PUNTING SPECTATOR: The AFL is back

Dr Turf is excited – the AFL is back. Geelong look the goods, but the Doctor has some mail for the top eight and wooden spoon betting. Plus all the NRL tips.

Guess what Aussie Rules fans? No more sleeps. The ball was bounced last night to start the 2008 AFL season, but as I suggested last week, I reckon it best to be a touch conservative with our punting adventures in the early weeks of the season.

Let’s start with an overview of the season. Here's the premiership betting. This week our prices are taken from Betstar. Please note prices are subject to change.

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Geelong looks the testing material again. In what is always a pretty even competition, the ladder positions of many teams will have everything to do with the number of injuries carried by the club. Geelong, despite losing key defender Matthew Egan late in the season, had a very good run with injuries last year.

By contrast, look at the Eagles – they lost Kerr, Hansen, Embley and Cousins either before or during the finals, with Chris Judd playing but just a shadow of his brilliant best. The Eagles were knocked out in extra time of week two of the finals.

The AFL average for weeks lost through injury per club is around 85 weeks. Last season Melbourne lost over 150, yet the bookies have them a strong second favourite for the Wooden Spoon. They will not win it. I’d rather speculate on teams such as Fremantle at the extraordinary price of $101, Adelaide at $26 and the Kangaroos and Carlton, at $9 and $13 respectively. You can’t do to much damage to the kick at those prices.

Although the good price has already been knocked off, I am sure that St. Kilda are in for a big year. Although many consider that the window of opportunity for a premiership has slammed down on their fingers, I reckon it’s been left wide open this year. They have been crippled by injuries over the past couple of seasons and I like the fact this is coach Ross Lyon’s second year. I don’t really want to get involved with anyone else at this stage.

I might have a spec on the top eight though, and I’ve got a real hankering for the Brisbane Lions. They finished off the season in great style last year and the fact that they played so well with the competition's number one power forward Jonathan Brown was on the park was no coincidence. They’ve a good midfield and good kids. They represent good value for the eight if you can get better than even money ($2.00).

There is one problem though with futures betting, whether it be the AFL or the NRL. Most betting outlets insist on payment up front and six months is a long time to have your money sitting in the bookie's bag not doing anything.

OK, let’s have a look at the rest of round one. Here are the prices.

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I don’t hold out great hopes for the Bulldogs this season but, again, I would rather be on them than the favourites, Adelaide, on Saturday at the Telstra Dome. Adelaide look to be a big risk for September action this year. They have a great coach but a questionable list.

Now, I will put my hand up and confess to be being a Melbourne supporter, but they already look value to me for the game against Hawthorn on Sunday. But I wouldn’t jump in just yet, because I reckon they’ll continue to ease throughout the weekend. They do look a good bet at the line. Just remember, it’s only week one. There’s another 175 games to bet on.

Now to the NRL and it was nice to get off to a good start last week. Let's have a look at this week's prices:
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Despite six favourites winning last week, the difficulty at the moment is working out how much emphasis to put on the results from round one.

Surely Penrith, the Dragons and the Cowboys aren’t that bad.The irony of those heavy defeats is that all three are favourites to win this week, and I think that one of them, the Cowboys, are specials. They were tailed off and out of the contest last week before they realised the season had actually started. The Tigers, without Benji Marshall for the next eight weeks, can’t possibly feel confident travelling north. I reckon the Cowboys will cover the nine-point line with ease.

Brisbane absolutely flogged Penrith first-up, but the Panthers may have broken the world record for unforced errors and the win may have been a touch flattering for the Broncos. The Broncos copped a couple of injuries as well and the Roosters look a nice wager. Another factor – indeed something to keep in mind for the whole season – is that teams backing up from Sunday to Friday do not have a flash record.

I told you last week that St George Illawarra have been putting bookies' kids through school. Well, on last week's effort it looks like they’re intent on putting them through university and then setting them up in business as well. Can you believe that the bagmen are serving them up as favourites this week? Keep something for Monday and stick it on the Titans.

And just a word of caution for those who love having an early tipple for big races like the Golden Slipper and the big Cups. The early odds on offer for these big races waver somewhere between disgraceful and appalling. Whether you have a bet three months or three days before the race itself, you are entitled to get some sort of compensation (ie better odds) for taking the risk that the horse might be injured, sold, kidnapped or even worse, have it’s jockey replaced at the last minute by Mark Webber. The early odds for such races might as well have been set by the Australian Wheat Board for all their credibility.

Good luck and good punting, and hey, let’s be careful out there.

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