AFL-starved fans have been offered a glimmer of hope by Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell, who is confident that the premiership season will restart by July at the latest following the coronavirus shutdown.
Now that we’ve got some actual game data under our belts, especially with the four new clubs, let’s take a concrete look at this weekend’s AFLW games.
Western Bulldogs vs Melbourne at Whitten Oval
Odds: Melbourne by 3.5 points ($1.65).
ELO Following Football rating system: Melbourne by three points.
Fan consensus: 72 per cent favour the Bulldogs.
Both teams won last week. The Dogs beat up on the expansion Saints while the Demons took on a far more credible opponent, a Kangaroos club favoured to be Adelaide’s main rival in Conference A this season, and won by two.
Which one of those feats was more impressive? Kate Hore was tremendous up front, and there were great performances by Libby Birch, Karen Paxman, Tegan Cunningham, Eden Zanker, and many others against a formidable foe. Meanwhile, the Dogs got great games from players like Ellie Blackburn, Kirsty Lamb, Isabel Huntington, and Bonnie Toogood. But they’re going to have to step it up a notch to beat this Melbourne club, which has already been tested this season, and passed, while they had a walk-over weekend.
Melbourne’s favoured by three. Give them the three and more. Take Melbourne and the points.
North Melbourne Kangaroos vs GWS Giants at UTAS
Odds: Kangaroos by 11.5 points ($1.33).
ELO Following Football rating system: Kangaroos by 16.
Fan consensus: Kangaroos favoured by 91 per cent of fans.
Greater Western Sydney became the first AFLW team to win a game by scoring fewer than ten points.
Meanwhile, the Kangaroos averaged more than 40 points a game last year. This one’s easy.
Take the Kangaroos and the points.
Gold Coast vs Richmond at Metricon Stadium
Odds: Richmond by 7.5 points ($1.50).
ELO Following Football rating system: Gold Coast by seven points.
Fan consensus: 85 per cent favour Richmond.
Finally, an expansion team will win a game, barring a draw – and after the lack of offence from all four new clubs last week, a scoreless draw is completely viable. It’s hard to pick either of these teams over the other (or anyone else) by the seven points listed above, just because of the lack of scoring power.
Of course, it’s very possible that against each other’s defences, this might turn into a goal-fest. I have no idea. So to be safe, we’ll just say Richmond to win, period.
West Coast vs Fremantle at Optus Stadium
Odds: Fremantle by 14.5 points ($1.28).
ELO Following Football rating system: Fremantle by nine points.
Fan consensus: Dockers chosen by 74 per cent of fans.
Here it is, friends: the very first women’s Derby at the AFLW level! The first Western Derby in the amazing new-ish Optus Stadium will officially be hosted by the Eagles, which is generous on the league’s part because it’s the only good thing they’ll get all day.
Because while Fremantle was pulling away from fellow 2019 finalist Geelong on Sunday afternoon, West Coast spent their first game being wiped up by defending wooden-spoon possessor Collingwood, 38-11, giving the Magpies the top percentage in the league for one precious week until Sunday’s game against the Blues. Freo should win by 60.
But this is a Derby.
So while 14.5 points actually sounds generous towards the Eagles, there’s a small chance that the rivalry effect will cause this to play out like a men’s derby and come down to the final kick, somehow. Honouring that slim possibility, we’re just going to say Fremantle to win. Just.
Geelong vs Brisbane at GHMBA Stadium
Odds: Brisbane by 1.5 points ($1.80).
ELO Following Football rating system: Lions by two.
Fan consensus: Geelong averages out to be favoured by 57 per cent of fans, although one of the two polls we use tip towards the Lions slightly.
On paper, this is the closest game of the weekend. In an ideal universe, we’d get a replay of the classic from Round 22 on the men’s side last year, when the top two teams met at the Gabba and a screaming specky won the game for the Lions in the final minute.
On form from last week, it’s hard to overlook the shellacking that the Lions gave the reigning premiers, even with Erin Phillips on the sidelines. While the Cats looked formidable for three quarters against the Dockers, their performance last week doesn’t hold a candle to what Brisbane were able to do. Even away from home, we’ve got to take the Lions and the points to win.
Carlton vs Collingwood at Ikon Park
Odds: Carlton by 3.5 points ($1.65).
ELO Following Football rating system: Carlton by nine points.
Fan consensus: 76 per cent of fans favour the Blues this weekend.
So do we. The original opener, the one that forced a lock-out at Ikon Park three Februaries ago on the opening night of the comp, comes up for an encore this weekend. Carlton don’t have far to travel back from their first ‘road’ game of the season to its home opener, since both games occur at Ikon Park. But it’s not particularly foreign ground to the Magpies, either, and if there are still some of you interested in getting the unfairness of travel requirements for the eight interstate clubs compared with the ten Victorian clubs, have at it – the comment section is open for business.
But in the women’s game, so many teams utilising multiple sites for home games for a variety of reasons. The Kangaroos split time evenly between Tasmania and Melbourne. Adelaide has a contingent of players and coaches who call the NT home. And many teams use a couple of differing nearby fields with smaller capacities than their men’s team’s home stadium has, all the better to accommodate the smaller crowds that attend their games.
The last example may be slowly going away – Geelong will play all their home games at GHMBA, the Suns will play half of their home games at the Metricon, and the Gabba, Optus, Giants and Marvel Stadiums each get at least one women’s game this season, depending on how their respective teams do with respect to appearing in finals.
In fact, to get completely off-track, home-field advantage can be somewhat of a myth for teams who play their four home games at three different sites during the season, as several AFLW teams do. Only Geelong, St Kilda and the Bulldogs have the same home field for all four home games this year. And can it be noted here that finally, with an even number of games in the season, each club gets the same number of home games for the first time in league history?
It isn’t a big deal to have gotten this far off track, because there’s not much to say about this game. Maddy Prespakis and company will run circles around the Pies as they did last year.
Take Carlton and the points.
Adelaide vs St Kilda at Richmond Oval in Adelaide
Odds: Adelaide by 15.5 points ($1.25).
ELO Following Football rating system: Crows to win by 25.5 points. One pundit has the predicted margin at 53 points, in a 60-minute game.
Fan consensus: 98 per cent pick Adelaide to win. The other two per cent live in or around Moorabbin Oval.
When you have a team as dominant as Adelaide were last year (and as most people presume they will be this season as well, although if Manchester City has taught us anything this season…) and four expansion teams thrown into the mix to sink or swim, you’re going to have occasional games like this one.
Fifty-three points would imply about a two or two-and-a-half-goal difference per quarter – unlikely but possible, if they don’t let off the pedal. Twenty-five is only a goal margin per period, which sounds about right. The opening point spread just seems too optimistic when the Saints lost by 25 to the last-place 2019 Bulldogs last week.
Take Adelaide and the points. And maybe take a few more points to be nice.
Last week we missed Brisbane’s upset of the defending champions, but hit on every other game: six for seven. The oddsmakers went four for seven, our ELO rating system started the season three for seven because they favoured three of the four expansion clubs who were automatically at the league median of 50 over teams that finished last year below the median line. That’ll self-correct over the first couple of weeks. Maybe we should just start them lower, but last year’s Roos scared us.