Happier Times: Essendon are being watched by the Anti-Doping Authority and there seems to be some general unrest in the camp.
The Australian Football League may not have much in the way of an international profile but it is the biggest sports competition in the world’s sixth largest country and its match attendances are the envy of tournaments anywhere.
Australian Rules football is an 18-a-side game played on a large oval-sized field, which means that many Australian Football League teams share facilities with cricket sides. The origins of Australian Rules football are the subject of much public debate but what is beyond doubt is that one of the current 18 Australian Football League teams, Melbourne, published the first laws of the game in 1859.
What is known today as the Australian Football League began in 1897 as the Victorian Football League. The competition changed its name ahead of the 1990 season because, by that stage, it has become a truly national tournament and no longer was the exclusive domain of Victoria-based sides.
Essendon won the first premiership in 1897 in what was one of only two Victorian Football League/Australian Football League seasons settled without any form of Grand Final. The Bombers and Carlton lead the honour roll with 16 titles apiece, with Collingwood (15 titles), Melbourne (12 titles), Hawthorn (10 titles), Richmond (10 titles), Geelong (nine titles), Fitzroy (eight titles), Sydney/South Melbourne (five titles), North Melbourne (four titles), Brisbane (three titles), West Coast (three titles), Adelaide (two titles), Port Adelaide (one title), St Kilda (one title) and Western Bulldogs (one title) also having tasted success.
Of the current 18 Australian Football League teams, only Fremantle, Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney have not won a premiership. Sydney is the defending champion having upset Hawthorn 91-81 in the 2012 Australian Football League Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Swans star Ryan O’Keefe received the Norm Smith Medal that goes to the player adjudged to be the best on ground in the decider.
The 2013 Australian Football League season will get under way with Hawthorn as the firm favourite with bookmakers in spite of the Hawks losing all four of their five matches during the pre-season NAB Cup competition. Hawthorn lost to Gold Coast, Brisbane, Western Bulldogs and Richmond before beating North Melbourne. The Hawks lost three of their games by one point and absolutely crushed the Kangaroos in their final match, running out 81-point winners. There is nothing about which to worry for supporters of the market leader.
It says a lot about the value of the NAB Cup that its 2013 premier, Brisbane, is trading at 100-1 to win the Australian Football League Grand Final. Only five times has a side done the pre-season and regular-season premiership double – Essendon (1993, 2000), Hawthorn (1988 and 1991) and Geelong (2009) – in spite of significant financial incentives.
Unoriginal it may be but Hawthorn is the team to beat in the 2013 Australian Football League title race. The Hawks were simply unplayable at times during 2012 and three of their six losses – they had a 19-6 record – were by fewer than half a dozen points. Man for man, Hawthorn has the finest playing roster and, in Lance Franklin, they have a full forward who can kick goals as if they are going out of fashion. Buddy booted 13 goals in one game last term.
Australian Football League punters have singled out Mick Malthouse’s Carlton and John Worsfold’s West Coast as the biggest threats to Hawthorn but, if any side is going to prevent the Hawks winning their 11th premiership, it is probably going to be their bogey team, John Longmire’s Sydney. The Swans match up very well against Hawthorn.
Sydney won two of its three games versus Hawthorn in the 2012 Australian Football League competition and only went down by seven points in the match that it lost. The Swans have added former Adelaide forward Kurt Tippett to their ranks and, although the goal kicker will not be free to play until the second half of the season because of suspension, he will be available when the whips are cracking.
If one must bet against Hawthorn winning the 2013 Australian Football League Grand Final at odds of around 7-2, Sydney is the best alternative option at odds of around 6-1.
Essendon missed the 2012 Australian Football League Finals Series by quite a margin – the Bombers finished 11th, three wins adrift of eight-placed North Melbourne – and the Windy Hill-based side is a decent bet at odds of around 8-13 not to make the top eight for the second successive season.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has Essendon in its crosshairs and, until such time that the Bombers receive the all-clear sign, a cloud will hang over them. The James Hird-coached team lost its last seven games last season and its only positive was the Brownlow Medal triumph of Jobe Watson, the midfielder son of Essendon legend Tim.
Chris Judd is one of Australian Rules football’s greats and, if Carlton does improve out of sight under Malthouse, he may be a much better chance of winning his third Brownlow Medal than odds of around 20-1 suggest. The Blues champion won the Australian Football League’s top individual honour in 2004 and 2010 so everyone knows that the umpires who vote like what he does on the football field. And his low count of 12 votes in 2012 can be explained by his absence from several Carlton matches. He is quite a few rolls over the odds.
We say look for value at the Aussie sportsbooks for the more liquid markets. Rest of the world bettors can still bet at Bet365.