AFL 2021 Season Preview

After a season like no other in 2020, the men of the AFL’s season gets underway next Thursday night and in the grand scheme of things we’re hoping for a case of “normal programming” where possible.

One thing hasn’t changed, so-called “experts” doing their crystal ball predictions ahead of another footy season.

Except, these are mine and pretty much indisputable.

I really know what I’m on about here and you will all be equally outraged and disappointed with where I’ve placed your team and see my ingrained bias.

Bring on the footy!

FINAL 8 PREDICTION

Brisbane Lions
Geelong
St Kilda
Richmond
Port Adelaide
Western Bulldogs
Carlton
West Coast
_________________________
Fremantle
Melbourne
GWS
Collingwood
Gold Coast
Hawthorn
Essendon
Sydney
Adelaide
North Melbourne

BROWNLOW – Dustin Martin

COLEMAN – Charlie Dixon

RISING STAR – Matt Rowell

GRAND FINAL – Brisbane Lions v Richmond

PREMIER – Employer says Brisbane, heart says Richmond.

 

ADELAIDE
AFLW Premiers @ $4

In normal times, when you go into a footy season after three big wins in September you’re usually coming off either a premiership or an amazing run at the business end of the season.

However, this isn’t normal times and the Crows were able to string three wins together after losing their first 13 games and went over an entire calendar year without a victory.

Everyone knows that Adelaide is very much a work in progress and very much at the beginning of a re-build.

The Pride of South Australia will take some time to restore it.

Perhaps they’ll string a couple of wins together, but she’s gonna be tough for the Crows.

I’ve been kind enough not to back them for the Wooden Spoon ($4.50)

However, the Crows women are on a roll and looked primed to make it back-to-back* (*well, sorta) AFLW premiers.

Worth a shot at the current $4 price.

BRISBANE LIONS
Top Non Victorian Team @ $2.75

Ever since Neds became the major sponsor of the Brisbane Lions, they’ve made the top two.

Coincidence? We think not.

There is so much to like about Chris Fagan and his men heading into season 2021.

Brisbane took a major step last year, winning a final in style over eventual premiers Richmond before slipping over against Geelong in the Prelim.

The bad news: Cam Rayner will miss most if not all of season 2021 after doing his ACL in the AAMI Series game against the Gold Coast Suns. That’s just awful and we wish Cam nothing but a speedy, safe recovery to full fitness.

The good news: the Lions have got Joey! Joe Daniher will add so much to the Lions forward line and the combination between him and Eric Hipwood will be something to look forward to.

Add that with Brownlow medalist Lachie Neale along with Charlie Cameron in the midfield and Harris Andrews holding up the backline there’s plenty to look forward to at the Gabba this year and the Brisbane Lions (proudly sponsored by Neds) can most certainly go one better.

CARLTON
Top 8 @ $2.25

The Blues have historically been linked with the Liberal side of politics, however, to use a slogan from Gough Whitlam/Labor:

It’s time.

2021 is shaping as a finals or bust kind of year for Carlton.

An incredibly long, extended, rejigged rebuild of the Blues has been on the cards for years now.

Last year, Carlton remained in the mix to make the top eight, founding themselves in tight contests but fell short towards when they had the chance to cement their spot.

There’s a lot of impatient Blues fans out there and all the talk, development, trust has resulted in expecting a finals berth.

When you have the likes of Sam Walsh, Patrick Cripps, Harry McKay and a veteran like Marc Murphy on your list along with welcoming Adam Saad from Essendon, you’ve every chance of having a decent crack.

Since the AFL went to a final eight system in 1994, at least one team has dropped out every year.

The team to take that available spot should be the Blues.

I just don’t think one more year will cut the mustard with their long-suffering fans.

COLLINGWOOD
Miss Top 8 @ $1.90

Did much happen at Collingwood over the offseason?

Just a little.

Everything the Magpies touched turned into controversy and scandal.

There’s no need to list all the off-field turmoil at Collingwood, if you’re reading this you already know.

Perhaps the Pies will seize the moment and develop an “Us against Them” mentality, but maintaining it for 22 games plus finals?

Methinks this will be a rough one for Collingwood, but a season they need to have.

I’ll take the $1.90 for the Pies not to make the eight.

Essendon
No bet

Spoiler alert: this now-famous clock will not readjust to 0 come September 2021.

New coach, new era, new hope and all the rest of it for Essendon but the Bombers need to accept some hard truths.

The Bombers need to accept they should not look for a sugar-hit, this is a slow burn rebuild.

In terms of a recipe for future success, Essendon requires a fair bit of preparation and needs to be placed in the slow-cooker rather than in the microwave.

We’re not saying the Dons are cooked, but the new head chef in Ben Rutten needs to be honest and except the Bombers need a bit of pain in order to gain.

As a result of what I’ve written in this preview, I just know some Bombers fans are screenshotting it and loading up on the Dons to win the flag. Prove me wrong.

FREMANTLE
Nat Fyfe Brownlow @ $8

Coach Justin Longmuir laid some solid foundations for the Dockers last year and there was plenty to like about Freo, especially at their best.

With that, many pundits expect finals to be the next step for Fremantle.

However, the fate for WA teams could be tricky this season and is still beyond their control.

Depending on the current border situation, if WA Premier Mark McGowan (who is $1.02 to win the state election) hears that someone has a sniffle in Craigieburn (an outer suburb of Melbourne) he’ll shut the border, and there’s every chance the Hub-life or an extended road trip could be on the cards again. We hope not.

Freo boasts an exciting midfield with Adam Cerra, Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong all gelling well and the likes of Matt Taberner and Rory Lobb continue to impress. There’s plenty to like.

I’ve pencilled the Dockers in for 9th, just missing out, in terms of the best bet, if Nat Fyfe can remain fit and firing, there’s no reason why he couldn’t become a triple Brownlow medalist.

GEELONG
Top Victorian Team @ $2.50

What’s not to like about the Cats?

Geelong is primed to redeem their Grand Final loss to Richmond and the old premiership window is still very much open.

A new improved forward line of Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins is something to very much look forward to, not to mention Patrick Dangerfield splitting his time in the midfield and up forward.

The Cats have a mix of youth and old hands to try and make sure they can claim another cup.

A frequent flyer when it comes to the business end of the season, plenty in the kit and they’ll be playing at least nine games at GMHBA Stadium which you can pencil in as a win.

Geelong to be the top placed Victorian team come Round 23 is a very good bet for mine.

GOLD COAST SUNS
Matt Rowell Rising Star @ $1.33

Everybody’s second favourite team.

The Gold Coast Suns will keep this status for season 2021 as they will be fun to watch, but not at the expense of our own sides.

It’s fair to say, most are looking forward to the return of Matt Rowell who blitzed the early part of the season only to go down with a shoulder injury.

Rowell managed to conjure up 9 Brownlow votes in just four games, many expect big things from the man who’s brought tucked in jumpers back in fashion.

As a second-year player, Rowell is the $1.33 favourite to win the Rising Star award and some even will give him a chance at the Brownlow ($21). Take the Rising Star at the short odds, better than bank interest as they say in the classics.

GWS GIANTS
Miss top 8 @ $1.80

A club that once was described as a Ferrari is on the verge of becoming a used white Commodore that’s on sale via Facebook marketplace for around $1500.

GWS went into 2020 confident they could go one better from their 2019 Grand Final loss only to have a year to forget.

The Giants can still be a team that can play some excellent footy on their day, but just keep finding a way not to live up to their true potential.

Jeremy Cameron is a big big big loss for the big big sound but there’s still Stephen Coniglio (who was dropped for poor form during 2020) and if he can not get injured Toby Greene can be dangerous along with a host of talented youngsters.

I’m just not convinced they can return to their best.

HAWTHORN
No Bet

The Hawks are very much a work in progress and in a re-build.

Play the kids, have a crack and Clarko being Clarko will probably conjure up someway for Hawthorn to cause a boilover over a top team during the season.

That’s about as good as it gets.

I can’t find a good bet for them.

Come back for next years preview and see if I’ve got any decent predictions for the Hawks.

MELBOURNE
Miss top 8 @ $1.53

How anyone can trust Melbourne is beyond me.

There’s even talk of “Leave your egos at the door” amongst the playing group.

The fact this is even a thing is cause for concern.

Melbourne has plenty of talent, but just know how to stuff things up because they are, well, Melbourne.

A Prelim final in 2018, 17th in 2019 and finished 9th last year. You’d think they can go one better, but then again, It’s Melbourne.

Bar one year in the past 14, backing them to miss the eight has been a pretty reliable bet.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE
Least Wins (Wooden Spoon) @ $2.25

Last year was a tough old year for the Kangaroos and you’d expect 2021 to be no different.

With a new coach in David Noble and a significant list upheaval, this is very much a foundation year for a North Melbourne rebuild.

The Kangas only managed three wins last season and lost their last seven.

Play the kids. See it through. Take the draft picks.

The wooden spoon is headed Arden Street way.

 

Port Adelaide
Charlie Dixon Coleman @ $7

The Power has had all off-season to stew over that six-point loss to the Tigers in the preliminary final.

Port Adelaide had as good a season anyone could have, bar making it when it mattered most – The Grand Final.

There’s no doubting they’ll have the fire in the belly to go one better.

I’ve controversially left them out of making the top 4, on the basis that one always drops out from the previous year but feel I will be proved wrong.

In terms of a good value futures bet for the Power, I quite like Charlie Dixon for the Coleman Medal.

He emerged as one of the AFL’s key-forwards last season, kicking 34 goals and got the most contested marks in the competition.

If some of the rule changes do adhere to their desired outcomes (along with going back to a standard 22 game season), Dixon has every chance to double that total and at pretty tasty $7 odds.

RICHMOND
Dustin Martin Brownlow @ $9

There’s no need to readjust your watches yet, it’s still very much Tiger Time.

Say what you like, but cannot deny the greatness of this Richmond team.

The Tiger Dynasty ain’t over yet and they are favoured to make it a threepeat / four flags in five years in 2021.

However, another bet to consider is three-time Norm Smith Medalist Dustin Martin becoming a two-time Brownlow medalist.

Like all players in the AFL at this time of the year, he’s never looked fitter and has been training the house down.

Dusty has established himself as the greatest finals player of all-time. This is non-disputable.

Along with the Norm Smith, third flag, fourth All Australian selection, Gary Ayres medal, runner up in the Richmond B&F, BOG on Richmond Mad Monday and then some – Dusty is primed for another Brownlow. He’s also due to play his 250th game this season.

ST KILDA
Top 4 @ $4

PLENTY to like about the Saints.

Brett Ratten has gotten St Kilda into a side that played some of the most exciting football in 2020 and back playing finals.

A thrilling win over the Western Bulldogs in the Elimination Final and a gallant defeat by the Tigers in week two, the Saints lost no admirers.

Featuring a good list, good arrivals, plenty of promise and on the law of averages a new team enters the top four each year – well, I can’t go past the Saints and $4 to make the top 4 is a pretty good bet for mine.

SYDNEY
No bet.

Much like the stadium next door to the SCG, the Sydney Swans are in a rebuild.

Frequent flyers when it comes to finals football over the past 20 years, the Swans missed out last season and the club and its fans have very much adjusted to life in rebuild mode.

Sydney shouldn’t be underestimated and will be a dangerous side to play against and your best bet with the Swans this season would be for them to cause an upset against a top eight side at some stage. That’s the kind of team they are.

The future will be bright for the Swans, but when it comes to futures betting for season 2021 – don’t bother.

WEST COAST
Miss top 4 @ $1.52

When previewing the season for a club, you would put the responsibility of their fate in the hands of the players and coaches however, West Coast’s 2021 prospects is in the hands of WA Premier Mark McGowan.

As mentioned in the Freo preview, one cough in Hoppers Crossing and the WA border is locked.

If any team is going to have the hub-life choose it (you don’t choose the hub-life, it chooses you) it’ll be the WA clubs.

West Coast can look invincible and unstoppable at Optus Stadium. They won six straight at home last season, before having to the hub again.

A flat track bully reputation remains and dropping the odd game at home along with a couple on the road always costs them.

A shock finals exit to Collingwood in the first week was something they did not expect.

You’d think the West Coast Eagles will play finals.

They are a finals team. Their list is stacked with talent.

Can they win enough games to make the top 4?

Bar the 2018 premiership year, they haven’t been able to and I’d expect that trend to continue.

WESTERN BULLDOGS
Miss top 4 @ $1.30

A cameo in last years finals, going down to the Saints in a thrilling EF but there’s plenty to like about the Western Bulldogs heading into 2021.

Can they recapture that 2016 magic?

Unlikely, but you’d expect them to be there at the business end.

The Doggies did quite well in the off-season when they were able to jag the first draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with the benefit of being from the clubs Next Generation Academy.

They also got Adam Treloar from Collingwood’s trainwreck of a trade period.

On paper, the Dogs look at the goods. Can they pull it off? They’ll make the eight, but the top four is a bit of a stretch.