The AFL Lines – Finals Week 1

Filed in AFL, AFL Lines by on September 7, 2011

Wheat and chaff have been divided, as seventeen have become eight. A pivotal weekend of matches lies in wait. Who will be shown the exit this weekend, and who will win their way through to a preliminary final and thus grab the inside running in their tilt for premiership glory? As always, Greg Oberscheidt and Cliff Bingham have some thoughts on such matters. The boys are back with their tips and recommended bets for the opening week of the finals series.

CB – After a year with plenty of matches that were lopsided to say the least, how nice is it to finally get a week with four fantastic match-ups? I can’t wait. On the punting front, whilst I’ve made about 15 or 20 decisions this season that are on a par with many served up by Richmond boards of directors over the years (anyone want to defend the drafting of Richie Tambling and Aaron Fiora, or me having two units on Melbourne against the Bulldogs when they play so badly at Etihad?), there remains a sliver of hope that with a very strong finals campaign, parity on the year can still be salvaged.

The same cannot be said of my colleague Greg, who has duly pocketed the takings of our season-long side bet on who would have the best record. Only on occasional student of probabilities and expected returns but an ardent lover of the game, he was surprised pre-season when I suggested that a 55 per cent strike rate (which translates to around a five per cent profit on turnover, or POT) would definitely constitute a good year and a 60 per cent strike rate (around a 14 per cent POT, or 15 per cent if you can sneak the $1.90 lines out to $1.92 as some of the corporate firms offer) would be a raging success.

Beating the bookmakers’ rake and then adding a significant percentage profit on top is extremely hard work as a rule. I daresay there aren’t many punters around who can lay claim to a 16 per cent POT having outlaid 90 or more units. To those who have done so in 2011, I tip my lid to you – well played.

GO – Never more so than the first week of the finals does the footy lover experience such mixed emotions. The dizzying high of seeing your team making their tilt towards premiership glory. The absolute despair in the knowledge that in less than four weeks time it will all be over for another year.  We’ve given the bookies a fair run this year and with so much on the line the punting takes on a sharper edge. At first glance I’m loving the underdogs this week. Here’s hoping for some great games of footy and the right results wherever you might be putting your loot. CARN NA HAWKIES!!!

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Summary of Round 24 results

GO – Four selections, four units bet, return of $3.80, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -5%

CB – Two selections, two units bet, return of $1.90, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -5%

Total – Six selections, six units bet, return of $5.70, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -5%

Summary of overall results

GO – 72 selections, 90 units bet, return of $104.50, Profit on Turnover (POT) = 16%

CB – 49 selections, 61 units bet, return of $55.10, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -10%

Total – 121 selections, 151 units bet, return of $159.60, Profit on Turnover (POT) = 6%


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(Please note – all times are EST)


Geelong v Hawthorn, MCG, 7.40 pm

Bookmakers’ line:  Geelong –5.5

GO – The Cats made a pact in the wake of the 2008 Grand Final that they will never be beaten by the Hawks again. So far they have held their promise and if they can put on a performance like last weeks then they should extend their run. Harry Taylor being injured is a major concern for the Cats as his performances against the Hawks have been phenomenal. The midfield battle is ripe with the well rested Hawthorn contingent coming up against the seasoned bodies of Geelong who are hitting some solid inside form. This contest is not one for the faint hearted. Ling will hope to hold Hodge out again and if he can it will go a long way to getting the job done. Lonergan should return to take Buddy but he has missed some footy and I doubt he’ll have the tank to go with the Hawthorn superstar. That will leave Mackie to go to Franklin for periods and that gives the Hawks a massive edge.

I’ll be accused of bias here but the Hawks have been in commanding positions the last two times these teams have met and I believe they’ll have learnt from that. Expect Geelong to play a tall forward line to try and expose the smaller Hawks defence but with an abundance of midfield pressure and a clinical press, the Hawks will turn defence into attack and outrun their larger opponents. Hawks to win by three goals and thus I’ll play one unit on the plus.

CB – There’s barely a struck match between these two teams to my mind. Their season records and average points conceded are extremely similar and whilst Geelong had a higher average score kicked (116 points) than the Hawks (107), much of this was driven by consecutive ‘cricket scores’ against Melbourne and Gold Coast.

The head-to-head record suggests another thriller is in store too – whilst Geelong have won all six matches since the 2008 Grand Final, five of those wins have come by nine points or less, with 2011 bringing a 19-point ‘blowout’ and a five-point victory. As Greg pointed out, on both occasions Hawthorn drew out to a strong lead before the Cats hauled them back. I think the line is almost spot on and won’t be making a wager in this match.



Collingwood v West Coast, MCG, 2.10pm

Bookmakers’ line:  Collingwood –29.5

GO –The Pies would be embarrassed by their showing last week and will be out to make amends. They are truly a star studded line up but with big clouds over Cloke and Tarrant the pressure falls on Maxwell, Shaw and Dawes, all who have missed plenty of footy. The Pies clearly missed the gut running of ‘Daisy’ Thomas whose work rate can’t be emulated and Beams and Blair will need to fill the breach. Davis’ foot skills out of the back half and his creative run will also be a bonus. Ben Reid has been in super form but he can’t take on Kennedy, Lynch, Nic Nat, Cox and Darling all by himself.

The Eagles have a well balanced forward structure with lead up types and strong one grabbers ably supported by a couple of excellent crumbers in Le Cras and Nicoski. Glass has been the key for the Eagles this year and he’ll get the AA fullback spot. Let’s also not forget that Embley loves the big stage and Kerr in full flight is as good an inside player as you can get. I still think that the Pies will get the job done but five goals is a massive start given they were soundly flogged last week and the Eagles won by a similar margin. I’ll be playing one unit on the plus and hoping for an Eagles victory.

CB – First and foremost, I’m not going to put too much stock in either Collingwood’s massive loss last week (against a quality opponent with perhaps more to prove, and where they put the cue in the rack rather early in the evening) or West Coast’s massive win over Adelaide (a lowly opponent travelling to Patersons who put up little resistance). Nonetheless, the Pies will miss Thomas once again and as Greg noted, have a few players coming back into the side who may be a run short, so to speak.

The Eagles are fit and firing and have won 12 of their last 13 games, but have a 3-5 record against top-8 sides in 2011 (as an aside, how lucky were they to play only one top-8 team twice this year?) and a 1-4 record against top-8 sides interstate. Compare this to Collingwood, who are 20-0 this season against teams not named Geelong, albeit that wins in the second half of the season over Sydney, Carlton and St Kilda were by significantly less than the five-goal line offered here.

Head-to-head, the Magpies have won the last five, with three wins coming by more than 50 points. That said, only the match earlier this season (which Collingwood won by 53 points) is any way representative of where the two sides are currently at, given the Eagles’ woes in recent years. At the end of the day though, it’s very rare that a side who has won 12 of their last 13 matches receives five goals start (especially against slightly depleted opposition), so I will have one unit on the Eagles at the plus.


St Kilda v Sydney, Etihad Stadium, 7.10pm

Bookmakers’ line:  St Kilda -19.5

GO – Money for jam here says I. The Saints have been in pretty good form it’s fair to say but the form of the Swans, since their round 21 loss to Richmond, has been outstanding. In their last three they’ve beaten St Kilda by 15 scoring shots, beaten Geelong at KP which no one has accomplished for the best part of two years and beaten an impressive Brisbane outfit by nine goals. Adam Goodes’ form has been so good that he’s now being touted for a third Brownlow (even though he didn’t get a kick in the first half of the season and should have been suspended twice.) Benny McGlynn has proven to be a very good stopper and Jack and Kennedy are guns. Sam Reid can grab ‘em and the Swans defence is pretty solid.

St Kilda have done admirably to make the finals given their disastrous start to the year and enough can’t be said of their endeavour but I predict that despite the best efforts of Dal Santo and Reiwoldt, it will all end this week. St Kilda rarely put sides to the sword, particularly in finals and that in itself is reason enough to take the points. Mumford demoralised McEvoy when they played four weeks ago and we can expect more of the same. With the Saints sorely missing a secondary option in the ruck this will be the determining factor in the Swans getting across the line. Play two units on the Swans at the plus.

CB – I said earlier that there was almost nothing between Geelong and Hawthorn. Well, I think there is even less between these two teams. Both posted 12 and a half wins in the home and away season. Both scored an average of around 86 points per game. The Saints conceded 76 points per game on average; the Swans 79. Sydney have a 4-6 record against top-8 sides in 2011 (including one win and two losses by a goal or less); the Saints have a 2-8 record (including two losses by a goal or less). Their last seven matches head-to-head have seen four wins to the Saints (all by 15 points or less, with three being by eight points or less) and three wins to the Swans (two of which were by 19 points or less, including the 15-behind win at ANZ Stadium three weeks ago).

So why are the Saints favoured by more than three goals? You’ve got me. Whenever these two teams play the line should be ‘home team by about a goal’ until we get evidence that these teams are sick of having tense, low-scoring arm wrestles. 19.5 points is far too many, and thus I will have two units on the plus.



Carlton v Essendon, MCG, 2.10pm

Bookmakers’ line:  Carlton -19.5

GO – James Hird will consider a finals birth a win this year and given the string of outs they’ve endured it is a credit to the group that they are playing in September. Ratten was told pre-season that anything less than a finals win was a fail but I think they might let him off given their injuries. Jamieson will be on one leg if he plays and Waite is no chance so the Blues are light on for quality talls – highlighted by the inclusion of Setanta last week. Kreuzer was hobbled by a “numb foot” and his mystery ailment would be scaring the boys down at Visy Park. Their midfield is as good as any and if they are to get it done on Sunday they’ll need plenty from Judd and Murphy.

The Bombers welcome back their engine room this week with Hocking and Watson their two best inside players returning. It will be interesting to see if Hirdy goes tall again to try and expose the Blues lack of height or if the speed of the Blues gives him pause to do so. Carlton should win this one but their lack of quality talls is enough for me to stay off them and I won’t trust the Bombers again for a while. No play for me.

CB – As an Essendon fan, let me explain what worries me more than anything else. After eight matches, both Carlton and Essendon had posted five wins, a draw and two losses. Both had made significant leaps in defence from 2010, in particular the Bombers. Now look at their records over the last 14 matches. Carlton won nine games and averaged 103 points scored to 75 points conceded; the Bombers won only six matches and averaged 94 points scored to 113 points conceded. Conceding 113 points per game won’t usually take you far in September. Moreover, Carlton have won three of the last four games head-to-head, with two of the last three going to the Blues by more than 12 goals.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. As Greg noted, Carlton are light on for tall defenders. Now check out the head-to-head matches from 2007 to 2009 – the Bombers won five of six (losing the other by only three points) by turning them into shootouts and scoring at least 116 points in all six matches. I don’t think my Bombers can win by turning this match into a slugfest along the lines of the Round Four encounter this year, but they can win a shootout. We’re going to be underdogs for as long as we’re in this finals series, so why not take a chance or two and take the game on? Here’s hoping they go down that path – I’ve missed meaningful September matches. PS – No play for me either.


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Recommended bet summary

GO – One unit on Hawthorn + 5.5, one unit on West Coast + 29.5 and two units on Sydney +19.5

CB – One unit on West Coast +29.5 and two units on Sydney +19.5.

Thanks to Mark Nolan/Getty Images AsiaPac for use of the photo 



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