Aussie Rules Football Betting Odds and Picks: West Coast Eagles vs. Melbourne Demons
Graham Denholm/Getty Images. Pictured: Sam Frost
Aussie Rules Football Odds: West Coast Eagles vs. Melbourne Demons
Spread: West Coast -20.5
Time: 3:40 a.m. ET
The final match of Round 1, and hopefully not the last match for a while, is a tilt between the West Coast Eagles and the Melbourne Demons. The Perth-based Eagles will be hosting at their home ground Optus Stadium, with first bounce scheduled for 3:40 a.m. ET.
West Coast avoided any championship hangover, finishing 5th and making a run last year after winning the Premiership in 2018. Meanwhile, the Demons have had nothing but bad luck since being trounced by the Eagles on their way to that 2018 title, enduring a multitude of injuries and a slide all the way down to 17th in the standings.
That 66-point victory for the Eagles over the Demons in the Preliminary Final in 2018 has been an outlier in what has otherwise been a hotly contested, if not necessarily even, matchup. The Eagles have won 12 of the last 14 meetings but the last five regular season encounters were all decided by less than 17 points. Close losses became the unfortunate expectation for Melbourne last year, as they lost eight games by less than 18 points in the 2019 season.
While an assumed regression to the mean for Melbourne might imply another close contest, there are a few factors working against them. The Demons have the greatest travel requirements for Round 1, with the trip from Melbourne to Perth being nearly the same distance as Atlanta to Los Angeles. As if the journey was difficult enough, West Coast went 8-3 at home in 2019, with their eight wins coming by an average of 32.4 points. In addition to the geographic advantage, there is the matter of West Coast’s roster reinforcements.
As mentioned in a preview a few days ago (and likely seen by many of you last night), every time a goal is scored or the ball goes out of bounds, a ball-up occurs. This ball-up involves the umpire bouncing or throwing the ball into the field of play, with only one member of each team initially allowed to contest it. Winning this is similar to winning a basketball jump ball, and Melbourne’s Max Gawn is a master of tipping ball-ups to his teammates in favorable positions. He had won the hit-out count against whoever West Coast put against him by an average of 25 hit outs the past 4 contests.
Unluckily for the Demons, Nic Naitanui is set to start for the Eagles. It will be the first matchup between the two teams with Naitanui and Gawn going up against each other since 2015, a game in which Naitanui bested Gawn 36 hit outs to 27, and the Eagles won by 54.
In addition to getting their big-man back, the Eagles made the splash of the offseason by trading for Tim Kelly. Kelly is a dynamic midfielder in the prime of his career who finished top 5 in the Brownlow voting last year.
Count on Naitanui to make it a long day for Gawn, and for it to be a long flight back to Melbourne for the Demons.
The Pick: West Coast -20.5