Footy is back with 17 teams looking to stop Richmond’s domination and a tilt at their fourth premiership in five years.
Richmond vs Carlton
After last year’s tumultuous, COVID-crippled season, the MCG will light up for the traditional season opener.
While it’s accepted Carlton should continue to improve, it’s unlikely they’ll pose too much trouble as the Tigers kick off their flag defence.
The Tigers present a largely similar side to last year, while the Blues will bemoan the suspension of key GWS recruit Zac Williams.
I can’t see a blowout in this contest, but the ~23.5 line seems around the right mark.
No suggested bet
Collingwood vs Western Bulldogs
A long-awaited match-up with two sides tipped to vie for finals and the added spice of the Bulldogs snaring Collingwood star Adam Treloar in the off season.
Collingwood will be looking to put off-field dramas in the rear mirror, but should draw confidence from prevailing in their past four clashes against the Bulldogs.
However, there is a very real possibility the Bulldogs’ addition of Treloar is the x-factor difference they so desperately need.
Collingwood will also be without Steele Sidebottom and it could pose a problem with the Bulldogs impressing with their ball movement in the pre-season.
Suggested bet – 1u Western Bulldogs win at $1.72
Melbourne vs Fremantle
After another string of disappointing years, Melbourne will be looking to rekindle their finals credibility in a home game they simply cannot afford to lose.
Whilst it is only round one, the Dees must show they can convert these games when starting clear favourite into a much-needed four points.
In the past, these crucial contests have proven to be danger games for the Dees and no doubt they’ll be out to signal a new era of ruthlessness at the club.
However it is concern they have looked average in lead-up games to the regular season, again raising questions around their ability to win the contest in the middle of the ground.
The Dockers seem to be a side flying under the radar and could press for a finals berth in 2021 after some promising performances towards the latter half of last year.
They do have a long list of injuries to deal with, so that does quell some confidence. While the Dockers have covered the line in nine of its previous 12 matches against Melbourne, I’m happy to watch this one with the line only affording a two-goal head start for the Dockers.
No suggested bet
Adelaide Crows vs Geelong Cats
Looks to be a round one mismatch with last year’s wooden spooners Adelaide kicking off what looms as another tough season against the Cats.
The Crows were smashed in their practice match against a red-hot Port side while Geelong has arguably been the competition’s best performer in the off season bringing in key firepower such as Jeremy Cameron.
The Crows defence will be under serious pressure containing Cameron in tandem with Tom Hawkins.
After the disappointment of losing last year’s grand final, the Cats will be hoping to start 2021 with a bang, and while they won’t be screwed down so early in the season on the road in Adelaide, they should still prove far too good.
Suggested bet – 1.5u Geelong -25.5 at $1.95
Essendon vs Hawthorn
One of the more anticipated clashes of round one pitting together two rivals with no love lost for each other.
The Bombers have a new coach with Ben Rutten, who officially takes the reins as senior coach of a side which has recruited moderately in the off-season, mostly bolstering their talls and forward line.
The Hawks were a real disappointment in 2020, finishing 15th with a 5-12 record, performing particularly poorly in the latter stages of the season.
It’s hard to split the pair from their pre-season efforts, with the Hawks dominant against the Kangaroos and the Bombers taking it to the Cats.
No suggested bet
Brisbane Lions vs Sydney Swans
The premiership favourite Brisbane Lions should open their 2021 account with a win over the struggling Sydney Swans.
One of the features of this game will be the long-awaited appearance in Brisbane colours of enigmatic ex-Essendon forward Joe Daniher.
This clash will give a glimpse into confirming if he is the final piece in their premiership puzzle.
Somewhat offsetting the debut of Daniher for the Lions is the season-ending injury to former No. 1 draft pick Cameron Rayner, which can’t be underestimated.
However, the Swans’ are well and truly still in the rebuilding phase and that should be laid bare by a classy Lions outfit looking for redemption in 2021 in front a boisterous home crowd.
Suggested bet – 2u Brisbane -24.5 at $1.90
North Melbourne vs Port Adelaide
A fresh-looking North Melbourne outfit hosts last year’s minor premiers Port Adelaide at Marvel Stadium.
Despite a new coach, it’s hard to see the Roos any significant improvement from last year, which saw them notch only three wins.
In contrast the Power look to have strengthened their personnel for season 2021 and will be raring to go after last year’s heartbreaking finals loss to eventual premiers Richmond.
This should be an easy victory to kick off the season for Port and confident they can put a margin on the Roos.
Suggested bet – 2u Port Adelaide -30.5 at $1.85
GWS Giants vs St Kilda
An intriguing Sunday match-up in Sydney, with two sides tipped to be vast improvers in 2021.
The young Giants side was one which struggled to adapt to the pandemic conditions last year, finishing their season with a 53-point drubbing at the hands of St Kilda.
Coleman Medallist forward Jeremy Cameron has now also left to the Cats, leaving a massive hole int the club’s goalkicking capabilities.
The club has pinned its hopes on former Fremantle key position player Jesse Hogan filling the void.
There will be much interest on the Saints this season after reaching the finals for the first time since 2011.
They have recruited well but will be without key import Brad Crouch who is serving a two-match suspension due to lingering drug-related charges last year. Adding to this, the Saints have a long list of injuries that will be hard to replace. Despite the injury woes, I have this match much more evenly poised than the market suggests (GSW clear favourites) so keen to have a small bet.
Suggested bet – 1u St Kilda at $2.28
West Coast Eagles vs Gold Coast Suns
The final match of the opening round offers the Gold Coast Suns the most daunting trip in footy as they trek west to face the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium.
Despite early glimpses of improvement in 2020, the Suns were largely uncompetitive once they lost star youngster Matt Rowell.
The Suns have never won at this venue, but do face an Eagles outfit without premiership duo Elliot Yeo and captain Luke Shuey due to injury.
It will be interesting to see how the Eagles respond to last year’s performance, finishing fifth in a season where they were heavily impacted by COVID changes and struggled for consistency.
The Eagles should win this, but with the injuries to key players and the return of Rowell, I expect the Suns to be somewhat competitive.
Suggested bet – 1u Suns +28.5 at $1.85
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