The big game of the week in the Australian Football League sees ladder topping Hawthorn Hawks travel to Sydney to take on the Swans. At one time this looked like being a vital battle for ladder position going into the play-offs, but that has all changed as Sydney’s recent poor run of form means that the best they can finish is third, whilst a win would seal the ‘minor premiership’ of topping the ladder for Hawthorn.
That doesn’t mean that nothing rides upon this game, though. A win for the Hawks would set up a return fixture in the play-offs the following weekend, assuming that Fremantle don’t drop below Sydney by losing this weekend, which is unlikely as they are playing lowly St Kilda. That, in itself, adds a fascinating tactical dimension to this game. With next week’s probably fixture mattering more, how much will each side risk this time out. Will key players be rested? What, tactically, will each coach want to show?
One of the Swans’ problems is that their injury list is mounting, so their options this week are limited anyway. Coach John Longmire has already said that he will play the strongest side that he can, but even then such things are relative, an injury which causes a player to sit this weekend may well not do so in a more important game next.
This game sees the Swans make a rare excursion away from the Sydney Cricket Ground, albeit only across the road to ANZ Stadium, the former Olympic stadium. The Hawks lost their only other game here, but that was back in 2009 and they’ve won on both of their last two trips to Sydney.
Hawthorn are a best price of 4/7 betting odds with Paddy Power, whilst Bet365 will give you 6/4 on a Sydney win. That’s not a bad price for a home side and the Swans could just pinch this one.
In terms of the Grand Final, Fremantle still look the side to back and can be had for 5/1 in most markets, but bad news if you backed Essendon: The AFL confirmed on Tuesday that as a part of their punishment for the performance-enhancing supplement row that has derailed their season, the Bombers will be excluded from this year’s post-season.
That exclusion has taken some of the luster from Saturday’s matchup between Port Adelaide and Carlton. Port are now safe in those play-offs whilst Carlton just need to avoid a bad defeat to get there, too. At 11/10 with Paddy Power they’re a good price for our sports picks to win in this game, though, and with Port also having nothing to play for (they can’t finish higher than seventh even with a win) a Blues victory looks as close to a given as you can get.
There are four other sides looking to snatch that final qualification spot away. West Coast must be kicking themselves for writing off their play-off chances and resting players last weekend, because their mathematical chance is now only that due to an inferior points differential. They face one of the other three, Adelaide, this weekend, in what should be a close game but in which the Crows should prevail at even money in most markets.
As for the other two sides, Brisbane and North Melbourne, well, this was probably a bad week to have to play Geelong and Collingwood, both of whom are justifiably short priced favorites.