the two Sydney based clubs playing in their first final against each other, while the greatest modern rivalry of Geelong and Hawthorn takes centre stage again. We are set for a fascinating first weekend of finals football!

BEST BET:

Home Team (Adelaide) Over 103.5 Points @ $1.88

ELIMINATION FINAL: WEST COAST ($1.21) VS WESTERN BULLDOGS ($4.50)

AT DOMAIN STADIUM, THURSDAY 08/09, 20:10

Line: Eagles -27.5, Dogs +27.5

West Coast enters the 2016 finals series as the form team in the competition statistically, having won nine of its past ten encounters. The Eagles upset win against the Crows at Adelaide Oval not only shaped the top four, but cemented itself a home Elimination Final against the Dogs at Domain Stadium. West Coast’s supreme performance was highlighted by a ruthless contested brand that was efficient going forward. When Adelaide did win a clearance, the Eagle’s defensive structures ensured there were minimal characteristically fast scoring chains. Jonathan Giles was excellent in the absence of Naitanui and proved there isn’t as many ruck worries as originally thought. Scott Lycett will play after a PCL scare, but Lewis Jetta is out with a calf injury.

The Western Bulldogs left one of its worse performances of the year until last, going down to Fremantle by 20 points at Domain Stadium. Although it is set to take a very different looking team on Thursday night, with Easton Wood, Tom Liberatore, Jack Macrae, Jordan Roughead and the VFL banished Jake Stringer all named to take on the Eagles. Luke Beveridge hasn’t appeared too fazed about the Fremantle result and is focused on getting his side to replicate its best football from earlier in the season. That best form has been heavily triggered by manic hard ball efforts, as the Dogs hadn’t lost a contested possession count until late in the season.

This match looks like being won through the midfield, especially at the stoppages. The Dogs will still be looking to take advantage of the Naitanui absence, despite the good performance of Giles two weeks ago. Although the likes of Shuey, Priddis and Gaff are in good enough form to win their own ball and feed off any opposition taps. Expect the Dogs poor recent Domain Stadium form to continue.

WEST COAST TO WIN BY 21 POINTS

Bet to Consider:

Most Disposals Gr1 Matthew Priddis @ $5.00

QUALIFYING FINAL: GEELONG ($1.61) VS HAWTHORN ($2.35)

AT THE MCG, FRIDAY 09/09, 19:50

Line: Cats -8.5, Hawks +8.5

Geelong couldn’t have finished the home and away rounds in much better style, demolishing a hapless Melbourne outfit by 111 points. Everything went to plan, from getting through the game injury free to claiming the vacant top two position on the back of an unexpected Adelaide loss the night before. The midfielders had a nice blowout before having two weeks off, while the forward line functioned arguably as well as it has all season. The Cats had two key players fighting to be fit for Friday night in Scott Selwood and Lachie Henderson, but only the former has got up. With so much rain forecasted for Friday, the Cats won’t be too concerned going in one tall short. Expect Scott Selwood to follow Sam Mitchell closely all night.
Everyone involved with Hawthorn breathed a large sigh of relief after falling across the line against Collingwood in Round 23. It could have been an extremely costly result, as two less points would have seen it travelling to Perth for an Elimination Final. Instead, the Hawks find themselves in the familiar surrounds of the MCG with the double chance. Hawthorn again produced poor contested possession numbers against Collingwood and were beaten at the stoppages by four clearances. The Hawks entered the 2015 finals with poor inside numbers, but drastically improved the category as September got deeper. You feel it needs to replicate a similar turnaround. Ben Stratton and Ben McEvoy will both play.
The great modern rivalry looks set to begin a new chapter and a forecasted 30mm of rain on Friday in Melbourne just makes things even more interesting. The Cats enter the match on a seven match winning streak and its midfield in brilliant form. If Hawthorn can match Geelong through the middle it is every chance to win, but wet conditions are sure to lessen its outside strengths.

GEELONG TO WIN BY 15 POINTS

Bet to Consider:

Total Game Points Under 155.5 Points @ $1.90

QUALIFYING FINAL: SYDNEY ($1.42) VS GWS ($2.95)

AT ANZ STADIUM, SATURDAY 10/09, 15:20

Line: Swans -15.5, Giants +15.5

Sydney has finished the 2016 home and away rounds on top of the table and goes into its Qualifying Final as a rightful premiership favourite. In saying that, not everything has gone the Swans way. Adelaide’s loss to West Coast has seen GWS slide into fourth position, meaning Sydney no longer gets the right to host this match at the SCG, eliminating any home ground advantage. The Swans hierarchy are silently seething, but the show must go on and a win will see the club host a Preliminary Final at the SCG after contractual negotiations. Sydney looks to have a near full strength squad to choose from and will see 2016 Rising Star winner Callum Mills return to defence.
Like most clubs aiming for the top four, GWS were given a brilliant reprieve from Adelaide’s loss to sneak into fourth position and earn a double chance for its first finals campaign. The Giants were comprehensive against North Melbourne, running away to a trouble free 37 point victory at Etihad Stadium. GWS again showed how dangerous it can be around the stoppages, winning 46 clearances to finish the match with a +12 differential. Big Jonathon Patton looks to have hit form at exactly the right time, kicking 11 goals in the final two games of the home and away season to add further forward concerns for opposition coaches.
I’m surprised to see the odds aren’t closer to be honest, especially on the back of the Giants breakthrough victory at Spotless in Round 12. I’m finding the teams tough to separate at ANZ, but at any venue the match is likely to be decided in the midfield. The experienced big bodied Sydney players have hit top form in recent weeks, leaning me only slightly in the Swans favour. Don’t underestimate the Giants though.

SYDNEY TO WIN BY 6 POINTS

Bet to Consider:

GWS +15.5 Line @ $1.92

ELIMINATION FINAL: ADELAIDE ($1.18) VS NORTH MELBOURNE ($5.00)

AT ADELAIDE OVAL, SATURDAY 10/09, 19:40

Line: Crows -33.5, North +33.5

Adelaide couldn’t have shot itself in the foot any more by going down to West Coast, sacrificing itself to not only a home Qualifying Final, but the double chance. It still gets a home Elimination Final at Adelaide Oval, but will have to travel interstate for every win it produces thereafter. The Crows were beaten for contested football and couldn’t generate its usual fast ball movement from turnovers. Instead it was left struggling for options and constantly had to kick long to 50/50 contests, creating time to fill space further up the ground. Don Pyke would have been frustrated with the poor performance of Sam Jacobs, who failed to take advantage of the Naitanui absence and was instead soundly beaten by Jon Giles. Positively, the Crows will welcome back the services of Rory Sloane and Brodie Smith.
North Melbourne have come into the last two finals series with minimal expectations, but have reached Preliminary Finals on each occasion from the bottom four of the eight. The Kangaroos have even less expectations this year, despite being top of the ladder at the midway point of the season. It has lost 10 of its last 13 matches and is easily the worst performed club of the top eight statistically. Although it has proven in recent seasons that the unexpected can be produced and will be heavily reliant on that belief. Neither Jarrad Waite nor Scott Thompson have been named to play in this do or die encounter, with Brad Scott resisting the temptation of playing underdone players.
North Melbourne won the Round 1 encounter, but Adelaide were dominant during the return stoush at Adelaide Oval. The final 33 point margin in Round 14 didn’t justify the gulf between the two clubs, as the Crows had 23 more scoring shots but couldn’t hit a barn with 28 behinds. Expect Adelaide to be back to its high scoring best with fine weather forecasted.

ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 45 POINTS

Bet to Consider:

Home Team (Adelaide) Over 103.5 Points @ $1.88

Author

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Rover

Covering all things Australian Rules Football for The Profits. I’ve been a passionate supporter and follower of AFL for as long as I can remember. Having been born into a family with deep football history and tradition on both sides, you can say it runs through my blood. I’ve got a keen interest in the stats and analysis of the game, which helped me finish in the top 100 of fantasy competitions DreamTeam and Supercoach last year. While my own local football career was cut short due to injury at 22, it has created an opportunity for me to frequently watch and build a deep knowledge of the sport at its highest level. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and views throughout the season.

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