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Sydney surge to the head of the queue in 2016 AFL flag race

Swans minor premiershipTHE top-of-the-table Swans are the current $3.25 favourites at Sportsbet.com.au to win the premiership after holding out a gallant North Melbourne in Tasmania on Saturday.

The Swans have moved to the shortest price in the premiership market this year after their nine-point win, taking top spot of reigning premiers Hawthorn – who lost on Friday night against the West Coast Eagles – in the process.

John Longmire’s men are also the $1.10 favourites to win the minor premiership, coming in from the $2.85 price they were at prior to the commencement of round 22.

The Swans face Richmond in the final game of the home and away season at the SCG, but Sydney coach John Longmire said a top of the table finish is far from secured.

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“Not yet (is top spot locked away), we want to keep playing good footy, regardless of what is going on around us we have to keep playing good footy,” Longmire said.

“You want to get to this point of the year with that in front of you, which is control your own destiny next week in the last game of the year at the SCG.”

The only concern for Longmire is a knock that Franklin took early in the game that saw the superstar leave the ground for medical treatment.

The dual Coleman medallist was able to retake the field later in the match, and the Swans are confident he will take his place on Saturday.

“He’s OK. He was sore there for a bit of the game, clearly, that’s why he ended up coming off twice.” Longmire said of Franklin.

“But I thought in the last quarter he actually contributed pretty well.”

Kangaroos confident of finals impact after securing a finals berth

NORTH Melbourne may have lost to the Swans on Saturday, but after the Demons’ shocking defeat to the Blues on Sunday afternoon the Kangaroos are locked in to play finals in 2016.

Before their finals appearance was assured, North Melbourne coach Brad Scott said he does not want his side to be relying on outside factors to be playing September football.

“If we’d sewn it up and put it to bed our focus is still the same – to play our best football,” Scott said in the aftermath of his side’s loss to Sydney.

“Everyone else is looking over our shoulder but we’re not.”

Scott said the Kangaroos only focus is getting back on the winner’s sheet, and is optimistic that his side will not be merely making up the numbers in 2016.

“Our focus is on winning next week,” he said.

“We haven’t finished in the top four the last couple of years after the home and away season but we have by the end of the finals series.

“It’s still our focus to be playing really good footy. To compete. I don’t really care what anyone else does.”

The Kangaroos ($101) are the only team in triple figures remaining in the premiership market, and are the $1.33 favourites at Sportsbet to be bundled out at the elimination final stage.

Scott still believes the narrow nine-point loss to Sydney proves they will not be a non-factor in September.

“It should give our boys confidence that when we play somewhere close to our best that we’re capable,” he said.

North Melbourne will be one of the teams that will be greatly benefitted by the week off after the completion of the home and away series, but the Roos have a race against time to get their best players ready for week one of the finals.

Seven of North’s best players, including Jarrad Waite, Shaun Higgins and Luke McDonald have all played limited minutes in the second half of the season, and Scott conceded some tough calls will need to be made at the selection table.

“It will make it very difficult to play seven of them,” he said.

“They’ve all been on different programs and we’ll make an educated decision once they’ve played another game and trained.”

2016 AFL premiership market

Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au

Sydney $3.25

Adelaide $3.75

Geelong $5

Hawthorn $5.50

Greater Western Sydney $13

West Coast $41

Western Bulldogs $51

North Melbourne $101

Sportsbet opens 2017 Essendon market

THERE is plenty of optimism around Essendon’s 2017 campaign, and Sportsbet.com.au has struck while the iron is hot, releasing a market on where the Dons will finish next season.

The Bombers were buoyed by the re-signing of All-Australian centre half back Michael Hurley, who became the seventh Essendon player to recommit to Essendon after incurring a year-long suspension in the wake of the club’s supplement saga.

As a consequence, the most likely outcome of the four options at Sportsbet is a finals finish for the Bombers at $3.

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An unlikely top-four berth is at the $10 mark, while a jump from the wooden spoon to the premiership in the space of a year is at $26.

Essendon coach John Worsfold said there were many positive signs to take out of the disappointment of 2016 that bode well for the future.

“Our aim was to be competitive throughout as much of the season as we could, throughout every game if we could,” he said.

“We’re no different than most clubs. You have a week or two through the season when you’re not up to it and that goes for the top teams as well.

“But ultimately I think that people have acknowledged that Essendon haven’t been easy to play against and our players played with a positive mindset, (and have) shown a lot of leadership growth from a young list.

“It’s about what I would have expected or hoped from them.”

Essendon 2017 season markets

Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au

Essendon to make the top 8 in 2017 – $3

Essendon to make the top 4 in 2017 – $10

Essendon to have the least wins in 2017 – $14

Essendon to win the Premiership in 2017 – $26

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