I’ve decided that it’s too risky to make predictions only about the margin of victory for a particular team, possibly the most veiled of all outcomes to forecast.
So in the interest of increasing my odds of success for each game, I will also be presenting ‘safe predictions’ for the games as well.
Mind you, the forecasts we’ve been making have been fairly safe already. With seven more correct last weekend we’ve now picked 47 winners out of 72 for the year, and the ELO-Following Football rating system is a more impressive 51 of 72 on its own after I made some rather unsafe overrides of the system early in the season.
Our hypothetical $2 bets on each game are currently still about a dollar to the good overall through eight rounds, but it’s just as well we don’t spend real money on sporting wagers – ever. Never bet money you can’t afford to lose.
Here are our safe predictions for Round 9.
St Kilda Saints vs Geelong Cats
Somewhere along the way Geelong will rip off a string of five or more goals in a row. No team is a better frontrunner than the Cats, and few teams can get shell-shocked as completely as the Saints do at times.
Somewhere in a Melbourne bar patrons will loudly ask, “What did the Saints do to deserve a Friday night feature?” and ask what channel the NRL game’s on. Depending on how long the previously referenced Geelong run is, the barman may oblige.
The ELO-Following Football ratings predict that St Kilda’s in for a 22-point loss – the Monday morning odds list the game at 14.5 towards Geelong. With an impending loss to the Bulldogs on the cards for Round 10, it’s safe to assume there will be some grumbling about last season’s surprise jumper when they’re sitting at 4-6 and well out of the eight next Sunday. I don’t think they’re done for personally, but that’s not for this prediction.
Geelong by 22 – take the Cats and over the 14.5-point spread.
Sydney Swans vs Collingwood Magpies
Even before the opening bounce a visiting fan at the Sydney Cricket Ground will hold up a sign for the television coverage calling for Nathan Buckley’s job, but During the first quarter, demonstrations of brilliance from Jordan de Goey or Brody Mihocek or Darcy Moore will make that fan and others forget their complaints and rejuvenate the hope in the prison bars (Melbourne edition) that made them fans in the first place.
Even when Lance Franklin moves one or more goals closer to one thousand, the skipper or Steele Sidebottom will keep the fans’ faith with a graceful move and a captain’s goal when the team most needs it.
When Sydney finishes their three-goal victory – ELO-FF is projecting an 18-point win – and Collingwood drops to 2-7 and back into 17th the signs will all come out at the MCG next week when the Pies have to host Port Adelaide and the prison bar issue comes up in earnest.
Sydney’s morning line is 19.5, higher than our projected margin of victory. So we’re going to say Sydney to win at its meagre $2.66 for a hypothetical $2 wager, which is what we imagine placing on every game each week.
Hawthorn Hawks vs North Melbourne
University of Tasmania Stadium
North Melbourne’s young team will look better in the beginning of the game than they will in the middle third, and so will Hawthorn’s.
During half-time Tasmanian authorities who have been pushing to get a full-time AFL team placed on the island will begin making calls to Gil McLachlan asking if there are other options besides these two teams they might consider.
The game will end up having an exciting ending because neither team will have the wherewithal to pull away before the fourth quarter. The best players will perk up and get back to their original levels.
The oddsmakers give the Hawks a two-goal edge; ELO-FF sees it as 16.5 points in Hawthorn’s favour. That doesn’t sit well with me, as I think it’ll stay close to the end. North losing Jaidyn Stephenson clinches the Hawk advantage for me. If that’s how you feel too, just take Hawthorn to win at $2.96 on $2.
Gold Coast Suns vs Brisbane Lions
Some local at his or her first game of the season will ask where the other 16 teams are staying this year.
Gold Coast will start out by kicking the first goal. It may be the surest prop bet of the season – the Suns get off to hot starts but the Lions rarely do.
Izak Rankine or Jack Lukosius will each make some insanely spectacular play that will make you realise that whatever the outcome of this particular game or season, Gold Coast is worth watching this year and for the next several years. There’s also Noah Anderson, Ben King, Nick Holman, Ben Ainsworth, Josh Corbett – and we haven’t even seen what Matt Rowell can do when healthy yet.
Brisbane will kick the last significant goal of the game. Not counting any cows wandering around after the barn doors are closed, the game’s last goal of victorious consequence will be kicked by a Lion – and these days it’s very likely that Lion is Hugh McCluggage, who has been the star of the team ever since clubs figured out how to effectively tag Lachie Neale. But Charlie Cameron’s always a solid chance too.
Gold Coast may be the team of the future, but Brisbane is a team of the present. Oddsmakers have them as 20.5-point faves, very near the 18.5 the ELO-FF ratings have for this game. So take Brisbane at face value – $2.60 for $2 to win – or pick an intermediate margin that you feel comfortable with. I’m picking the Lions to win, plain and simple.
Richmond Tigers vs Greater Western Sydney Giants
Richmond’s administration will immediately place an inquiry into why they don’t get to face the Giants at their normal home ground, where possibly the largest discrepancy in fan support in league history took place when the Giants faced the Tigers at the MCG.
Toby Greene will score at least one spectacular goal. Dustin Martin will make a spectacular play in the midfield and create a near-spectacular score involvement in the forward 50 as well.
Josh Kelly will kick only one goal, but it will be a highly significant goal in the fourth quarter, as per his modus operandi.
Though the oddsmakers list this as more than three goals in Richmond’s favour, we don’t see it being a game that Richmond will run away with. Our margin is under ten points in fact. So while we’re tipping Richmond to win, we’re also betting on GWS to cover that 19.5-point margin and lose by less than that.
Port Adelaide Power vs Western Bulldogs
It will be the best-played game of the weekend and likely the closest. These are two of the best clubs in the competition, each solid from back to front, coaches and players alike. Alongside Melbourne, Richmond, Geelong and possibly Brisbane, these two teams should still be playing when the imposters, rebuilders, and never-wills have all had their mad Mondays and begun implementing their summer plans.
A sign of solid teams is that we can’t forecast which players will headline Saturday night. It might be Jackson Macrae or the Marcus Bontempelli or Josh Bruce or Aaron Naughton or Bailey Smith or Bailey Williams or Bailey Dale. For Port, it might be Aliir Aliir or Karl Amon or Travis Boak or Willem Drew or Charlie Dixon or Orazio Fantasia or Robbie Gray – and we haven’t even got a third of the way through the alphabet yet.
It’s a safe prediction that Port will not be wearing the prison bars on the field Saturday night. It’s an even safer bet that the Bulldogs won’t be either.
It’s safe to say that there are fewer stories more heart-warming than that of Bulldog debutant Buku Khamis, who was blooded last Sunday in their game against Carlton. Mind you, Eddie Betts showed what a cagey veteran can do to a debutant in defence, but he’ll be better for the experience.
Here’s the one game we’re going against the oddsmakers, who have this as a one-goal victory for the home team. The Dogs are better for the experience against Carlton on Sunday, where they had to come back against a team playing well – mind you, the Blues set the narrative up early by hitting posts and leaving too many points on the field by kicking behinds when easy goals were waiting for them. By not putting a champion away when they could, they almost guaranteed their own demise in the fourth.
The point is that the Bulldogs have won close games this season – see Round 2 against West Coast as well. Our ratings have the game as two points in their favour, so we are taking Western at $4.70 to win straight up on our hypothetical $2 wager.
Essendon Bombers vs Fremantle Dockers
It’s a safe bet that if this game were being played at Optus Stadium, the final score would be tilted several goals towards the Dockers compared to how it will go at Docklands. But at Marvel Stadium, Essendon has as great a chance as they have anywhere against anyone without a pouched mascot.
Michael Walters will once again make us all wonder what’s happened to his game in 2021. His numbers are okay, but his game looks nothing like the dynamic performer who kept Fremantle afloat in the lowest ebbs of their recent existence.
Of course it’s hard to get much of the footy when David Mundy’s always got leather poisoning these days.
Essendon is barely a favourite in this game to the professionals – 1.5 points as of Monday – but we have the Bombers by double figures. Take the Dons and the point at $3.80.
Melbourne Demons vs Carlton Blues
If any Carlton player receives Brownlow votes for this game – a highly unsafe prediction playing Melbourne – it will be Sam Walsh. He might very well end the Brownlow banquet this spring with over half his team’s votes, so dominant has his presence been for the Blues this season. If not, it’s because Harry McKay kicked another bag.
It’s safe to assume that Eddie Betts won’t be making noise against the Demons. He’s at that stage of his career when he can only be capital-E Eddie once in a while, and he looked spectacular in his game against the Doggies last weekend. He wasn’t bad against Essendon the week before either. He’s due for a slow game.
But someone will. Perhaps it’ll be Harry McKay, Sam Walsh or maybe Jacob Weitering again, like last weekend against the Bulldogs. There used to be a guy there named Patrick Cripps who was really good too. I wonder what happened to him.
This won’t be a straight-up comparison of how Melbourne does against the opponent the Doggies played last week, but it will be portrayed that way.
Nevertheless, while the official spread is 22.5, we have it seven points lower. Carlton should cover, but I’m not confident enough in the highly inconsistent Blues to risk that. We’ll simply pick Demons to win at $2.56.
West Coast Eagles vs Adelaide Crows
After a mentally draining Showdown at Adelaide Oval last weekend, it seems unlikely that the Crows will have much in the tank to travel cross-country to a locked-down west coast to face West Coast. The Eagles are 4-0 at home this season; Adelaide’s just 1-3 on the road, that victory coming against North.
The only question is the margin of victory. The oddsmakers list on Monday morning was at 38.5, while we have it at 35. But large margins are simply a measure of dominance, not how the actual game will go. If there’s a smaller margin you feel comfortable with, bet it. I’m sticking with $2.20 to win for this week.
When even a 24-point margin pays less than $3, what are we really gaining by stressing in the fourth quarter over meaningless goals? I wouldn’t bet on blowouts at all except for the pretence of our series.
The last five games in this time slot were all expected to be lopsided wins and all five turned out to be lopsided wins of varying sizes for the expected team. The same will happen here – and that may be the safest prediction of the entire article.