Welcome to the Round 1 (week 2) AFL preview. The first four matches of the season didn’t quite go as many predicted, with Fremantle the only favourite getting up against Collingwood. The victories to Gold Coast and Port Adelaide weren’t necessarily surprises, but the result at Spotless Stadium certainly was.
Many neutral supporters were originally tuning in to the “Battle of the Bridge” clash to see Buddy Franklin in his new strip, but the pleasant surprise of a competitive Giants side quickly changed our attention. While there was still the thought in the back of most minds that Sydney would eventually run away with the game, GWS kept up and ran away with one of the most unlikely wins in recent memory. The third year players look significantly fitter and stronger than last year which should equate far more consistent performances like Saturday afternoon.
The second week of Round 1 sees the completion of the remaining five matches, which again lack the excitement of a genuine blockbuster. There doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of value on offer, but the first four encounters proved that nothing is a sure thing.
Hawthorn @ the -46.5 line
GEELONG ($1.33) vs ADELAIDE ($3.30)
AT SIMONDS STADIUM, THURSDAY 20/03/2014, 19:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Adelaide 14.10 (94) defeated Geelong 14.8 (92) at AAMI, R17 2013
Line: Geelong -21.5, Adelaide +21.5
The Cats enter Round 1 as one of the hardest injury hit clubs throughout the preseason. Nearly every player on the injury list would have been regarded either a certainty or well and truly in the frame to play in the opening game of the season before their setbacks. Allen Christensen and Steven Motlop are the highest profile and won’t be seen for at least the first month, while Nathan Vardy and Shane Kersten were both earmarked to fill the void of Podsiadly, but will be out for lengthy periods. Add that to Smedts, Burbury and Menzel and you are missing are large percentage of your top thirty players. In positive news, skipper Joel Selwood has recovered from his minor hamstring strain.
It has been a horribly tough week for the Adelaide Crows with the passing of assistant coach Dean Bailey. It is rare that you have a death linked directly to an entire football club, so it is difficult to know how the players will respond. James Podsiadly will be looking to prove many at Geelong wrong after not being offered a new contract, while Eddie Betts will also make his debut for the club.
The Cats look a tad short at $1.33 with the mentioned injuries, but the depth is good. The Dockers showed Geelong aren’t invincible at Simonds Stadium last year, but 42 wins from the last 44 games still tells a significant tale.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 18 POINTS
NORTH MELBOURNE ($1.64) vs ESSENDON ($2.25)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, FRIDAY 21/03/2014, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Essendon 9.16 (70) lost to North 17.13 (115) at ES, R21 2013.
Line: North -8.5, Essendon +8.5
North Melbourne are one of the fascinating teams of 2014 with many expecting rapid improvement. Although a NAB Challenge series of disappointing performances has many wondering where the Roos are at. We’ll learn plenty this weekend as North comes up against a side that it has won 3 of the last 4 encounters, at a venue where it has succeeded 9 of 12 times. The injury list is relatively short, with captain Andrew Swallow the major unavailability as he continues to heal from last season’s achilles injury. There aren’t many excuses for Brad Scott’s side which gives me confidence that they’ll be ready to perform.
The Bombers are just as intriguing after a preseason off the front pages of the Herald Sun. Essendon looked like a Premiership contender at times last year and don’t be surprised if they have similar periods of brilliance early in the season. Tom Bellchambers is out for six weeks meaning Paddy Ryder will have to go alone against Todd Goldstein, while the restructured forward line of Carlisle and Daniher is sure to take time to gel. Michael Hibberd has been passed fit after a hamstring injury earlier in the preseason.
This is the most interesting game of the week. North Melbourne have proven to match up well against Essendon recently, while the Thompson game plan still appears to require time.
NORTH MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 21 POINTS
HAWTHORN ($1.08) vs BRISBANE ($7.50)
AT AURORA STADIUM, SATURDAY 22/03/2014, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Hawthorn 21.17 (143) defeated Brisbane 12.13 (85) at AU, R14 2013.
Line: Hawthorn -46.5, Brisbane +46.5
The 2013 Premier has started the New Year in scary fashion with three of the most dominant performances of the preseason. The Hawks had an average winning margin of 102 points during the NAB Challenge/practice matches, showing no mercy against Melbourne, North Melbourne and this week’s opponent, the Brisbane Lions. The 131 point win to Hawthorn looks horrid on paper for Justin Leppitsch, but his side was missing a host of senior players. In saying that, Hawthorn generally put the hapless Lions to the sword with an average 60 point winning margin over the last four encounters. The Hawks will be without premiership stars Cyril Rioli, Brian Lake, Ben Stratton and Brad Sewell.
Has there been a tougher initiation for a coach on debut than having to face the reigning Premier at a fortress like Aurora Stadium? He would already be thoroughly sick of Hawthorn after his young side was destroyed in the NAB Challenge game, which wouldn’t even be worth reviewing. Unfortunately Claye Beams has had another setback after a promising preseason, this time with a broken toe, while Ash McGrath and Brent Staker are at least a couple of weeks away.
Hawthorn have been slick and look ready to roll. The loss of Buddy has barely been noticed as Roughead and Gunston lot comfortable in his absence. The -46.5 line looks generous.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 74 POINTS
ST KILDA ($2.45) vs MELBOURNE($1.55)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 22/03/2014, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: St Kilda 16.8 (104) defeated Melbourne 10.9 (69) at the MCG, R13 2013.
Line: St Kilda +12.5, Melbourne -12.5
This is one of those games where recent history just needs to be completely ignored. The Saints have won the last nine encounters, with a majority of those games played while these sides were at opposite ends of the ladder. The tide has now changed, mostly for St Kilda as they look to deal with the loss of mass senior experience and innovations of a new coach in Alan Richardson. The Saints come into the game with a long list of casualties to both suspension and injury. Jack Steven, Leigh Montagna, Lenny Hayes, Sam Fisher, Adam Schneider and Maverick Weller are all names you won’t see on Saturday night, placing enormous pressure on the first and second year players to step up in their absence.
The Dees are in much better shape health wise, but the depth of talls in particular will be tested. Chris Dawes, Mitch Clark, Colin Garland, Mark Jamar and exciting youngster Jesse Hogan are all unavailable, leaving large holes for Paul Roos to fill short term. There is a raft of new faces for the Dees, with Bernie Vince, Dom Tyson, Daniel Cross, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Alex Georgiou and Viv Mitchie all named to debut for the club.
The Demons preseason form has been far superior due to the Paul Roos possession orientated game style. That coupled with the key exclusions for St Kilda make Melbourne a justified favourite. The Melbourne head to head price has come in a lot over the last month after looking very profitable at one stage.
MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 16 POINTS
WEST COAST ($1.25) vs WESTERN BULLDOGS ($4.00)
AT PATERSONS STADIUM, SUNDAY 23/03/2014, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Dogs 16.15 (111) defeated West Coast 13.11 (89) at ES, R18 2013.
Line: West Coast -26.5, Dogs +26.5
There is a bit at stake for the West Coast Eagles in Round 1. They have been the most impressive team of the preseason with newly appointed coach Adam Simpson bringing fresh ideas to a stale squad. Many had high hopes of West Coast success last year, but as we know, injuries played a key part in the side not reaching the finals. Thankfully for the West Coast faithful, the injury list is short coming into the season opener with Mark Hutchings and the forever plagued Beau Waters the most relevant exclusions. The expectations are growing once again and a positive showing here is sure to build further confidence.
The Western Bulldogs will be optimistic travelling to Perth. Brendan McCartney’s men stormed to a fantastic victory in Round 18 last year against an Eagles outfit that was still contending for a top eight position. They managed to win the clearances in the absence of Nic Naitanui and out run a sore West Coast side in the second half. The Dogs have been fortunate in being close to injury free throughout the preseason. Bob Murphy has recovered from an elbow, while Jarrad Grant is the only other player listed to have an injury. In saying that, Ryan Griffen hasn’t been risked after experiencing some back tightness of late and is a major loss.
The West Coast preseason form is difficult to ignore. Even though the Dogs will be more competitive than expected, Adam Simpson should have a relatively comfortable debut outing.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 25 POINTS
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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