Well, this is a bit unexpected. I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the changes to this season including the exclusion of crowds, a 17 round season and shorter 16-minute quarters.
It’s unprecedented, but this version of footy is better than no footy. Right?
Damn right, I don’t think I could handle another day without sport. No one knows how this season is going to play out, but the players and coaching staff are healthy, and we might as well enjoy some football whilst they are, even with this cloud of uncertainty.
With that being said, let’s get stuck into it with a round 1 preview following our season preview
Richmond V Carlton
The classic season opener, Richmond ($1.27) vs Carlton ($3.5). Carlton haven’t beaten Richmond in the opening round since 2012, finishing lower than 14th in their last 4 seasons.
I expect Carlton to improve drastically this season and surprise a lot of people. They will welcome the return of Docherty from a two-year absence, and the arrivals of Newnes and Martin who should add some much-needed finesse to the Blues outfit.
It’s hard to go past the reigning premiers in this one, who are as formidable as ever only making two changes to their premiership squad. However, I can see Carlton bucking the recent trend and pulling off a massive upset under Teague, even without key forwards Curnow and McKay, with Cripps asserting himself as a Brownlow favorite, similar to how Dusty did in the opener of 2017. Although it’s a big risk, and hence prefer them to cover the line at 21.5 at $1.89
Western Bulldogs V Collingwood
The Doggies ($1.96) are tipped by many this year to be big improvers, and for good reason with their acquisition that adds great strength to the teams spine. Bruce creates a scary proposition for opposition defenses who now cannot just base their strategy around an ever-improving Naughton. It will also allow for the Bont to play most of his footy where he is the most lethal, in the midfield. At the opposite end, Keath is coming off a career-best year at the Crows and will add much-needed structure to their defense that was rated 6th in terms of points-against last season.
Pies ($1.78) on the other hand were quiet during the off-season, suffering no major losses or acquisitions whilst managing to resign their most important player in Grundy. This makes sense for Collingwood, who are in their premiership window and will be aiming to rectify their 2018 and 2019 finals losses against the Eagles and the Giants, respectively.
Last time they played, Collingwood escaped a brilliant performance from Bontempelli with a narrow 9 point win. Although it is at Marvel which should advantage the Doggies, I don’t see the Pies wanting to fluff around too much in round 1 going into season 2020 with one goal. Redemption. Collingwood to win in a tight contest.
Essendon V Fremantle
Fremantle ($2.68) looks to start a new chapter this season with a new CEO and a new coach. It is clear the direction they are headed for this season, shipping off Hill and Langdon for a range of Draft picks and young players Aish and Acres. They will have at the very least one debutant against the Bombers in pick 17 from 2018 Sturt.
Bombers ($1.43) are returning from a 55-point finals loss against the Eagles in what is an important year for the club. It will be interesting to see what sort of an impact Rutten will have on this team whose game-plan stacked up against the worst teams, but fell short against the elite teams and whether the likes of McGrath and Parish can take the step into ‘elite’ status.
Fremantle should be competitive against Essendon, but the Bombers shouldn’t face too many issues in getting their 2020 season started with a win. Expect Stringer to have a big game after missing both pre-season games. Essendon to win.
Adelaide Crows vs Sydney Swans
Both teams look destined to finish in the bottom rung of the ladder. Adelaide has opted for a new start, getting rid of solid players, most notably Greenwood, Keath, and Ellis-Yolmen, choosing to replace them with an array of draft picks. Sydney have also found themselves in a similar position, but by necessity rather than choice, being forced to deal with the retirements of important players in Grundy, Jack and McVeigh.
Although entering a new stage, I expect Adelaide ($1.66) to still comfortably take care of Sydney. Watch for young guns Fogarty and Himmelberg to establish themselves in the Crows forward-line this season as they should see plenty of opportunity. Similarly, expect O’Brien to put himself into the same conversation as Grundy and Gawn.
Sydney ($2.12) will be without Franklin in round one, forcing Heeney to play a greater percentage of time as a forward, taking away the explosiveness he provides in the midfield. They will also look to blood a lot of young talent in the early rounds and as a result, I don’t see them beating the Crows in Adelaide to start the season.
Gold Coast Suns vs Port Adelaide
This looks to be an interesting game at Metricon. Suns ($2.56) will be looking to improve upon their 2019 campaign and should do so with the handy additions of Greenwood and Ellis.
They have announced that young guns Budarick, Rowell, and Anderson will all make their debuts against the power, in what is an exciting trio for Suns fans who will be hoping for some list stability in years to come.
The Power ($1.46) were relatively quiet in the off-season, only shipping off Ryder and Frampton. However, I see them being on the improve. They have a good mix of senior players (Hartlett, Rockliff, Gray, Dixon, Ebert, Boak, Westhoff) and young guns ( Duursma, Houston, Rozee, Powell-Pepper, Bonner) that should reap rewards from an extra pre-season together. Power should prove to be too strong for the youth-driven Suns and will look to add a win in the quest for a finals campaign.
Greater Western Sydney vs Geelong
Cats fans will have to wait a bit longer to see Steven’s make his debut as they travel to Spotless Stadium to take on the Giants whose 2019 campaign ended in the most grueling fashion.
The Giants ($1.56) may have suffered a demoralizing defeat after finally getting over the hump of a preliminary final, but their list is still young for the most part and they will have ample opportunity to get themselves back into that position. Taranto’s injury is not ideal, but the Giants shouldn’t be too worried as they will use this opportunity to debut gun Tom Green.
Geelong ($2.3) seems to be the gift that just keeps giving. Every year they are written off as being too old, too slow and bound to have an off- year. Yet every year, they consistently make finals and prove the pundits wrong. It would be a fair assessment to say that the likes of Taylor, Ablett, Hawkins, Selwood are nearing the pointy end of their respective careers, and if they are to win a premiership it has to be now. Duncan and Selwood have both made themselves available for this clash, in what should prove to be a match of the round candidate.
This game could genuinely go either way in the first round, but it is hard to go past the home team who have an almost full-strength outfit and will be looking to bounce back from their embarrassment at the G.
North Melbourne vs St Kilda
The Saints ($1.76) have marched into this season alright, making plentiful list changes in the hopes of returning to the finals. They seem to have covered all fronts, outside speed in Hill, a back-up ruckman in Ryder, an inside bull in Jones, and a pressure forward in Butler. Although, nothing is free, as they gave up Bruce, Acres, and Stevens in return. It could really go either way for the Saints this year, but I think it’ll be a similar year to Port Adelaide in 2018 when they went out and made the trades to gain the likes of Rockliff, Motlop, Watts, etc, which ultimately resulted in them missing finals. Big changes to lists such as this can have varying effects on team chemistry, and if the Saints can get past that and utilize the talent that they have then they should be competitive throughout the year.
North Melbourne ($1.98) will be more or less the same as last year, competitive, but not good enough to make the Finals. They will be without Brown for this game who is recovering from a Calf injury, leaving a big hole in their forward line. Larkey and debutant Xerri are likely to shoulder the responsibility, but I don’t see this troubling the likes of Carlisle and Howard in a game that the Saints should comfortably take care of.
Hawthorn vs Brisbane Lions
This is another game of the round candidate, as the Lions travel to take on the Hawks.
Brisbane ($1.76) exceeded the expectations of many last season, enduring a remarkable run and finishing in the top 4 before bowing out in straight sets. The Lions staff and fans wouldn’t be concerned in the slightest about this, as this was the first finals-series for most of their young list. This team should only go in an upwards trajectory in 2020, with Key position players in Hipwood, Andrews and Witherden looking to improve further whilst McCluggage is tipped by many to take the next step into elite status.
Hawthorn ($1.99) missed out on finals by a game last year, and with the addition of Patton and return of Mitchell, their goal should be returning to the 8. Clarkson always gets the best out of his players but will be looking to increase their scoring after finishing 11th in points last season. He will be hoping that Patton, Lewis, and O’Brien can mesh as targets in the forward 50, aiding the likes of Breust and Pupolo to find themselves free to teammates looking to lower their eyes.
Although I expect Brisbane to have the better season, I am tipping Hawthorn to start off their season with a win off the back of a dominant return from Tom Mitchell.
West Coast Eagles vs Melbourne Demons
Round one ends with an intriguing matchup between Eagles and the Demons.
Melbourne ($3.2) had a putrid season that many are looking to write-off after making the preliminary final in 2018. It seems almost inevitable that the Dees will improve greatly upon their 2019, but will it be that big of a jump? They didn’t do too much over the pre-season, adding depth in Langdon and Tomlinson. Arguably their most important player in Gawn has had an interrupted pre-season, but by all accounts is ready to go for round 1. This game will go a long way to predicting the type of season Melbourne will endure, and a blow-out to the Eagles will prove demoralizing for a group looking to bounce back.
The Eagles ($1.31) are expected to fly high in 2020, with Kennedy reported to have completed a full pre-season and adding midfield gun Tim Kelly to their team will only aid the delivery into their dangerous forward-line as well as taking the pressure off of the likes of Gaff and Yeo. Eagles will be aiming to go the distance this year, and a win against the Dees is a step towards that.
Carlton to cover the line against Richmond
Collingwood to beat Bulldogs
Essendon to beat Fremantle
Adelaide to beat Sydney
Port Adelaide to beat Gold Coast Suns
Giants to beat Geelong
St Kilda to beat North Melbourne
Hawthorn to beat Brisbane
Eagles to beat Melbourne
Carlton to cover the line $1.89
Essendon to win $1.43
Collingwood to win $1.77
St Kilda to win $1.76
Total odds $8.42
With the Sportsbetting.com.au 20% multi boost a $25 bet will pay $247.60