After looking at the cellar dwellers in it’s time to see who’s playing in September.
So, who will be contending for finals football this season?
This week we look at positions eight to fifth, with a new contender, a familiar favourite and two other teams hoping to improve on average 2014 finals campaigns.
In case you’ve forgotten (or intentionally wiped it from your memory in some cases), this is how the top eight looked after the home and away season last year:
1 – Sydney
2 – Hawthorn
3 – Geelong
4 – Fremantle
5 – Port Adelaide
6 – North Melbourne
7 – Essendon
8 – Richmond
With only a week until the home and away season kicks off, let’s take a look at who we think will be playing finals footy in 2015.
8th – Gold Coast Suns
Premiership odds: $26 via Sportsbet
Top 4: $7.40 via Sportsbet (better than $6 offered by Centrebet)
Top 8: $2.25 via William Hill
2015 win line: Under 11.5 games $1.95 via Sportsbet
Coleman medal favourite: Tom Lynch $51 via Sportsbet (better than $34 offered by Centrebet)
Brownlow medal favourite: Gary Ablett jnr $5 via William Hill (favourite to win the medal)
Rising star favourite: Touk Miller $34 via Sportsbet (better than $26 offered by Centrebet)
Favoured Suns bet: Gold Coast forward Tom Lynch made giant strides forward last season, and became the Suns’ main focal point.
With a lack of tall forwards capable of kicking big bags of goals, as well as secondary key forward Charlie Dixon’s rotation through the ruck division, Lynch should be the man kicking the most goals for the Suns in 2015.
Sportsbet are offering $2.25 for Lynch to kick the most goals for the Suns, which is over the odds for a man who will be targeted on the majority of Gold Coast’s forward entries.
If Lynch is able to achieve that, the $2.25 via Sportsbet on offer for the Suns to make the top-8 should be a given, so look to make that bet too if you are confident in Lynch’s abilities.
Our view on the Suns: Gold Coast made gigantic strides last year, falling just short of a top-8 berth after a magnificent run during the middle stages of the 2014 season.
If not for an injury to superstar Gary Ablett jnr, the Suns could have made the finals for the first time in their history, but with the little master back and fully fit, the sky is the limit for the Suns.
Expect Gold Coast to play finals football for the first time since their inception.
7th – Essendon Bombers
Premiership odds: $31 via Sportsbet (better than $26 on offer from Centrebet)
Top 4: $5 via Sportsbet (better than $4.25 offered by Centrebet)
Top 8: $2 via Sportsbet
2015 win line: Odds not offered as of 26/03/15 due to the ongoing ASADA investigation
Coleman medal favourite: Jake Carlisle $26 via Sportsbet
Brownlow medal favourite: Jobe Watson $23 via Sportsbet (better than $21 on offer from Centrebet)
Rising star favourite: Martin Gleeson $34 via Sportsbet
Favoured Bombers bet: Joe Daniher is on track to have a huge 2015 after making a big impression last year.
After putting in a big pre-season Daniher has looked dominant up forward, and after taking goal kicking lessons from former Essendon champ Matthew Lloyd, Daniher’s goal kicking yips seem to have subsided.
A restricted pre-season to current Essendon goal kicking favourite Jake Carlisle has left him in doubt for round one, and even if he does play he will below full fitness.
The $3.50 offered by Sportsbet for Daniher to kick the most goals for Essendon this season looks to be a great bet.
Our say on the Bombers: The biggest question right now for Essendon is whether or not the ASADA investigation will have a lasting impact on their season.
The Dons have proven over the last two years they have the goods to compete with the top teams, but the lingering threat over player suspensions will haunt them until the investigation is complete.
If they are given the all-clear however, they will be very competitive in 2015, and should be good enough to secure a top-8 finish.
6th – Fremantle Dockers
Premiership odds: $9 via Sportsbet
Top 4: $1.90 via William Hill
Top 8: $1.22 via William Hill
2015 win line: Under/Over 14.5 games $1.87 via William Hill
Coleman medal favourite: Matthew Pavlich $21 via Sportsbet
Brownlow medal favourite: Nathan Fyfe $7 via William Hill (second favourite to win the medal)
Rising star favourite: Lachie Weller $34 via Sportsbet
Favoured Dockers bet: Fremantle beast/ruckman Aaron Sandilands has been one of the most dominant ruckman the AFL has ever seen. Even in years where the Docker big-man has been struck down by injury, he has still managed to break his way into the top-10 in total hitouts per game since his debut in 2003, and has topped the list a staggering six times since his debut season.
To put this in perspective, Sandilands had almost 60 more hitouts than his nearest competitor – North Melbourne’s Todd Goldstein – despite playing one less game than him in 2014
If Sandilands can stay fit and injury-free, the $3 on offer from Sportsbet for him to have the most hitouts in season 2015 is one of the best bets of the year.
Our say on the Dockers: Fremantle are one of the harder teams to place this season. On paper, a top-4 finish seems likely, but when you delve a bit deeper, one can identify significant problems that will impede their ability to finish among the upper echelons of the ladder.
Most notably, the Dockers have failed to unearth an heir apparent to superstar forward Matthew Pavlich, who despite his immense talent, at 33 years of age it is unfair and unrealistic to expect him to carry the Dockers’ forward line on his own.
To compound this, several key players will enter the season proper either unavailable, or underdone, with David Mundy, Nathan Fyfe, Michael Barlow and Zac Dawson all missing sessions out on the track in preparation for round one.
Fremantle still have the talent to challenge for top-4, but unfortunately for Ross Lyon’s men they should fall just short of securing that berth.
5th – Geelong Cats
Premiership odds: $15 via William Hill
Top 4: $3.20 via Sportsbet
Top 8: $1.50 via Sportsbet
2015 win line: Under/Over 14 games $1.87 via William Hill
Coleman medal favourite: Tom Hawkins $12 via Sportsbet (better than $9 offered by Centrebet)
Brownlow medal favourite: Joel Selwood $11 via Sportsbet (better than $9 offered by Centrebet)
Rising star favourite: Nakia Cockatoo $10 via Sportsbet (third favourite behind joint favourites Melbourne’s Jesse Hogan and Adelaide’s Matt Crouch)
Favoured Cats bet: The Cats made some bold moves in the off-season, including the recruitment of talented yet injury plagued former Demon Mitch Clarke, and if the pre-season form is anything to go by, the tandem of Hawkins and Clarke will be one to be feared.
Hawkins is moving better than he ever has after shaking off injury concerns that threatened to derail his career, and looms as a major player in the Coleman medal race in 2015. Furthermore, with the addition of Mitch Clarke to the Cats’ forward line, teams will be reluctant to double-team Hawkins like they have in the past for fear of leaving a player of Clarke’s ability free.
Sportsbet currently has the Tomahawk at $12 to take out the 2015 Coleman medal.
Our say on the Cats: It is with great consternation that the Cats are left out of the top-4 as they have made fools out of even the greatest and most astute AFL experts over the past five years.
However, even with the addition of some quality players, there are serious question marks over several of their more seasoned players. Geelong is in dire need of their younger players to step up and take the reins from their older counterparts; such as Jimmy Bartel, Andrew Mackie, Corey Enright and James Kelly. It is idealistic to expect players in the twilight of their careers to carry them to the top-4 and beyond.
Geelong at their best are capable of going deep into September, but unless the new breed can step up and take over from the old firm, it is hard to see them cracking the top-4 in 2015.
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