Another great weekend for us – with our relatively ‘safe’ predictions on an almost-upset-free round, we hit eight of nine and were even happy about the one we missed: North winning their first of the season.
We finished the weekend $8 to the good on $18 wagered, which is not going to happen every week (we put a hypothetical $2 on every game, every week). Our ELO-Following Football system is 59-22 on the year.
Brisbane vs Richmond at the Gabba
Heard a great line about ‘feature’ games on Friday night – games that stand alone on a Thursday or Friday (or Easter Monday) night, games where the assumption is that ‘everybody is watching’.
A former player was asked how much stock the players put into those games compared to a typical, say, Saturday afternoon affair: his answer was, “Well, I can tell you the percentage of guys who got a haircut before the game was 100 per cent.”
So, what are the favourite’s chances in a standalone game like this one?
So far in 2021, there have been 16 such games. Ten of those had a team as a double-digit favourite – a team favoured by ten or more points; five of the others had teams favoured by less than ten, and one game had no clear favourite.
In the single-digit games, the underdogs so far are an impressive 3-2, meaning it’s a bit more likely that the slight underdog wins.
On the other hand, the only double-digit favourite to lose out of ten was the Bulldogs’ Round 7 loss to Richmond – that game set off with the Dogs as an 11-point favourite, although our ELO-FF had it at just nine. No team with a margin larger than that has lost.
The numbers currently posted say Brisbane’s a double-digit favourite Friday: 16.5 by the professionals and 19.5 by the ELO-Following Football ratings.
I wanted to say, “Yeah, but on Friday night!”, but the Tigers’ record in feature games is 2-3 this season, while the Lions are 1-1. So, fine: Brisbane to win (which currently pays $2.80 on a $2 wager). Hard for me to argue otherwise.
Carlton vs Hawthorn at the MCG
Consider teams that are favoured by more than a goal in our consensus polling that get upset.
Hawthorn fits this mould: favoured by more than two in Tassie over North, only to be overwhelmed in the second half by a team that had lost 22 of its last 23.
My hypothesis was that big, proud AFL clubs would suck it up after an embarrassing loss like that and perform well the following week.
Turns out, at least in 2021, the evidence suggests the answer, “not so much”. There have been 18 such situations through eight rounds this season.
Four of them cancelled each other out (the first was when both Geelong and Brisbane were upset by the fast-starting Swans and Crows, and then faced each other in a barn burner in Round 2).
Six of those games were a ‘wash’: either they won but failed to cover against a lower-rated team, or they lost but performed well enough to beat the predicted point spread.
It was only in eight cases that we got a definitive “yes/no” answer regarding how these AFL teams react to a humiliating defeat – and they went 4-4 in those eight games.
So, don’t expect the Hawks to dramatically rebound from losing to North on Saturday. The opening line is 3.5 goals Carlton’s way; our system says the margin exceeds four goals. With the Hawks falling short of the point spread six straight times, we’re taking Carlton plus the 21 points.
Geelong vs Gold Coast at GMHBA
Of course, most of you realise this is the tenth anniversary of Gold Coast’s inaugural season.
The Gold Coast has not been successful against Geelong over the decade of its existence – while their home record against them is a modest 2-4, with a respectable percentage of 93 per cent, Geelong is one of four teams they’ve yet to defeat on the road, and by far the one the Suns hold the worst percentage against (42 per cent).
In six games, GCS has given up 815 points to Geelong; in five of the six contests, the Cats have hit triple-figures, while the Suns have never done so, averaging just 57 points per game against them. Not something to write home about.
But it has got better – while their first meeting at what is now GHMBA resulted in a 188-38 embarrassment, the 2020 match-up down there was competitive through three periods and ended with a much more respectable 37-point defeat.
Coincidentally, that’s about the point spread for Saturday’s game, too.
But with the Cats just 2-7 versus our point spread this season, the routs of Richmond and the Eagles being the exceptions, we’re going to bet the Cats win by 1-39 points, which, as of Monday morning, is paying $4.50 for a $2 wager.
Adelaide vs Melbourne at Adelaide Oval
There have been ten teams in the AFL era that started the season 9-0, the Demons being the tenth.
Of the first nine, six of them won game ten: the 1991 Eagles, 2000 Bombers, 2004 Saints, 2009 Cats, 2009 Saints, and the 2011 Cats.
Three of the nine lost: the 2008 Hawks, 2015 Dockers, and the 2016 Kangas. By that measure, Melbourne has a 2-1 shot at a win this week.
In reality, Melbourne’s odds are much better than that: as thirty-point favourites online, their chances of losing are very low.
But they’ve failed to match the expected margin twice in the last three weeks, the exception being last week’s narrow edging over the spread against a game Carlton team, while a rested Tex Walker should help the Crows.
So, I’m taking the Demons to win but stay within 1-39 points, which currently pays $4.40 to $2.
Western Bulldogs vs St Kilda at Marvel Stadium
Of all the teams the Saints have played more than 60 times – meaning the clubs that date back to the VFL days with them – the only one of the 11 they hold a winning record against happens to be the Bulldogs, at 84-78, with three draws.
SKS also has winning records against Gold Coast, GWS, and Fremantle, along with the retired clubs University and the Brisbane Bears.
Since the two clubs began sharing this site – the ‘Docklands’, aka ‘Colonial’, aka ‘Telstra’, aka ‘Etihad’, aka ‘Marvel’ – in 2000, the Saints lead what has become a neutral-site rivalry by the margin of 14-11, with two finals wins over the Dogs in the MCG and one at the Gabba, which will confuse students of the game in 30 years or so.
But on Saturday, it’s the 8-1 Bulldogs who should win this and narrow that Saints lead.
Our numbers give them a 25-point advantage; with the opening spread at just 18.5, we’ll take Dogs plus the points once again. It’s been our most reliable moneymaker this season.
Fremantle vs Sydney at Optus
Among active players, the top four in games receiving Brownlow votes are Scott Pendlebury, Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield, and Dustin Martin (who has a great chance to lead this list by the end of 2022, at the latest).
Tied for fifth? Two of the most exciting players ever, in my opinion: Nat Fyfe of the Fremantle Dockers and Lance “Buddy” Franklin of the Sydney Swans.
Coming into 2021, each had 79 games with Brownlow votes awarded to them, and by our accounting have at least two more games each already pegged from the first eight rounds.
Will both men play? Fyfe’s more likely than Franklin these days, and the Dockers are a slight favourite with the professionals. However, our numbers have the Swans as a full-goal favourite and we’re taking them to win outright at $4.10 for $2.
GWS Giants vs West Coast at Giants Stadium
While their first-ever AFL game in 2012 against Sydney in the Olympic Stadium was technically a ‘home’ game, the first game with anything even faintly resembling a ‘home field advantage’ that the Giants ever played was its lone venture at Blacktown, where its AFLW team regularly competes today.
In that Round 3 excursion in 2012, the Giants hosted the West Coast Eagles, who (like most of GWS’ foes that year) put them away with ease. The Eagles scored 11.4.70 in the first quarter and coasted to a 150-69 victory in front of the 7000 or so who could fit into the venue.
On Saturday, the oddsmakers and our ELO-FF numbers each have the Giants with a two or three-point edge. It’s conceivable that the Eagles won’t reach 70 points for the game if the GWS back line has its A-game in place.
Therefore, we… what? Toby Greene’s out for a month?
That’s five points difference right there. If you feel switching to a West Coast victory, like I think I will, go for it: they’re paying $4 for a $2 bet.
Your other option is to take the ‘tri-bet’ – it pays $3.60 on $2cif neither team wins by more than four goals, or 24 points, which seems reasonable to me.
Collingwood vs Port Adelaide at the MCG
The very first team that Port Adelaide played in the AFL upon its long-awaited entry to the league in 1997 was Collingwood at the MCG, where, as expected for a first-gamer, the Power lost by 77 points to the club whose ownership of the black and white stripes almost literally kept the Port Adelaide club in the SANFL an extra seven years.
Without dipping my toes too far into something I have no skin in, the primary consideration in this uniform debate must be rooted in the purpose for wearing uniforms at all: to tell one team from the other.
Beyond that, however, it’s hard for me to see that any team’s uniform is anyone else’s business. If Port’s prison bar uniforms too closely resemble Collingwood’s, they should wear an alternate for that game, but that detail was enshrined upon the team’s entry into the AFL decades ago.
Otherwise, who cares what any other team chooses to wear? Although, I have to say, I like the teal guernseys.
As for what really matters – the teams wearing the jumpers – in 2021, it’s all Port Adelaide. The three-goal margin posted by the professionals is once again designed to encourage the bevy of Magpie faithful; in truth, the Power are at least a fourth goal better. Port plus the points.
Essendon vs North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium
Congratulations, David Noble: the “process” finally produced a win. Now, what are the chances that it’ll produce a second one on the trot?
Better than you might think.
I took a quick look back over the last ten years to check on the final team to win a game during the AFL home-and-away season (side note: no team has gone winless since Fitzroy in 1964, 57 seasons ago – the last of eleven oh-fers in league history).
Three interesting things popped up.
One is that three of the last four such teams broke their duck against Hawthorn, who are the apparent cure for a winless start.
Before the Kangaroos last week, the 2020 Crows went to 1-13 by defeating the Hawks 83-48, and the 2018 Lions went to 1-8 after defeating Hawthorn 129-73.
Missing is the 2019 0-4 Carlton Blues, who upset the Doggies by 44 in Round 5 – and then played Hawthorn in Round 6, leading 61-33 in Tasmania in the third before the Hawks stormed back to survive by five points.
Hawthorn could’ve been the cure for four straight years!
The second thing is that North is the first team in nine years that really had to fight for it. The last such team that overcame the kind of pressure that the Shinboners had on Saturday was Gold Coast in its 2012 upset of Port, won with Karmichael Hunt’s game-ending goal.
Brisbane’s ’14 and ’15 first wins in Round 6 were both close but more of the “hang on for dear life” kind of game.
As Wayne Carey said on radio at the time, it’s much easier to win your first game when you don’t have to make last minute ‘pressure’ goals to do so, and the teams fighting the kind of numbers the Roos had accumulated (22 losses in 23 matches) are not used to competing in that fashion.
And the biggest thing I noticed: four of the last six teams to win that first game to pull themselves off the basement floor won their next game as well!
That does not include the Carlton loss from ahead to Hawthorn in 2019!
Adelaide in 2020 versus GWS, Sydney in 2017 versus North, Fremantle versus Brisbane in 2016, and 2015 Brisbane against Port were all winners, and the average winning margin in going two straight was 43 points!
The sixth game of the set, Brisbane versus Sydney in 2018, had a 39-point point spread going in and the Lions lost by just 18, so our basement dweller outperformed predictions in all.
Expect North to do the same this Sunday.
While our numbers favour Essendon by more than the 19-point margin the pros list the game at, this history and the upward trend of the Kangas make us willing to buck our own statistics and take North to finish within that margin at worst, and perhaps defeat the Bombers outright.
But we’ll just wager North minus the points.
I never bet real money. Policy. There’s nothing wrong with doing so as long as you can afford to lose it.
Although, I’d be willing to buy someone a drink to find out whether Anna actually went out with Rowdy after meeting in the comments for last week’s predictions – my money’s on “no”, unless Yattuzzi was right, in which case all bets are null and void.