The first game of AFL Sunday will kick off at 12:45pm with the resurgent Kangaroos taking on Essendon at Metricon Stadium. After a round of upsets last week, this match suddenly offers plenty of intrigue for the finals chances of the Bombers. Check out our preview and AFL tips for the match here.
Sunday 12:45pm, Metricon Stadium
After they had no troubles knocking off the Crows on Friday night footy, the Bombers sat back and watched as finals contenders GWS, Richmond and West Coast all lost games they were expected to win last week, to open the door for the Bombers to September action. They now sit just a game outside the eight, and with a better percentage than all of their rivals, so another percentage-boosting victory here against the bottom team will have them primed for a finals run.
However the Bombers may be stretched in the midfield this week with the ever-reliable Kyle Langford subbed out of the game against Adelaide with a hamstring strain. He’s likely to miss a couple of weeks. Fellow midfielders Andrew McGrath and Dylan Shiel remain on the sidelines. However they regain Dyson Heppell following surgery on his thumb and Jake Stringer's extra time in the middle has been nothing but magical. Is the "Package" finally is delivering on his potential?
Meanwhile the Kangaroos are on a roll with three wins and a draw since the mid-season bye after a brave win in the wet against the Eagles last week. The Roos’ youngsters are getting valuable minutes under their belt, and with their injury list looking much healthier, they are becoming more than competitive. Jy Simpkin and Ben Cunnington have been superb in the middle, and Cam Zurhaar has been a spark playing out of the goal square. Hard nut Jed Anderson is also not far from a return from injury to provide even more grunt to their midfield.
However with the late game switch to the Gold Coast, Ben Cunnington has opted to stay at home with his family which is a huge body blow to the Kangaroos chances.
If the Roos can bring that consistency and intensity to the table, this becomes a real danger game for the Bombers. However with fair weather expected on the Gold Coast, the Roos might struggle with the outside run of the Dons. They have been explosive on the rebound, and one of the things the Roos lack is speed on the outside. The recent success of North has come in wet or windy conditions in Hobart and Perth. They are strong over the contested ball, but if the game gets to the outside, then that suits the Bombers run and gun style. The line has moved out a couple of points from early betting, and with good conditions and the Roos missing their best midfielder, we're happy to side with the Bombers here.
We'll bank an Essendon victory with a couple of markets that look to offer some value for a tasty same game multi at Sportsbet.
Nick Hind has been a revelation this season, and he continues to produce high quality football off half-back for the Bombers. He's cleared the 20 disposal mark in every game except for two this season - he collected 19 touches against Sydney and just 17 against the top-of-the-table Demons. The Kangaroos are going to struggle to contain his run, so I like him to pick up an easy 20 disposals on Sunday. We'll combine that with the form of Cam Zurhaar. He's kicked 2 goals in each of the last six matches, and this has coincided with a distinct change in structure for the Roos. Nick Larkey is pushing further up the ground to allow Zurhaar to burst lead out of the goal square, which means Zurhaar is getting more opportunities to hit the scoreboard. This change gives us a great value bet on Zurhaar to continue to score.
Nick Hind 20+ Disposals
Cam Zurhaar 2+ Goals
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