What Can You Bet on Friday Night? Aussie Rules Football, A-League Soccer Betting Odds and Picks
Steve Bell, Getty Images.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought sports — and the rest of the world — to a screeching halt like we’ve never seen. That being said, there are still some sporting events taking place on Friday night, including a pair of Aussie Rules Football matches on FS1 starting at 11 p.m. ET.
Australia’s top soccer league — the Hyundai A-League — is also moving forward with games and, guess what, there’s one taking place in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Here are our betting previews for the Action Down Under:
Aussie Rules Football Odds: Fremantle Dockers vs. Essendon Bombers
Spread: Essendon -15.5
Time: 11 p.m. ET
Good news to those of you in the US who have been staying up late or waking up early to try and catch any semblance of live sports, tonight’s four-game AFL slate includes at least one game that starts before midnight across the country. That game is also our first matchup without two Melbourne teams, with the Perth-based Fremantle Dockers traveling interstate to take on the Melbourne-based Essendon Bombers at 11:10 p.m. ET. The best news? It’s being televised on FS1.
Essendon opened as 15.5-point favorites, which is to be expected given that Essendon finished in 8th and made the Finals last season, while Fremantle finished in 13th and fired their head coach. That coach’s ultra-conservative style had made it almost a given that any game involving Fremantle would open with the lowest total, so it was quite the shock when their Round 1 total opened as…. second lowest.
Looking at recent history, it is harder to believe the total is not even lower. The average combined score in Dockers’ matches was an AFL-low 149.9 points in 2019. Despite low totals, the under cashed in both matchups between these two teams in 2019, with an average of 127.5 points. Considering the shortened quarters (quarters are 16 minutes to start this season instead of the regular 20 in anticipation of a condensed schedule), 146.5 seems generous.
The injury reports for both teams make a scoring onslaught seem even further fetched. Critical omissions from Essendon include Joe Daniher, Cale Hooker, and captain Dyson Heppell, a combined 466 games of experience.
Things are even worse for Fremantle with Stephen Hill, Jesse Hogan, and David Mundy out, meaning 605 games worth of veteran savvy will be sitting on the bench. Fremantle’s Round 1 team is the least experienced in the AFL by a wide margin.
Essendon have won the last three matchups between these two by an average of 22.7 points, but that doesn’t make the Bombers a gimme at -15.5. Despite making the Finals last season, they actually finished with a negative percentage, having allowed 82 more points than they scored over the 22 game campaign. They made a habit of close wins and blowout losses and were thoroughly demolished in their only postseason game.
Spreads in this 2-to-3 goal range can also be tricky to predict purely based on the scoring system. The difference between a 6-point goal and a 1-point behind can be a matter of inches, yet it is a huge swing on the scoreboard. Miss a few set shots and suddenly what could’ve been a blowout is a nail-biter. The saving grace for those taking favorites is that it benefits you to run up the score in AFL since the tiebreaker in the standings is scoring percentage.
While Essendon should win this home game against an inexperienced team traveling 2,000 miles to Marvel Stadium, if -225 moneyline odds aren’t your cup of tea, the under is the play. In our rapidly changing times, it is comforting to have some constants. See Fremantle, bet the under.
The Pick: Under 146.5
Aussie Rules Football Odds: Adelaide Crows vs. Sydney Swans
- Spread: Adelaide -5.5
- Over/Under: 143.5
- Time: 2 a.m. ET
- TV: FS1
If you’ve just started following AFL over the last few days, you might be wondering why multiple games have taken place in the same stadium and every team seems to be from Melbourne. Despite what some purists might have you believe, football does indeed exist outside of the state of Victoria. Our first example of this in 2020 takes place in South Australia early Saturday morning on FS1 as the Adelaide Crows host the Sydney Swans at 2:05amET.
The reason for the lack of location disparity is that the Australian Football League originated as the Victorian Football League. Although some teams have relocated and the league has expanded, 9 of the 18 teams still call Melbourne home and share the two stadiums within city limits. There’s a reason Melbourne likes to refer to themselves as the sporting capital of the world.
In addition to being the first game outside of Melbourne, this will be the first match to not include at least one team that made the Finals in 2019. Adelaide were in contention before losing seven of their last nine games, while Sydney never really got going and finished in 15th. If you had stopped following the league after 2017 those results will have shocked you, as these two teams regularly qualified for the Finals throughout the last decade.
There isn’t a lot to take from the recent history of these two re-tooling clubs. Adelaide won their matchup each of the last two seasons, but both teams look markedly different from even the most recent matchup in Round 2 of 2019.
Since then, Adelaide has had both their coach and captain step down, while Sydney has had over 1,100 games worth of experience retire or move to other clubs.
The untested nature of the players filling those vacancies can help to explain the lowest total of the round at 143.5. Neither team was electric last year (Adelaide 10th in scoring, Sydney 13th), nor did they add any firepower in the offseason, with Adelaide even losing some.
Although the Swans still roster the seventh all-time leading goal kicker in Lance Franklin and he’s been unable to recover from offseason surgery in time for Round 1. Meanwhile the Crows’ sell-a-thon included unloading two of their more prolific forwards in Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins, who combined to score 23% of Adelaide’s goals in 2019.
Despite the on-field and personnel losses that concluded the 2019 season for the Crows, they should still have a good chance to win this game. The more obvious reasons include what is still a stronger roster overall and home-field advantage. While the effect of the latter may be reduced by the lack of crowd, Sydney does still have to travel, and the Swans were 3-8 on the road in 2019.
A less obvious reason to favor the Crows is the free kick disparity between the two teams. Sydney gave away the second most free kicks in the AFL in 2019, while Adelaide gave away the least. In what could be a tight game with plenty of raw players for the Swans, a few conceded free kicks could easily turn into enough scoring chances for the Crows to cover the 5.5-point spread.
While taking the under given the Swans inexperience is appealing, there are still just enough stars involved between the two teams to give pause.
Motivated by redemption after their late-season collapse, and playing at home with a new captain and coach, count on the Crows to come out flying and end up victorious.
The Pick: Adelaide -5.5
Sydney FC at Western Sydney Wanderers Odds
- Sydney FC odds: +106
- Western Sydney Wanderers: +245
- Draw: +245
- Over/Under: 2.5 (-148/+118)
- Time: Saturday, 4 a.m. ET
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear that thunder?
Amidst all the chaos, Australian sports are pressing on. We don’t know for how long, the Australian Football League kicked off its season on Thursday without crowds but didn’t commit to anything past Round 1, but I’d be damned if I didn’t appreciate the moxie of our friends Down Under. I’m sure the Aussies are being quite careful and will shut down once the situation calls for it, but right now it’s a welcome distraction to get lost for a moment and think about an actual game — even if it’s on the opposite side of the world.
The Hyundai A-League is the top flight of Australian soccer. The league features 10 teams from Australia and one from New Zealand. Sydney FC are the current pace-setters with 47 points from 19 games. The Sky Blues were 10 points clear of Melbourne City FC with two games in hand at the time of writing. The top six teams in the A-League make the playoffs with the No. 1 and 2 seeds getting a bye.
Sydney FC will look to take another step towards securing the No. 1 seed in the A-League with a win over their rivals, Western Sydney Wanderers, on Saturday. The Wanderers come into Saturday’s derby in eighth place with 25 points from 20 games and a -3 goal differential.
Western Sydney boasts a pedestrian statistical profile in 2020. The Wanderers allow .15 more goals per 90 than they score (1.45 to 1.3) and they average the third-fewest shots on target per 90 minutes in the A-League. Western Sydney’s expected goals (xG) are basically on-par with their actual output. The Wanders create 1.38 xG/90 and allow 1.62 xGA/90.
Sydney FC’s numbers are much stronger on the surface, but the Sky Blues are boosted some finishing talent. Not only does Sydney FC have Milos Ninkovic, the best player in the league, but the Sky Blues also boast the league’s top goal-scorer, Adam le Fondre.
Sydney FC boasts the best defense in the league, averaging 0.79 goals against per 90 minutes. However, the Sky Blues’ expected goals suggest they should be giving up 1.6 goals a game. That being said, Sydney FC has conceded just two goals in its last six games, so it seems like the defense comes into this match in fine form.
That, blended with Western Sydney’s not-so-impressive offense, is leading me to a bet on the road favorites and the Under 2.5.
The Pick: Sydney FC (+106); Under 2.5 goals (+118)
Aussie Rules Football Odds: GWS Giants vs. Geelong Cats
- Spread: GWS -12.5
- Over/Under: 145.5
- Time: 4:40 a.m. ET
Without a doubt the most talent-packed match of Round 1 features a team that has existed for more than a century against a team that has existed for less than a decade. The 8-year-old Greater Western Sydney Giants host the 161-year-old Geelong Cats in GIANTS Stadium on Saturday morning at 4:40 a.m. ET.
(Side note: Yes, the Giants really stylize their stadium name in all caps. They also typically capitalize their team name but for the sake of clarity, it will be in regular formatting throughout this article. Additionally, Greater Western Sydney is often shortened to GWS, and that will be adhered to.)
Both Geelong and GWS tasted success in 2019 but fell short of the ultimate prize. Geelong won the “minor premiership” after finishing the regular season at the top of the ladder but were ultimately defeated by eventual champions Richmond. GWS made the Grand Final for the first time in their short history but were defeated by Richmond in a game that was never close. Both teams are seen as contenders and both sides are brimming with talent.
Geelong midfielder Patrick Dangerfield is the third favorite to win the Brownlow Medal (AFL MVP), and he and teammate Gary Ablett Jr. have combined to win the medal three times previously. These two teams also roster three of the top nine goal-scorers from 2019, including GWS spearhead Jeremy Cameron, who kicked a whopping 76 goals. Unsurprisingly given the above, they finished second (Geelong) and fourth (GWS) overall in scoring last season. Even with the shortened quarters, the total of 146.5 (-112 DraftKings) is well within reach based on the talent on the field.
Supporting that hypothesis is the location of this game, as the Giants averaged 106.4 points per game at home in 2019. They also came out flying in the preseason, going undefeated and averaging 115 points in two victories. In contrast to the unstoppable force of the Giants’ offense is the immovable object that is the Cats’ stifling defense. Geelong allowed by far the fewest points in 2019, surrendering only 66.5 points per game.
Given the strength of Geelong’s defense, it is hard to imagine seeing the Cats as double-digit underdogs in this particular matchup. Teams don’t outscore their opponents by nearly 24 points per game over an entire season by accident. The Cats’ defense and the chance of pre-game rain in Sydney give me pause on the over, but taking Geelong — which was the best team in the 2019 regular season — with the spread of +12.5 is a no-brainer.
If you’re feeling frisky, the Giants were the only team to hand the Cats a loss in Geelong last year. While there is no noticeable bad blood, the Cats might be extra motivated to avenge the four-point defeat and cash the moneyline of +160.
The Pick: Geelong +12.5