The Australian footy season is around the corner as Richmond Tigers prepare to defend the AFL premiership they won in 2017.
Will the Tigers be the team to beat again? Will we see a return to prominence for recent premiers Hawthorn Hawks or Sydney Swans? Will the return of prodigal son Gary Ablett propel Geelong Cats back to glory days? The countdown is on and it is time to make AFL betting tips ahead of the start of the season.
When Richmond won the flag in September with a dominant victory over Adelaide Crows in the Grand Final, it continued a new era for footy in Australia as they followed Western Bulldogs onto the list of premiers as both ended long respective droughts. No longer was AFL dominated by the same faces with Hawthorn, Sydney and Geelong having won the Grand Final in nine of the previous 11 seasons.
It is the Crows who will start this year as favourites to go one better than last year and end their own long wait for a premiership. They were the team of 2017, but didn’t get the job done in the one game that mattered most – the Grand Final. That will be the big question mark hanging over their heads again.
The return of Ablett to Geelong has been the biggest talking point of the off-season. He might have to nurse an ageing body through the season, but he is exactly what the Cats missed last year and his arrival back at Simonds Stadium will free up Patrick Dangerfield to be even more of a playmaker.
While the Cats have strong claims, so too do Sydney Swans. They gave everyone a headstart last year after a dismal start to the season saw them lose the opening six games. The Swans finished like a train, made the finals then turned in another horror show in the semi-final defeat to Geelong. With a relatively injury-free season, Sydney could be the team to beat.
Cross-town rivals GWS Giants suffered heartache when the Tigers denied them a first Grand Final appearance last year. Both sides should be there or thereabouts again this term and it is hard to split the Giants and reigning premiers Richmond when it comes to premiership aspirations. I expect both to come up a game or two short in 2018 though.
What of the others? Port Adelaide were beaten by West Coast Eagles in a thriller of an elimination final last year and that was a real disappointment for the Power, who had expected so much more. Do they have it in them to go all the way? The doubts still remain a year on.
Hawthorn, meanwhile, missed out on the finals altogether just two years after completing a hat-trick of premierships as the redevelopment of the Hawks squad continued. That rebuilding job might need another year.
Essendon Bombers and Melbourne Demons will hope to follow Richmond’s lead and be the bolters in 2018. The Bombers did make the finals last year and that experience should stand them in good stead. What Collingwood will we see this season? Can the Magpies finally fly high under Nathan Buckley?
It’s hard to choose between the Cats and the Swans, but I’m leaning toward another Sydney premiership.