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Opinion

Looking forward to Round 8

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Roar Guru
5th May, 2021
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Coming into Round 8, we’ve been reminded that nobody knows anything.

We think we know what’s going to happen coming into the season, only to be startled by teams bursting out of the gates we never expected. Then once we’ve recalibrated, everything flips on its head again, and we have to rethink all of our rethinking.

But I will boast not of myself – my personal tips went three for nine – but of our ELO-Following Football system, which outperformed every system on our watch list by nailing seven of the weekend’s winners, on a weekend where the average was barely five. It liked Richmond and Geelong by nine each.

It also outperformed the oddsmakers for the sixth week out of seven and has a 39-24 record on picking a side against the spread. Had I been smart enough to just follow my own system and wager on the spread following its recommendations, I would have been +$22.20 at this point, rather than +$2.06 (past performance does not imply future success, however). We’ll see if I have the self-discipline to listen this time.

So let’s take a gander at what Round 8 has in store, with the typical reactions to the fixture before the season, a few rounds in, and today.

Richmond vs Geelong

March: “That grand final was the last gasp for Geelong, right? My question is, can the Tigers make it three straight?”
April: “Oh, wow, the Cats look terrible. I mean, really, really bad…”
May: “How can Geelong possibly be ahead of Richmond on the ladder?”

Because they’ve found some fine form over the last two weeks, and they have an unmatched ability to run away and build percentage when they do. Then again, Richmond’s found some form too, even without some seemingly key components. While the professional oddsmakers have Richmond as an eight-and-one-half point preference, the ELO-Following Football ratings say that the Tigers should win by 11. So I’m going to stop overanalysing it, bellow “Yellow and Black” at the false ending in the club song, and take Richmond to win and cover on Friday night (which would give us a return of $3.80 on our mandatory hypothetical two-dollar bet).

Self-discipline. It’s a good feeling.

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Gold Coast Suns vs St Kilda

March: “St Kilda’s the real deal! And this is the year that the Suns pull a Brisbane and rocket up the ladder!”
April: “What happened? Bad losses to Melbourne and Essendon? Another season of injuries for Gold Coast? Forget it. This season’s shot.”
May: “Wellllll – maybe there is still hope for these two after all.”

Maybe there is. Our numbers have Gold Coast as 7.5-point winners at home, while the opening numbers out of the professionals make this a dead even match-up. My gut sees their point, because St Kilda looked so good last week at home – but on the road, they’ve struggled mightily. I’m (gulp) trusting in self-discipline and siding with Gold Coast straight up. $3.80 for two on all of these.

GWS Giants vs Essendon

March: “Neither of these clubs are going to make any noise at the pointy end of things…”
April: “But I’ll admit I didn’t think the Giants would be this bad. Someone’s got to stand up on this club.”
May: “Thanks, Toby. I knew the charcoal and orange were still a viable entity. Now, what’s wrong with Essendon?”

I don’t know. Even star players seem to vanish at times. But I do see the positives coming out of the Giants’ camp, and I notice that they’ve won and beaten the odds every game in April where they did not face one of the top two (and no one else had conquered those mountains either until Richmond on Friday). Opening odds favour GWS by 13.5, but because ELO-FF has it at 16.5, we’re taking the Giants to win and cover.

North Melbourne vs Collingwood

March: “Sure, North won’t be any good, but Collingwood’s got a chance this season.”
April: “We knew North wouldn’t be any good, but maybe Collingwood could still…”
May: “Man, I hope North doesn’t decide to be good this week, because I’m already tired of reading about Collingwood’s demise everywhere I look – and it’s only Round 8. What happens if they lose to the 0-7 ‘Roos?”

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No. Not even Collingwood could lose to the Kangas, could they? I mean, even if they lost, they’ll still have a percentage advantage to keep them off the floor. I will be fascinated to watch the number on the point spread move during the week: traditionally, with the Pies being the single most popular club, their odds are slightly slanted towards their success (most bettors bet with their hearts). The Magpies are just 1-6 against the official point spread this season (also thanks to the Carlton game), but more revealingly, Collingwood has been favoured by bettors in five of seven games so far (all except the opener against the Bulldogs and against West Coast). But will they now get cynical and push the number in North’s direction instead?

Our numbers favour the Magpies by 25.5, five over the official line this morning, and I’ve gotta believe that given this team’s history of always having at least one player stand up for himself – like Brody Mihocek last week – someone will keep their collective heads above water in this game and push the Kangas two games clear in the race for the wooden spoon.

But I’m fearful that I’m the one tipping with my heart against the team that’s genuinely getting better instead of worse. So I’m hesitating and just taking the Magpies to win (at $2.66 on two), for safety’s sake.

Melbourne vs Sydney Swans

March: “This fixture will be ugly when we get there in May. Neither club’s any good.”
April: “Hooo-wee! Won’t this game be incredible, especially if they’re both still unbeaten in Round 8!”
May: “This game may get ugly if Melbourne fires on all cylinders against the young Bloods…”

Yeah it will. Even with a 5-2 record and a near-miraculous escape from a first-quarter Cats onslaught last week, Sydney is no match for what Melbourne can do at all three levels: their rucks can’t match Max Gawn, their midfield can’t match the Demons’ on-ballers, they’ve no one like Christian Petracca down back, and … okay, the Swans can probably match their forward line. But that won’t matter if the ball never gets to them. We have the Demons winning by 15.5, so…

Oh, no. The line is 27.5. Do we then bet Swans to cover? No. To be safe, I’m just taking the Demons to win. $2.48 on two isn’t much of a return, but it’s more than I got from the red and the blue on Sunday.

Adelaide Crows vs Port Adelaide

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March: “Oh man, the Showdown could be a 15-goal demolition this season.”
April: “Hey, the Crows are really good! Now, I’m looking forward to the Showdown next month!
May: “Oh man, the Showdown could be a 15-goal demolition this week.”

Whoever rubbed the magic lamp and used wish number one on the Crows, could you use your two other wishes to resurrect that first month team? They were amazing to watch, they moved the ball really well, and were far more encouraging than what we saw go down to a middle-of-the-pack Giants squad on Saturday. ELO-FF favours Port by 32, slightly more than the official line of 30.5 it’s opening with. Port should win and cover.

Hawthorn vs West Coast Eagles

March: “Do we know for sure how good the Eagles are? Couldn’t the Hawks rise up on any given round and give them the fight of their life?”
April: “Do we know for sure how good the Eagles are? Hawthorn’s had a couple of pretty competitive showings with the Dons and Cats!”
May: “Do we know for sure how good the Eagles are? Well, we know they’ll take care of what’s left of the Hawks.”

Do we? I don’t. But I do know that Hawthorn’s under reconstruction, and asking them to stay within a goal per quarter is difficult at best. Do we know that West Coast can cover a 16.5 point spread? Yeah, they can. Our number’s 20. But it still won’t help us figure the Eagles out long term.

Western Bulldogs vs Carlton

March: “This might be a nice little contest in two months – a dynamic, bottom-of-the-eight club in the Bulldogs against an up-and-coming Blues club aiming to take their spot in the finals line-up.”
April: “Yeah, the Doggies look fantastic, but Carlton held their own with Richmond and the Pies, and took care of Fremantle. They could give them a game!”
May: “So, the Bulldogs are going to be fired up, coming off a loss where they were embarrassed in the third quarter by the team they want to supplant, and they get to play a middling Blues club on their home track? Yikes.”

Was that a question? “Yes”? One bad quarter does not discouragement make. Every team’s had at least one bad period this season – um, still trying to recall Melbourne’s – so that’s not going to make me pick against a 6-1 team playing someone like Carlton at home.

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I said until the Doggies fail to cover a point spread, I’d back them to do so repeatedly. Well, guess what? Even though they did fail last week, thanks to a terrible third quarter, I’ll back them again. The line is 20.5; our numbers say 24.5; done. Western Bulldogs to win and cover, thank you very much.

Brisbane Lions vs Fremantle

March: “Well, according to my ladder forecast, the Lions should be well ahead of the Dockers this season, even by Round 8.”
April: “Yeah, but Brisbane’s had one stolen from them and faced two unbeatens already. They have to right the ship.”
May: “You mean, Freo’s still ahead of the Lions on the ladder? How is that possible?”

Technically, they’re not anymore, thanks to the wonders of percentage, but they were before the hiding they got in hiding from their roommates on Sunday.

Remember, in 2021, Brisbane has a top-six draw and Freo has a bottom-six draw. The Lions faced Sydney when no one knew how good their academy studs were, the Bulldogs in Ballarat, and were cheated (not intentionally, but still) out of a victory against Geelong.

Since then, they’ve won three on the trot, including the deconstruction of Port Adelaide last week. Fremantle’s four wins have come against GWS near their nadir, Adelaide after their collapse, and bottom feeders Hawthorn and North Melbourne; last week, the Eagles destroyed them in the second half.

That’s why our “Following Football” ELO ratings are so important to get a clear view of how the clubs actually compare, and here Brisbane is listed as a 22-point favourite against Fremantle at home. Compared to the 10.5-point line the Lions are favoured by? I’m wagering that 22’s closer to the truth about the result. Brisbane wins and covers easily, perhaps after a close first quarter or two.

So far, we here at “Following Football” are staying afloat with our hypothetical wagers and picks, no thanks to Saturday – despite hitting on our Gold Coast selection at $6.10 for two, we lost every other wager except the Western Derby Sunday. (We did pick Melbourne to win but wagered they’d cover 39 points.) We lost (pretend) money for just the second time this season: two winning wagers left me over eight dollars short of covering my $18 of bets in round seven, and only our tidy cushion built up from winning five of six previous weeks kept us above water for the year at +$2.06 on our $126 wagered (barely a 1.6 per cent return on investment at this moment).

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That is why I constantly warn readers not to gamble money that you can’t afford to think of as “spending” – if you win some of it back, that’s a bonus, not something you depend on! Never wager money you can’t afford to lose! I put something else up when I gamble: my reputation. Bet something like that if you can with someone you’ll enjoy the competition with, win or lose, and it all becomes worthwhile.

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