“I try to play for the Debbies, and the Doreens” said a musician once. “Debbie is a checkout girl at J.C. Penney. Doreen is a music scholar from Berkeley. When I play, I have to try to entertain Debbie and still manage to entertain Doreen.”
Handicapping worldwide sports on a blog can be sort of like that. Some readers already know all of the basic stuff, and some don’t. Part of the reason I’m often trying (operative word) to be funny is that I feel an obligation to dress-up the ordinary info to keep it entertaining for grizzled-vet fans and ‘cappers.
Doreen might be from Australia or New Zealand, be a lifetime member of the Geelong or Adelaide supporters’ club, and know absolutely everything there is to know about pigskin Down Under. Debbie is just looking for a new exciting sport to live-gamble on during her night shift. She probably thinks of “disposal” as taking out the trash.
Yet a “disposal” is just 1 vocabulary word that we have to teach Debbie while previewing Australian Rules Football clubs. American fans are conditioned to think of a term like “disposal” as something to do with defense, “getting rid” of a batter or a runner or a scoring chance. In Australia, however, a football “disposal” means knocking or kicking the ball to an opponent to keep the attack going.
It’s easier to translate the AFL by relating it to American football concepts. Our brand on the gridiron has borrowed at least as much from overseas as vice versa, but whether by coincidence or not, many Australian Rules Football tropes seem like the NFL upside-down. We talk about a quarterback’s need to “dispense” the football to different WRs, or “dispose” a safe incompletion instead of going down. It’s the same principle in the Southern Hemisphere – someone’s going to get tackled, so he quickly gets rid of the egg…hopefully in a smart direction.
Geelong, already a storied AFL club prior to 2019, is dominating the Australian Rules season with a tremendous offense, “disposing” of all but a single opponent. But it wasn’t magnificent passes – er, disposals – that doomed the Cats so much as a legendary effort from a star in the late-going.
Will it take another miracle comeback to vanquish Geelong in the Grand Final?
2019 AFL Grand Final: The Futures Odds at MyBookie
Sorry, Debs. The rest of the basics of Australian Rules Football and its historic clubs will have to stay on other blog pages. It’s time to look at the Las Vegas lines.
I think MyBookie is starting to catch on to my tactic of looking top-bottom to notice recent line-movement in futures markets. Sometimes, the preseason favorites are listed atop the betting board, only to be surpassed in action and shortness-of-payoff odds later on. That’s how the odds at various sportsbooks turn out looking so scrambled for golf and tennis tournaments.
For the AFL in 2019, however, the Costa Rican bookmaker is doing things the old-fashioned way, and putting the clubs in alphabetical order.
Easy enough to find “Geelong” at only G.
Not surprisingly, the 10-1 Geelong Cats are a popular futures betting pick to claim the hardware in late September, taking wagers at (+225) in the market. Collingwood is seen as an extremely strong contender and is taking plenty of bets, however, at (+330). The less-than-round numbers mean that the odds managers are working overtime trying to keep the action balanced.
Greater Western Sydney or “GWS Giants” is a (+550) pick to win the match in East Melbourne on September 28th, while the defending Premiership champs West Coast are a 6-to-1 choice.
MyBookie’s odds on Angry Anderson showing up to the Grand Final in a Bat-Mobile and singing in the wrong key against a faulty monitor are currently 100-to-1.
Just kidding. And quickly ahead to the club capsules, lest our blog get “branded” as a comedy act.
Here’s a look at 7 top AFL contenders at about the half-way mark of the 2019 season.
Geelong Cats – 40pts (10-1-0)
The Cats are on a quest to avenge last year’s disappointing 8th-place regular-season finish as well as an early exit from the playoffs. Pressure is on head coach Chris Scott to lead the team to its maiden Premiership title since 2011.
It doesn’t necessarily “help” Scott that Geelong is so talented. Like a college football coach once said, “Son, your potential could get me fired.” Coaches must choose to “ride along” with a club full of stars (bad idea) or take the initiative and give the players a system to rally around.
Geelong had the top defense in the league in 2018. This season, the coach has loosened the reigns and turned-up the tempo, and forward Tom Hawkins has kicked 31 goals as the Cats lead the AFL in scoring.
Hawkins is one of those rare superstars who has remained with his beloved club for a long, long time. Here’s a nice reel from earlier in his career.
Back to 2019. Mitch Duncan is powering Geelong’s stacked midfield with 95 marks, while Tim Kelly is following up a stellar debut season and leading the team with 287 disposals.
The only opponent to so-far beat the recalibrated Cats suffered a Pyrrhic victory. Giants co-captain Callan Ward went down in the first few minutes with a suspected ACL injury. Geelong took advantage of a dismayed opponent and soared to a 22-point lead.
But AFL leading goal scorer Jeremy Cameron led a furious comeback, scoring 3 goals and giving GWS a stunning 79-75 triumph that was made bittersweet thanks to the severe pratfall.
GWS Giants – 32pts (8-3-0)
The Giants overhauled the roster after falling to 7th in the home-and-away season in 2018. But make no mistake – it’s not some flighty ownership group purchasing and then releasing players in haste. GWS has diligently utilized draft picks and players rising from the academy level to bolster its roster.
The athletic trio of forward Jeremy Cameron, Jeremy Finlayson, and Harry Himmelberg has led the Giants to 158 goals scored this season, the 2nd-highest tally in the league. Jeremy Cameron is a dynamo, leading the entire AFL in kicks through the uprights.
A deep midfield is helping the club to a short Grand Final futures line. Josh Kelly has returned from an injury-riddled 2018 to play fast and loose for the Giants, while Lachie Whitfield leads the team with 87 marks, or catches followed by a fresh start for the attacking team.
Collingwood – 32pts (8-3-0)
The Magpies stunned AFL fans in 2018 with an appearance in the finals. Searching for the club’s first Premiership since 2010, Collingwood has done a few things to grab gamblers’ attention.
Try having arguably the most talented midfield in the AFL, and picking-up standout Dayne Beams in the offseason. A hard-working unit of Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom, and Brodie Grundy leads the AFL with a disposal average of 406.3.
Collingwood’s forwards rank 3rd in the AFL with 146 goals.
West Coast Eagles – 32pts (8-3-0)
The defending Premiers overcame adversity to capture the first flag since 2006. There would still be challenges to start the 2019 season, however, with ruckman Nic Naitanui sidelined with an ACL injury. Nathan Vardy and Tom Hickey have done a fantastic job filling-in.
West Coast’s forward duo of Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy is one of the most prolific combinations in the AFL. The pair have combined for 49 goals in 2019.
Meanwhile, Brad Sheppard and Jeremy McGovern lead a vicious defense for the Eagles. It’s hard to grab marks against West Coast…a big reason that the relatively-unheralded club is defending a crown.
Brisbane Lions – 28pts (7-4-0)
Brisbane is off to a remarkable start, tied for 5th on the table. After winning 3 consecutive Premierships from 2001-2003, the Lions have often been in the cellar of the league, so it’s nice to see.
New acquisition Jarryd Lyons has made a huge impact, ranking 2nd on the team with 114 handballs. Meanwhile a group of young goal-scorers led by Charlie Cameron is threatening to hoist the club out of the cellar for good.
That doesn’t necessarily impress gamblers, though. Brisbane’s current line-to-win the 2019 Grand Final is (+3300) at MyBookie.
Richmond – 28pts (7-4-0)
Richmond appeared destined for back-to-back Premierships before tripping in the 2018 postseason.
The 2019 squad has not looked as dominant as Tiger fans would have hoped for, but the offseason acquisition of Tom Lynch from Gold Coast has kept the team in finals contention.
Lynch is a driving force who has scored 20+ goals, but take him out of the equation, and there doesn’t appear to be a lot of championship offense dotting the stat sheet.
David Astbury leads the club in marks on the season, and his defending prowess has been necessary to make up for low offensive output whenever Lynch isn’t clicking.
Port Adelaide – 24pts (6-5-0)
The Power are once again hovering around the cut line to “make the playoffs” in Western parlance, tied for 7th place at the midway point.
Despite losing Chad Wingard and Jared Polec, a team effort and some nifty passing has kept the club on the minus-side of the moneyline with bookies fairly often. Midfielders Travis Boak and Tom Rockliff each average over 31 disposals in each contest. The fierce midfielders also lead the team in kicks, each nearing the 200-mark (excuse the pun) already.
19-year-old Connor Rozee is a rising talent who has scored 15 goals in 2019 despite tender years. Remember the name – he’s got 20 years of eligibility to give the USA a whirl as a punter.