AFL Predictions and Best Bets – Round 1, 2021
Following a truncated offseason, the 2021 AFL season gets underway on Thursday, March 18, with Richmond and Carlton kicking things off at the MCG.
Elsewhere, reigning minor premiers Port Adelaide face off against North Melbourne on Saturday, before the Eagles and the Suns wrap up Round 1 at Optus Stadium.
If you’re thinking about betting on Round 1 of the 2021 AFL season, you’ve come to the right place. I give my predictions for every AFL game in Round 1, before sharing my top picks and best bets for the March 18-21 schedule.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into my AFL predictions and picks for Round 1 of the 2021 season.
Richmond to Beat Carlton
Let’s start by looking at one of the more predictable fixtures in Round 1 – Richmond vs. Carlton.
Having secured their third premiership in four years last season, the Tigers will be the team to beat again in 2021. Damien Hardwick’s men may have finished six points behind Port Adelaide and Brisbane on last year’s AFL ladder, but they managed to navigate their way through the finals series and clinch the flag.
On the flip side, Carlton failed to secure a top-eight berth for the seventh season running last year. The Blues can take confidence from the fact that they recorded their highest ladder finish since 2013, although they are still miles behind Richmond in every department.
Collingwood to Beat Western Bulldogs
In all honesty, this game could go either way.
Just two points separated Collingwood and the Bulldogs on the AFL ladder last year, with the Magpies trailing the Doggies in the standings. However, both sides managed to qualify for the finals series and will be expected to do the same again this season.
Only two teams – Port Adelaide and Richmond – conceded fewer points than Collingwood last term, although only five clubs accumulated fewer points in 2020. By contrast, the Bulldogs were the sixth-highest scorers in the league but conceded more points than any other side in the top nine.
Melbourne to Beat Fremantle
Melbourne missed out on the finals series by just two points last season, yet they impressed in almost every department. Midfielder Christian Petracca finished joint-third on the 2020 Brownlow leaderboard, with Clayton Oliver also making it into the top ten.
Meanwhile, Fremantle endured a campaign to forget, racking up the third-lowest points tally in the league. The Dockers have also been walloped by injuries of late, with Michael Walters and Rory Lobb receiving blows in Freo’s ten-point loss to West Coast in a recent AAMI Community Series clash.
Geelong to Beat Adelaide
It’s safe to say that Adelaide could hardly have dreamed of a trickier game to kick off their 2021 campaign.
The 2020 wooden spoon recipients welcome last year’s beaten grand finalists to Adelaide Oval in Round 1 – and Matthew Nick’s men aren’t expected to cause Geelong too many problems.
After winning the minor premiership in 2019, the Cats made it all the way to the grand final last term, only to fall at the last hurdle. But if Tom Hawkins can pick up where he left off last year, Geelong will almost certainly find themselves challenging for the flag again in 2021.
Needless to say, the giant forward is likely to have a big say in the outcome of this clash.
Essendon to Beat Hawthorn
Essendon and Hawthorn will probably be looking to put 2020 behind them as quickly as possible when the new season gets underway. Finishing thirteenth and fifteenth, respectively, the Bombers and the Hawks will both be hoping for vast improvements in 2021.
The two sides produced a memorable game last season, with Essendon overcoming a six-goal half-time deficit to beat Hawthorn by 16 points. Ben Rutten’s men were woeful before the break, yet three goals from Joe Daniher handed the Bombers a remarkable comeback win.
Brisbane to Beat Sydney
After agonizingly missing out on the minor premiership last season, Brisbane will no doubt be eager to hit the ground running and go one better this year.
Thankfully for the Lions, they have a favorable fixture to get their 2021 campaign underway.
Sydney finished third from bottom on last year’s ladder, recording one of the worst seasons in the club’s recent history. Oh, and let’s not forget that Brisbane crushed the Swans by 32 points towards the end of the previous campaign, with Zac Bailey, Charlie Cameron, and Eric Hipwood each kicking two goals.
To make matters worse for Sydney, Lachie Neale secured the 2020 Brownlow Medal in record-breaking style. The gifted midfielder looks set to enjoy more success in Round 1.
Port Adelaide to Beat North Melbourne
Reigning minor premiers Port Adelaide will be confident of notching up a relatively straightforward win in Round 1, with North Melbourne hosting the South Australians at Marvel Stadium.
The Kangaroos only managed to win three of their 17 games last season, finishing joint-bottom on the AFL ladder. If it wasn’t for the Crows’ woeful showing in 2020, David Noble’s men would have ended up at the foot on the standings.
At the other end of the ladder, the Port Adelaide finished at the top of the pile. The Power lost just three games en route to claiming the minor premiership, with Charlie Dixon enjoying a standout season on a personal level.
St Kilda to Beat GWS
St Kilda chalked up a whopping 125 points on their way to beating Carlton in last week’s AAMI Community Series. Now, the Saints will be hoping to produce a similar kind of performance against GWS in Round 1.
In fact, the Saints thrashed the Giants by 52 points last season, clinching their first finals berth in nine years. If they take their A-game to Sydney this weekend, there is no reason why they can’t emulate that result.
GWS also sealed a warm-up win last week, getting the better of the Swans. But having missed out on a top-eight finish last term, the Giants are arguably weaker than St Kilda at the moment.
West Coast to Beat Gold Coast
The Eagles lost just five of their 17 games last season, while Gold Coast only managed to record five wins all year. With that in mind, West Coast should start the 2021 season with a win.
The Suns showed everyone glimpses of what they are capable of throughout the previous campaign, yet the team ultimately failed to challenge the league’s top clubs. Young gun Matt Rowell is destined to have a breakout season, although he could struggle to help his side beat West Coast.
Only five teams finished about the Eagles on the 2020 ladder, with Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling finishing third and eighth, respectively, in the goalkicking charts.
My Top AFL Picks for Round 1 in 2021
Here are my best bets for Round 1 of the 2021 AFL season.
- Richmond vs. Carlton – Richmond to Win (1.40)
- Essendon vs. Hawthorn – Essendon to Win (2.25)
- GWS vs. St Kilda – St Kilda to Win (2.10)
As you can see, my top AFL picks for Round 1 are made up of one safe bet and two slightly riskier wagers.
The Tigers claimed an easy 24-point win over Carlton on the opening day of the previous campaign – and I’m expecting them to replicate that result on Thursday. Granted, odds of 1.40 aren’t worth getting too excited about. But Richmond should beat the Blues with ease.
At 1.62, the Hawks are the bookmakers’ favorites to beat Essendon. However, I’m backing the Bombers at 2.25. Essendon came from behind to seal a memorable win over Hawthorn last season and eventually finished six points clear of the Hawks on the ladder.
Finally, my last betting pick for Round 1 of the 2021 AFL season is for Greater Western Sydney vs. St Kilda. The Giants are the bookies’ favorites at 1.73, but I can see the Saints winning this one. After all, Brett Ratten’s men notched up a hefty victory over Carlton last week.
That concludes my AFL predictions and picks for Round 1. Join me next week as I share my predictions and best bets for Round 2 of the 2021 AFL campaign.