Mon, Mar 20, 11:54am by Head Editor
After 170 days of waiting, we are now only three days away from the start of the 2017 AFL season. The first match on the fixture is set for Thursday night at the MCG when traditional-rivals, Richmond and Carlton square off in front of an expected crowd of over 70,000.
In fact, the league is expecting fans to break the single-round attendance record, which was set in Round 15, 2013 when 371, 212 people clicked through the turnstiles. The early predictions for the round are somewhere in the vicinity of 400,000 will make their way to the nine games.
In the first of those nine games, Richmond will start as favourite, they are currently at $1.44 with the Blues at $2.85. Since Carlton eliminated the Tigers from the 2013 finals, the Tigers have won the last four fixtures between the sides.
Carlton did not win a single game in the pre-season, including a 92-point thumping at the hands of St Kilda. Their opponents fared much better, beating both South Australian clubs, and losing to the Magpies by a small margin.
Speaking of the Magpies, they host the reigning Premiers at the same venue on Friday night. The Dogs ($1.46) aren’t expected to have too much trouble against the Pies ($3), where all eyes will be on former-Pie Travis Cloke, when he lines against his old club for the first time.
Saturday afternoon’s contest between St Kilda and Melbourne, is perhaps the most intriguing of all in round one. These two clubs are touted as the most likely to make the jump into the finals this season, and this is an early chance to prove their worth.
Here’s where it gets interesting though, the Demons have won only one of their last 25 games at Etihad Stadium, the venue for this clash and they’ve lost their last 14 against the Saints. They’re an outsider at $2, with the Saints at $1.85, who finished on top of the pre-season ladder, with two wins from three games.
The other match on Saturday night, will see the “Banned Bombers” return to the field at the MCG to take on one of their fiercest rivals, Hawthorn.
Amazingly, both club captains, Dyson Heppell and Jarryd Roughead are both from the tiny Victorian town of Leongatha, which, when the population is only 6,000, is an incredible achievement.
Essendon are expected to be much more competitive this year but are still a $2.35 outsider against Hawthorn ($1.61), who won’t be raising the Premiership flag in Round One, for the first time since 2013.
On Sunday, a new-look North Melbourne side, who’ll be without 1337 games of experience with no Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito or Nick Dal Santo in the 22, are a $3 outsider.
Drew Petrie will be playing, but for the opposition, West Coast, who are $1.40 favourite.
GWS have only beaten Adelaide once in seven attempts, but this year, they’re at the top of Premiership betting ($4.50) and this provides a perfect opportunity to stamp their authority early.
Geelong ($1.48) heads west to take on Fremantle ($2.70) in the final game of round one, which will also answer some questions as Freo will have both Aaron Sandilands and Nat Fyfe back in the side and there have been some questions raised over Geelong in the pre-season.
Round 1 (Sportsbet)
Carlton ($2.85) v Richmond ($1.44)
Collingwood ($2.80) v Western Bulldogs ($1.46)
St Kilda ($1.85) v Melbourne ($2)
Sydney ($1.25) v Port Adelaide ($4.10)
Essendon ($2.35) v Hawthorn ($1.61)
Gold Coast ($1.36) v Brisbane ($3.20)
North Melbourne ($3) v West Coast ($1.40)
Adelaide ($2.35) v Greater Western Sydney ($1.62)
Fremantle ($2.70) v Geelong ($1.48)
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