After a long and thrilling AFL regular season, the 2018 finals series is finally upon us with Richmond and Hawthorn set to kick off Week 1 of the finals this Thursday night from the MCG. There isn’t an Aussie rules fan alive who isn’t excited for this monster clash between the two huge rival clubs and we are here to preview the game in full and give our betting tips below.
The game will get underway at 7.20pm on Thursday night from the MCG and is expected to attract over 100,000 fans.
After winning their first premiership since 1980 last year, Richmond marched into the 2018 finals series, finishing on top of the AFL ladder with a 18-4 record through their 22 games. They were undefeated at the MCG throughout the year, where they played 14 of their games, which should give them a massive advantage as they won’t have to stray from their home ground throughout the finals series.
While stars Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt have been dominant throughout the year for the Tigers, it’s also been the supporting cast that has gotten stronger and stronger every week and is a big part of them finishing on top of the AFL ladder. Kane Lambert, Josh Caddy and Dylan Grimes were all rewarded with a nod in the All Australian 40-man squad while Shane Edwards made the final team along with Martin, Riewoldt and Alex Rance. The team is a much more rounded squad than the one that went on a Cinderella run in the finals last year, and they’ll be extremely tough to beat in the 2018 finals series.
Hawthorn were fantastic in the last half of the season, winning 10 of their last 12 games to storm into the top four, finishing fourth with a 15-7 record. It’s a testament to the coaching of Alistair Clarkson to have the Hawks so competitive after many pundits predicted they would be one team to slip further down the ladder this year.
The play of Tom Mitchell has been a catalyst for the Hawks this year. The midfielder is the front runner to take out the Brownlow medal in a few weeks’ time and has been the driving force in the middle of the ground for Hawthorn. However, it’s been the form of their medium forwards in Jack Gunston and Luke Breust that has been the dominant force in the Hawks revival in the second half of the season. Both players were deservedly selected in the All-Australian team and will be massively important to their chances on Thursday night.
The Tigers start as strong $1.34 favourites, which is hard to argue due to their form at the MCG over the last year and a half. However, the form of the Hawks and particularly the extensive finals experience they possess on their roster is a massive factor in my opinion.
Although they were undefeated at the MCG, the Tigers did look vulnerable towards the end of the season. Three of their last four wins to round out the season came by single digit margins over the Cats, Bombers and Bulldogs respectively and the game against the Dogs is the telling one in my opinion. The Hawks and Dogs play a similar style naturally, one that’s based highly on possession and you can bet your life on the fact that Alistair Clarkson would have taken a lot from the game Richmond played against the Western Bulldogs in the final round of the home and away season.
The line is 17.5 at the moment but I think there is no chance the Tigers cover that on Thursday night. The Tigers defeated the Hawks by just 13 points back in Round 3 and I think Hawthorn will be much better this time around. Wouldn’t be surprised if they shocked the AFL world here and won but I’ll certainly be taking them with the 17.5 point head start at Sportsbet.
Since Tom Mitchell came over to Hawthorn from Sydney, he has played three games against the Tigers. Granted, none of these games have been in the finals, however, in those three games he has racked up 38, 35 and 42 disposals in each game. His line at BetEasy is a lazy 32.5 disposals here. I think he clears that quite comfortably.
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