West Coast Eagles forward Jack Darling has been barred from training with the club, having failed to meet the AFL’s requirement that all players be vaccinated against COVID-19.
This time of year is a smorgasbord of footy – there are 16 games again this weekend, including nine on the men’s side for Round 2.
Last week we picked seven victors and won six bets (Melbourne won big rather than small), and we’re up 84c on our $18 of existential bets. Let’s look at the layers of game info spliced with cheesy and meaty stats.
Thursday: Carlton vs Collingwood at the MCG
Our ELO-Following Football ratings system has this game forecast as an exact draw, down to the tenth of a point. It’s been at least five years since we’ve had a precise tie predicted, although we’ve called for draws any time a game looks to be within half a point.
So, which team might be underrated and which team might be overrated? I’ll rephrase that: which team might be on its way up and which on its way down?
The general narrative around these two teams would suggest that Carlton should be favoured in this match-up, even though the Magpies have their usual bettor’s bump (4.5 point favourites) as the most popular team in the league. We’ll take Carlton to win with those odds.
By the way, Carlton’s women outscored their men last week by seven, even with just 75 per cent of the playing time. Of course, they were playing an 0-8 foe, while the men faced the two-time reigning champions. But stil…
Friday: Geelong vs Brisbane at GHMBA
Two of the top-four meet in primetime coming off embarrassing losses to two of last season’s three worst teams. While Port Adelaide and Richmond have weekend match-ups where they’re each favoured to cruise to 2-0, one of these two title favourites will start the year 0-2.
Our ratings have the Cats as 10.5 points better than the Lions; the line Monday afternoon has the Cats by 9.5. We’re betting Geelong wins by less than 40 points (current line would pay $4.40 on a $2 bet).
Top four teams the past two years, which both clubs were, historically have 55 per cent odds of returning to the double-chance again this season. Additionally, they each have a 75 to 80 per cent chance of making finals again, simply being top four clubs in 2020.
Saturday: Sydney vs Adelaide at the SCG
Weirdly, the vanquishers of the two Friday night feature clubs also happen to face each other Saturday afternoon, and one of these bottom-four-faves will be 2-0 moving forward.
We have the Swans’ young guns as 15.5 points superior (oddsmakers say 12.5) and the difference in the way they won Saturday points towards a Sydney victory here as well. We’ll make the same bet here: Sydney by less than 40 ($4.30 on $2).
Since expanding to 18 teams, no true bottom-three team has leapt into the top eight the next season (we’re discounting a half-strength Essendon which fell to 18th place under WADA suspensions in 2016).
Saturday: Port Adelaide vs Essendon at Adelaide Oval
This is another game that Port should win easily – maybe not by double, like their win over North Sunday, but the tension levels will be low in the fourth quarter.
With such a short pre-season, having a couple of tune-ups to start the season is like Christmas in March, especially when incorporating a couple of new parts on the fly. To be safe, we’re taking Port ($3.30 on $2), although both the professionals and ELO-FF have this at 30.5 in their favour.
Good news and bad news for Port
Of the 28 previous minor premiers in the eight-team finals era, 25 returned to finals the next season – an 89 per cent success rate, better by far than for any other slot defending a finals position.
However, it’s necessary to examine those three failures: each one leapt to the top line and then fell out of finals the next season. Adelaide went fifth – first – 12th in 2018; Fremantle went fourth – first – 16th in 2016, and Essendon went eight – first – 10th in 1994.
Given that Port languished in 10th in 2019, it stands to reason that Power faithful have precedent to be concerned about in 2021.
Saturday: St Kilda vs Melbourne at Marvel Stadium
These two teams have both been dancing around the edges of finals for over a decade, and the Demons’ fall from fifth to 17th in 2019 should worry the sixth-place Saints for 2021.
But St Kilda are ten-point preferences of the rating system (oddsmakers say 9.5), and we’re taking them to win this game (at $3.20 on $2).
Looking through the archives for 21st-century teams who had four or more years out of finals and then made a leap of at least eight spots into finals, to get a sense of a prognosis for the 2021 Saints, we found five, and the good news for Saints fans is that four of the five either stayed in the same slot or settled down one place, still in finals and consolidating their gains.
The fifth, Fremantle in 2003, dropped from fifth to ninth place following a leap from 13th the year before. But the others – Brisbane 2020, Collingwood 2019, Bulldogs 2016, and the Saints themselves back in 2005 – should give the Saints some comfort coming into their 2021 campaign.
Saturday: Gold Coast vs North Melbourne at Metricon
There will be a day when it will once again be smart to bet on North Melbourne’s men’s team to win a game against AFL competition. Today is not yet that day.
As of this writing, the severity of Matt Rowell’s knee injury isn’t known, but even without him, there’s no hesitation in picking the Suns with the personnel they have available.
Our ratings have Gold Coast favoured by 21 points, more than the official 17.5 – it seems likely that Gary Ablett Jr was on the field when the Suns were favoured by that much, and we’re still taking them to cover.
Comforting the Kangaroos will be the match-up of winless AFLW teams competing at Metricon before their game; history says that at least they shouldn’t end up in that position at year’s end.
There are dopplegangers in the world – people who seem to be identical twins, despite never having met until adulthood. Perhaps North and Hawthorn have some twin tendencies from their mutual association with Tasmania, as they’ve both moved up or down in sync every season since 2015.
Here are their finishing positions over the last six seasons, starting in 2015:
Hawks: third – third – 12th – fourth – ninth – 15th.
North: eighth – eighth – 15th – ninth – 12th – 17th.
Unfortunately for the Roos, Hawthorn seems unlikely to move up this season, which implies that they’re probably stuck in the bottom two again for 2021. Of course, there are more tangible reasons to believe that, too.
Sunday: Hawthorn vs Richmond at the MCG
Speaking of the Hawks, Tom Mitchell’s 39 disposals in their one-point win over Essendon must give Hawk fans hope for a return to Brownlow form.
But there’ll be a Brownlow/Norm Smith/everything else winner on the other side Sunday afternoon – Dustin Martin – who may be playing the best footy of his life, which is like noting that Einstein seems to be smarter than he was when he put those relativity formulas together.
It’s too soon to back off our pre-season predictions, but leaving the yellow and black out of our GF forecast may have been a mistake. The professionals say 30.5 points, ELO/FF says 29.5, and we’re giving Alastair Clarkson his due credit by only picking the Tigers plus 15 ($2.88 on $2), just to be safe.
The history of the four teams to go on a tear of three AFL titles in a four or five-year span won’t give Richmond fans a great deal of hope. After Hawthorn’s three-peat in 2015, they finished third in 2016 and went out of finals in straight sets, followed by a drop to 12th in 2017.
Geelong won thrice in 2007-2011, then ended in sixth in 2012 (and out in the elimination final). Brisbane’s three-peat in 2001-3 was followed by another second place finish (no Brisbane team has ever won a minor premiership) and a famous loss to Port in the 2004 GF, followed by a fall to 11th in 2005.
Finally, the Hawks of 1988-91 went down to defeat in the first round following a fifth-place finish in 1992, and then finished fourth the next season.
Sunday: Western Bulldogs vs West Coast at Marvel Stadium
Both teams looked excellent in Round 1, for the most part, both utilising dominance in the midfield leading to outstanding performances up front and incorporating a few new parts to good measure.
Now the Eagles have to travel out of West Australia to Melbourne in a pandemic to face a Bulldogs team with two extra days to rest and no travel issues.
On top of that, Footscray’s a slightly better team under even circumstances. The ELO/FF ratings have the Doggies as an 11-point favourite. We like that number.
Since it’s only 6.5 in the parlors on Monday as we write this, we’re taking Footscray to win and cover.