Wed, Mar 22, 3:07pm by Head Editor
There is no sport in this country that evokes emotion like Australian Rules Football and after a long and pre-season of 173 days, Australia’s game is back.
It’s hard to know where to look in round one, with so many storylines, and subplots across the weekend. The season begins with the traditional opener between two great rivals, Carlton and Richmond at the MCG on Thursday night.
Perhaps the most intriguing of all nine games though, comes on Saturday afternoon just a few kilometres from the MCG, when two of the teams touted as finalists in the pre-season, St Kilda and Melbourne meet at Etihad Stadium.
Two teams that will be playing in the finals – Adelaide and GWS – meet on Sunday. The bookies have this one around the wrong way for mine, with the Giants a $1.62 favourite and the home side, the Crows at $2.35.
North Melbourne ($3) will be without 1337 games of experience that were shown the door at the end of last season, when they meet the Eagles ($1.40). One of the quartet of delisted Roos – Drew Petrie – will line against his old club.
WATCH: Our Preview of Round 1 of the AFL
The opening round is always the hardest to back a winner in, but we’re putting it on the line anyway, here’s our best bets for Round 1:
Carlton v Richmond
7:20pm Thursday 23 March
The MCG will be rocking on Thursday night when the Tigers run out looking for their fifth straight win over the Blues.
Carlton are coming off a horrible pre-season, in which they lost all three games, including a 92-point thumping at the hands of St Kilda. They’re a $2.85 outsider to win their first game against Richmond since the 2013 Elimination Final.
Things have been more positive at Tigerland, their midfield is set to be bolstered by the handy acquisitions of both Josh Caddy from Geelong, and Dion Prestia from Gold Coast.
There will be plenty of times that the Blues get beaten by 10 goals this season, but against one of their biggest rivals, in front of a huge crowd and TV audience, this will not be one of those occasions.
As a handy side note, the last eight times these two teams have met, the margin has been 39.5 points so the $2.10 for Richmond to win by under that line or the $1.30 for either side to win by under that line looks value.
Richmond should be too strong, with their spine of Alex Rance, Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt. I’m taking them by over 15 points in the margin markets.
Collingwood v Western Bulldogs
7:50pm Friday 24 March
After winning the club’s first Premiership in 62 years, the Western Bulldogs will run onto the same ground they made history at 174 days ago, to play Collingwood, who’ve already had a week to forget.
21-year-old Magpie Jordan Jordan De Goey, made headlines this week after breaking his hand in a fight last Friday, but it wasn’t the fight he’s been suspended for three games for, it’s the fact he told coach Nathan Buckley he hurt it playing with his Dog at home.
The Dogs – not De Goey’s – the Western Bulldogs, look set to go in with a tall line-up, after Tom Campbell was cleared to play. It will also be fascinating to see how Travis Cloke performs against his old club.
Let’s not forget how good Brodie Grundy was for the Pies last year, we may even see Cloke rotated through the ruck position at different stages, as will Grand Final hero, Tom Boyd.
The last time these two teams met was in Round 21 of last year with the Dogs winning by 3 points at Etihad and their only match at the MCG in the last five years was in Round 10 of last season with the Pies getting it done by 21 points.
The Dogs pre-season of course started later than the rest of the competition so I’m expect them to start this season slowly. The $1.91 for either side to win by under 25 points is a sensible opening round wager.
Suggested Bet: Either side to win by under 25 points: $1.91
St Kilda v Melbourne
4:35pm Saturday 25 March
This clash between two clubs who didn’t play finals last season, has stolen the limelight ahead of round one, with the Saints and the Demons widely regarded as the two clubs who will move up into the top eight.
Most pundits have the pair finishing between 6th and 10th in pre-season ladder predictions, a thought that’s carried on into the betting market where there’s also very little between them. St Kilda are $1.85 and Melbourne are $2.
Making this clash even juicier is Melbourne’s horrendous record at Etihad Stadium, and against the Saints. The Dees have won only one of their last 25 starts at this venue, and lost their last 14 against this week’s opponent.
I admit, I did have to double check the record books to make sure of those stats, but they are correct. This is the type of game that ex-Hawk – Jordan Lewis – and ex-Bomber – Michael Hibberd – were brought to the club for. The latter will miss this one though, with an Achilles injury.
St Kilda finished on top of the pre-season ladder, with two wins and one loss. Their forward-line trio of talls, Josh Bruce, Tim Membrey and Paddy McCartin will be a nightmare for defenders this season.
Despite the intriguing recent history between these two clubs, the ruck battle of Max Gawn and Tom Hickey and the midfield battle between Jack Viney and Jack Steven is worth the price of admission alone.
Once again, I’m taking the safe round one bet of either side to win by under 20 points.
MULTI OF THE WEEK: Combining all the below for $7.68 at Sportsbet
Richmond to win by over 15 points: $1.83
Coll v WB: Either side to win by under 25 points: $1.91
St K v Melb: Either team to win by under 19.5: $2.20
AFL Round 1 odds:
Carlton $2.86 (+14.5) v Richmond $1.44 (-14.5)
Collingwood $2.80 (+16.5) v Western Bulldogs $1.46 (-16.5)
Sydney $1.25 (-25.5) v Port Adelaide $4.10 (+25.5)
St Kilda $1.85 (-1.5) v Melbourne $2 (+1.5)
Gold Coast $1.36 (-18.5) v Brisbane $3.20 (+18.5)
Essendon $2.35 (+10.5) v Hawthorn $1.61 (-10.5)
North Melbourne $3 (+16.5) v West Coast $1.40 (-16.5)
Adelaide $2.35 (+6.5) v Greater Western Sydney $1.62 (-6.5)
Fremantle $2.70 (+14.5) v Geelong $1.48 (-14.5)
Odds supplied by Sportsbet and were correct at the time of publishing*
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