2021 AFL Finals Series Betting Preview with Odds and Contender Analysis

| August 24, 2021 9:42 am PDT

Following one of the craziest regular seasons in the history of the Australian Football League, the 2021 AFL Finals Series kicks off this Friday, August 27.

Melbourne clinched their first minor premiership since 1964 in the most dramatic way imaginable, coming back from 44 points down, to edge out Geelong. The Demons now face Brisbane in Saturday’s first qualifying final, while the Cats come up against Port Adelaide in the second qualifying final.

The second elimination final sees Sydney and GWS clash in the finals for the third time, with the crosstown rivals going head-to-head at the University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston on Saturday.

The Dogs and the Bombers face off at the same venue on Sunday.

Below, I discuss the latest odds for the 2021 AFL premiership winner. I then explain how the finals system works and carry out an analysis of each team.

Looking to bet on the AFL premiership at the best sports betting sites in 2021? You won’t want to miss my 2021 AFL Finals Series betting preview, complete with odds and contender analysis.

Latest 2021 AFL Premiership Winner Odds

Melbourne3.60
Geelong4.00
Port Adelaide4.50
Brisbane5.50
Western Bulldogs9.50
Sydney13.00
GWS19.00
Essendon23.00

As you can see, the top-rated Aussie rules betting sites view Melbourne (3.60) as the favorite to win the 2021 AFL premiership. But do the minor premiers have what it takes to do the double?

In the eyes of the AFL oddsmakers, Geelong (4.00), Port Adelaide (4.50), and Brisbane (5.50) all stand an excellent chance of getting their hands on the famous flag.

The Dogs (9.50) have slipped down the bookies’ 2021 AFL premiership odds list after a poor end to the regular season, while Sydney (13.00) trails just behind.

It’s fair to say that GWS (19.00) and Essendon (23.00) are the outsiders here, having finished seventh and eighth on the ladder, respectively.

How Does the AFL Finals Series Work?

The AFL Finals Series is not as straightforward as a regular knockout tournament. If you are familiar with betting on the AFL finals, you probably already know the format. But if you need reminding, this section explains everything.

First, let’s take a look at the 2021 AFL Finals Series fixture list.

  • Second Qualifying Final: Port Adelaide (2nd) vs. Geelong (3rd) – Friday, August 27
  • Second Elimination Final: Sydney (6th) vs. GWS (7th) – Saturday, August 28
  • First Qualifying Final: Melbourne (1) vs. Brisbane (4) – Saturday, August 28
  • First Elimination Final: Western Bulldogs (5th) vs. Essendon (8th) – Sunday, August 29(highlight graphic)

The winners of the two qualifying finals advance to host the two preliminary finals. This means they skip the semi-finals and are one game away from the grand final.

The loser of the first qualifying final (Melbourne vs. Brisbane) hosts the winner of the first elimination final (Western Bulldogs vs. Essendon) in the first semi-final, while the loser of the second qualifying final (Port Adelaide vs. Geelong) hosts the winner of the second elimination final (Sydney vs. GWS) in the second semi-final.

The winner of the first qualifying final (Melbourne vs. Brisbane) hosts the winner of the second semi-final in the first preliminary final, with the winner of the second qualifying final (Port Adelaide or Geelong) hosting the winner of the first semi-final in the second preliminary final.

The winners of the two preliminary finals will then face off in the 2021 AFL Grand Final, which is slated for Saturday, September 25.

Got it? Great. Now, let’s take a closer look at top AFL Finals Series contenders.

Can the Demons Double Up?

When Geelong kicked nine unanswered goals last Saturday, the Demons looked dead and buried. However, Melbourne mounted a remarkable comeback to secure a dramatic four-point win over the Cats – sealing their first minor premiership in almost 60 years.

Fittingly, it was Max Gawn who booted the winner after the siren. Alongside the midfield duo of Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver, Gawn has been one of the Demons’ standout performers this year.

Having spent most of the campaign atop the ladder, Melbourne will surely fancy their chances of winning the premiership.

Yet, as the table below details, recent history is not on their side.

RECENT MINOR PREMIERSHIP/PREMIERSHIP WINNERS
Season Minor Premiership Premiership
2014 Sydney Hawthorn
2015 Fremantle Hawthorn
2016 Sydney Western Bulldogs
2017 Adelaide Richmond
2018 Richmond West Coast
2019 Geelong Richmond
2020 Port Adelaide Richmond

The past seven minor premiers have all failed to win the premiership, with the third-place side triumphing in each of the previous three seasons. In fact, only two minor premiers have doubled up in the last 13 years.

It is also worth noting that the Dees have lost three of their previous four matches against the Lions. With Brisbane up next in the first qualifying final, Simon Goodwin’s men have their work cut out.

That said, I wouldn’t be shocked if Melbourne went all the way. They head into the finals on a four-game winning streak and also boast the best defensive record.

Geelong Must Bounce Back

The Cats will still be kicking themselves after throwing away the premiership. Holding a 44-point lead over Melbourne on Saturday, they were in pole position to finish atop the ladder.

Yet, a spectacular collapse saw them end the campaign in third place.

Between early May and late July, Geelong enjoyed a run of 11 wins in 12 matches. But they have since suffered two defeats in three games – and those losses will have damaged their confidence.

TOP AFL GOALKICKERS IN 2021
Player Club Goals
Harry McKay Carlton 58
Tom Hawkins Geelong 54
Jack Riewoldt Richmond 51
Josh Bruce Western Bulldogs 48
Taylor Walker Adelaide 48
Lance Franklin Sydney 48

While star midfielders like Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood are destined to shine in the finals, I think Tom Hawkins holds the key to Geelong’s success. The 33-year-old is the top goalkicker remaining in the comp, having booted 54.

The Cats kicked 112 points in an impressive victory over Port back in June. If they want to reach the 2021 AFL Grand Final, they will need to produce a similar kind of performance on Friday.

In-Form Port Will Be Difficult to Stop

Carrying a six-match winning streak into the finals, there is no denying that Port is the comp’s most in-form team at the moment. In fact, the Power have won nine of their last ten outings – underlining their recent dominance.

The 2020 minor premiers ended up just two points behind Melbourne on the ladder, coming agonizingly close to defending their crown.

A battling victory over the Dogs last weekend also helped them finish four points clear of third-place Geelong.

Although Ken Hinkley’s men have remained a consistent threat throughout the campaign, it feels like they are peaking at the perfect time.

Across the final ten rounds of the regular season, Port took 36 points from a possible 40. Their nearest challenger – Brisbane – only claimed 28 points in that time.

If guys like Ollie Wines, Travis Boak, and Charlie Dixon pick up where they left off in the regular season, the Power will be extremely tough to break down.

Will High-Scoring Brisbane Triumph?

Not so long ago, Brisbane appeared to be out of the race for a top-four spot, with a run of four losses in eight outings sending them down the standings. However, they managed to win their final three regular-season matches, and secure a place in the first qualifying final.

The Lions were one of three clubs to finish on 60 points, but their superior percentage (133.27) saw them finish above the fifth-place Dogs (132.84) and the sixth-place Swans (119.93).

MOST POINTS SCORED (2021 AFL REGULAR SEASON)
Team Points
Brisbane 2131
Western Bulldogs 1994
Sydney 1986

Brisbane was also the only side to surpass the 2000-point mark this year, accumulating 2131 points in 22 games (96.86 points per game). Having outscored the top three teams – Melbourne, Port, and Geelong – they will have the confidence it takes, to go all the way.

The Lions won three straight premierships between 2001 and 2003 before finishing as runners-up in 2004, but they have failed to reach the grand final since then.

With 2020 Brownlow Medalist, Lachie Neale back from injury, they could return to their former glory days in 2021.

Could an Outsider Win the 2021 AFL Premiership?

While Melbourne, Geelong, Port Adelaide, and Brisbane are all three wins away from clinching the premiership, the other four sides will have to win four matches if they want to get their hands on the flag.

Below, I analyze the Western Bulldogs, Sydney, GWS, and Essendon’s chances of upsetting the 2021 AFL premiership odds.

The Dogs Need to Find Some Form

The Bulldogs won nine of their opening ten games this year, setting themselves up for a hugely successful campaign. However, they have since lost six of their last 12 outings and head into the finals on a three-match losing streak.

Of course, Josh Bruce’s season-ending injury hasn’t helped their cause.

The 29-year-old booted 48 goals in 20 games before his injury, placing great responsibility on the shoulders of fellow key forward, Aaron Naughton.

Although stars such as, Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae, have continued to give their all for the team, the Dogs’ all-round game has dropped significantly in recent weeks. It could be difficult for them to recover.

Don’t Write Off the Swans

Having finished the regular season with seven wins in their last eight outings, the Swans head into the finals on a high.

Last weekend’s mammoth 87-point thrashing of Gold Coast, tells you everything you need to know about Sydney’s confidence right now.

Let’s not forget that Sydney also chalked up 98 points in a dominant victory over GWS last month.

With their crosstown rivals up next in the second elimination final, John Longmire’s men will be brimming with belief.

The Swans have claimed a number of notable scalps this year, too. Having already seen off five of their fellow seven finalists during the regular season, they stand a genuine chance of winning their first flag since 2012.

Can the Giants Win Their First Premiership?

Greater Western Sydney has only reached one grand final, falling to Richmond in the 2019 showpiece. It goes without saying that GWS will be desperate to make amends this time around.

Despite managing to win just half of their regular-season matches in 2021, the Giants head into the postseason on the back of three consecutive victories. They kicked off their hot streak with an eye-catching win over Geelong before overcoming Richmond and Carlton.

Josh Kelly and Toby Greene have been the stars of the show for GWS this year, with the former dominating the midfield and the latter kicking most the team’s goals.

Can they continue to impress the top teams in the comp? It will be tricky, that’s for sure.

Could the Bombers Overcome Long Odds?

No team has claimed more AFL flags than Essendon. The Bombers have won 16 premierships over the years and have also finished as runner-up on 14 occasions.

Still, they haven’t triumphed for over two decades, with their most recent grand final appearance coming all the way back in 2001.

MOST AFL PREMIERSHIPS
Club Premierships Runner-Up
Essendon 16 14
Carlton 16 13
Collingwood 15 27

Essendon suffered five defeats in eight games between early June and early August, seemingly throwing away their top-eight dreams in the process. But they managed to see off the Dogs, Gold Coast, and Collingwood in the final three matches, punching their ticket to the finals.

At 23.00, Essendon is the bookies’ clear underdog – and that is understandable. Although they kicked more points than four teams above them on the ladder, they have the worst defensive record in the top eight.

Betting on the 2021 AFL Finals Series

If you want to bet on the 2021 AFL Finals Series, you should be aware of this fact: no team from outside the top four has ever won the premiership.

While the likes of the Dogs and the Swans certainly have what it takes to go all the way, the chances of one of the four outsiders winning four straight games between now and the end of the campaign are extremely slim.

With that in mind, I recommend backing one – or more than one – of Melbourne, Geelong, Port Adelaide, and Brisbane to clinch the flag.

The Demons will be on a high after snatching the minor premiership in almost unbelievable circumstances, while the Cats will be desperate to make amends for missing out on a top spot.

The Power look like a great bet, too. Remember – they have won nine of their last ten games and head into the finals in better form than any of their rivals.

Have any of the league’s best young players fulfilled their potential in 2021? See for yourself in the post below.

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Ben Morris
Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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