The NAB Challenge is in the rear-view mirror and the 2016 AFL season is just over a week away from kicking off! Our footy punter @AFLBYB is back this year to give us his weekly afl betting tips - starting with a full season preview and 2016 ladder prediction.
In addition to this season preview and his recent 2016 AFL futures betting tips, our AFL tipster will also once again be giving us extensive 2016 Brownlow Medal tips, including his week-to-week vote predictions and more... So stay tuned to Before You Bet!
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The AFL preseason competition quite simply doesn't scratch the itch. It never does. It's just a small taste of what's to come and that's why I can't wait for the 2016 AFL season to begin.
I have lampooned the NAB Challenge in the past (mostly in regard to punting on something so unpredictable), but there is no doubt the three games that each team plays offers important information for the official season.
It's during the pre-season that we start to get an idea what each team has in store for the real thing - Which rookies are looking like they will get game time in 2016? Will there be key position movements from established players? Were there any big injuries? etc, etc.
However, we simply can't take NAB Challenge form as gospel... After all, do you think Adelaide would beat the Eagles by 100 points in the regular season and do you think Melbourne will be the hot, in-form team six weeks from now?
Before you take a look at my 2016 AFL ladder prediction I want you to remember just how hard predicting the ladder can be. I got a few things right last season, but I had the bulldogs finishing 16th and they ended up playing finals!
1 - West Coast
2 - Hawthorn
3 - Fremantle
4 - Sydney
5 - Port Adelaide
6 - GWS
7 - Richmond
8 - Western Bulldogs
9 - North Melbourne
10 - Geelong
11 - Collingwood
12 - Adelaide
13 - St Kilda
14 - Gold Coast
15 - Melbourne
16 - Brisbane
17 - Carlton
18 - Essendon
As you can see I have the West Coast Eagles finishing on top. I have them winning up to 19 games in 2016, which should easily be enough to finish with the minor premiership.
My reasoning behind the Eagles finishing on top is that I quite simply think they are about to get into that pocket that the Hawks, Geelong and Sydney have been in over the last several years. Their list is the perfect age, they are strong in the midfield, back and forward halves of the ground.
Midfield Players like Andrew Gaff, Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey are only getting better every year, while Matt Priddis is no doubt one of the most reliable players in the competition. It's in the backline where the Eagles will really trouble opponents, however, with 2014 best and fairest winner Eric Mackenzie returning after being injured throughout 2015. Throw in elite swingman Jeremy McGoverna and the key ins of Jack Redden and Lewis Jetta and I don't know how the Eagles don't improve this year.
I really think the Hawthorn Hawks and Fremantle Dockers will be hard to knock out of the top 4, but the Sydney Swans are probably my most contentious prediction up the top of the table. Like the Dockers, the Swans have a super elite midfield and that is always hard to matchup against. However, they don't have Aaron Sandilands tapping the pill to their talent and their defence is even more questionable than you could argue Fremantle's is. It's well documented that they need a bit more pace as well, but I just think they might feature near the top four with a relatively easy draw, plenty of games on their favoured pitch the SCG and the next tier of teams yet to explode.
Outside the top 4 is almost impossible to predict.
There are truly at least 7 teams that could challenge for the remaining four spots in the top 8 and they could be in any order. I have the teams from Port Adelaide (5th) through to Adelaide (12th) within a couple of games of each other. I have the Power finishing 5th after a disappointing 2015 simply because their list is too strong to deny them. Champion Data rates their list the 5th best in the league and with the addition of Charlie Dixon as a big forward, I think they will once again be the damaging, quick scoring team we saw in 2014. I think where I have the Giants and the Kangaroos might surprise some readers, but more about that later in the article...
The bottom of the ladder, meanwhile, is easier to predict. I have no doubt the bottom two will be Essendon and Carlton, while St Kilda, Gold Coast and Melbourne I see as having a relatively similar amount of wins. Melbourne should be the most improved of this lot, while another poor year from Gold Coast will be the last thing the AFL wants to see.
Going by my AFL ladder prediction it is clear that I think GWS will be the most improved team of 2016.
Just a couple of years ago you would have thought we would be talking about Gold Coast making the finals in 2016, but I really think the Giants will be able to improve on last year's 11 wins.
There were times during the 2015 season that GWS looked extremely damaging. The Giants have elite young midfield and rebounding players and they are only going to get better with another season under their belt. Their core group of young guns are now reaching that age and amount of games where their output will be much more consistent. They did lose Adam Treloar and Thomas Bugg, but apart from that there is no doubt they have some of the most talented 21-24 year olds in the competition. Their win rate without Shane Mumford will no doubt be addressed by the coaching staff and if they can't remedy that big hole, then they will simply be hoping he plays a full season.
The x-factor here is Jeremy Cameron. This kid does not get the credit he deserves. He finished runner-up in the Coleman Medal with 63 goals and he is only 22 years old. Not many players have had 7-goal hauls against the Hawks, let alone players so young.
Like I mentioned earlier, the 5th through 12th is hard to pick, but I think the Giants will very likely make the finals and could threaten for a top 6 finish.
Honourable mention: I'm not quite as bullish as some when it comes to the Cats, but with the inclusion of Dangerfield and the fortune of having the second easiest draw in the league, it's easy to see the Cats back playing finals in 2016.
I think the biggest disappointment for the 2016 AFL season - that is the team who will slide down the ladder compared to last year - is North Melbourne.
It's easy to just look at 2015 and think that North Melbourne making a preliminary final means they are still one of the best 4 teams in the comp. They aren't.
Let's remember they finished 8th after manipulating the positioning of the ladder by resting all their best players in the final round to make sure they played Richmond in the first week of the finals - a team they have a fantastic record against, winning the six previous encounters. They then played against the most undermanned Swans of the last few years as Lance Franklin, Luke Parker, Sam Reid and Kieran Jack were all missing. They were simply extremely lucky to make the prelim. I will admit they gave it everything in the prelim against the Eagles, but I can't see them even able to give themselves those sorts of opportunities in 2016.
The biggest issues with North Melbourne is probably their defence. A damning stat is that they created 19 turnovers forward of the centre, which is ranked 14th in the league. To put the importance of this stat in perspective, the Hawks and Eagles were ranked 1 and 2. There is a reason they lost by more than 10 goals on three occasions last season and by more than 40 points on three further occasions.
Outside of Todd Goldstein and the occasional big performance from Jack Ziebell, they don't have any superstars. I would even go as far to say that their midfield is one of the weakest in the league. No doubt there are a couple of future stars of the game in their lineup with the likes of Ben Brown, but they are the oldest list in the AFL and nowhere near the best handful.
Honourable mention: Geelong and Richmond. I think Geelong's chances are a little overstated (Dangerfield is only one man), while I wouldn't be surprised if Richmond fell as low as 11th this year - who knows with that mob.
Matchup: West Coast vs. Hawthorn
Yes, boring I know, but I truly believe there is a good chance there will be a repeat of last year's Grand Final. Except this time...
Winner: West Coast
If the Hawks make it to the Grand Final their sheer experience will be hard to overcome, but ultimately I think we will see a changing of the guard. Some of my reasons for why I like West Coast are shown under the ladder prediction, but ultimately the Hawks can't win it every year and I think the time is now for another team to shine... Why not West Coast?
That wraps up my 2016 AFL season preview... Make sure to return to Before You Bet soon as I offer up my 2016 Brownlow Medal preview and read on for a little look at some AFL betting promos that have already been posted!
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No doubt more and more of the best australian sportsbooks will start posting 2016 AFL betting promos in the coming days, but in the meantime, here is a little look a couple of valuable betting opportunites for our readers.
This is a great one from William Hill Australia - place a Premiership outright winner bet and ge a $5 bonus for every single game they win throughout the 2016 season! This is addition to the winnings you will receive if your selection wins the flag! Place a $50 bet on our selection, the Eagles, for example and if they win 16 games throughout the season, not will receive $80 in bonus bets in addition to the $275 you will win if the Eagles take home the flag! Excludes SA Residents.
No William Hill account? Click to get one and score a $700 sign-up bonus!
The AFL betting favourite from Sportsbet is back for 2016! Place a head-to-head bet during rounds 1-8 and if your selection leads at ANY break, but go on to lose the game, get CASH BACK equal to your stake up to $50!
If you don't have a Sportsbet account, open one today for a $501 bonus!
There is no better place to play real money daily fantasy sports in Australia than at MoneyBall during AFL Round 1! There will be $30,000+ awarded during Round with two $10,000 prize pool events on the weekend and a big $5,000 prize pool season opener taking place in addition to a handful of other smaller DFS tournaments. Click on the links below to enter the massive AFL daily fantasy contests!
Take note: Some of the information and the lead image for this article were sourced from the official AFL website.
Always Gamble Responsibly.
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