The AFL Grand Final is the annual Melbourne Cricket Ground blockbuster that determines the premiers of the Australian Football League, the best and only fully professional Australian Rules football competition in the world.
There was no Grand Final in the first season of the AFL’s predecessor, the Victorian Football League, but it has been the premiership decider since 1898 when Fitzroy, now defunct, defeated Essendon 38-23 at the MCG.
Hawthorn and Sydney will contest the 2012 AFL Grand Final. The Hawks are the minor premiers, the title given to the team that finishes the regular season at the top of the ladder. They won 17 of their 22 games, edging out Adelaide on percentage. This year was the eighth time that they had won the minor premiership. Following AFL Finals Series wins over Collingwood and the Crows, they are gunning for their 11th Grand Final victory after triumphs in 1961, 1971, 1976, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991 and, most recently, 2008.
The Swans were the third seeds going into the AFL Final Series and they have qualified for the biggest game on the Australian Rules football calendar by virtue of wins over the same two sides that Hawthorn defeated. They have won four premierships previously but only one since they went from being South Melbourne to Sydney 30 years ago.
The AFL Grand Final is played over four 20-minute quarters and, in the event of a draw, the two teams replay seven days later. There have been three draws in Grand Final history, the latest of which occurred in 2010 when Collingwood and St Kilda drew 68-68. The Magpies won the replay 108-52.
Styles makes fights and that is why Sydney, in receipt of about two and a half goals in AFL Grand Final handicap betting markets, is the value bet in the big match.
The Swans match up well against Hawthorn, as evidenced by their two performances versus the Hawks earlier this year, one that resulted in a thumping 37-point victory and one that resulted in a heart-breaking seven-point loss.
Sydney smashed Hawthorn 106-69 at York Park in Launceston when both former Hawks midfielder Josh Kennedy and two-time Brownlow Medal winner Adam Goodes kicked three goals for the Swans. But the story was in the losing side’s statistics.
Lance Franklin, the most destructive forward in Australian Rules football, failed to kick a goal against the Swans as John Longmire and his team’s defenders executed their plan to keep the powerhouse known universally as Buddy quiet.
Franklin holds the key to any match in which the Hawks play and he has, by his high standards, a poor record versus Sydney, booting only 38 goals in his 14 games against the Swans and being on the losing team eight times.
If Sydney can limit Franklin’s goal output – another blank is probably asking too much but anything less than three goals would be terrific – then the Swans will go a long way not only to staying inside the spread but winning the match.
A handicap line of between six and 10 points would have been fair so snap up the 15 or so points that some bookmakers are giving to Sydney. The Swans will give everyone who backs them a run of their money. It is the ethos of the club.
The most AFL Grand Final exotic betting market is the Norm Smith Medal, which goes to the player rated as the best on ground. If one thinks that Sydney will win then Kennedy is worth supporting even though he is one of the favourites. Kennedy, who played 13 games for Hawthorn before joining the Swans, earned five Brownlow Medal votes in the two matches between the premiership rivals in Rounds Five and 22.
Unsurprising, it is Aussie bookies who have the best AFL Grand Final betting offers, with Centrebet, Luxbet and Sportsbet leading the way with their special deals.
If Franklin kicks three or more goals and the first bet that you place on the AFL Grand Final is a loser, Centrebet (www.centrebet.com.au) will refund the first $100 of your losing bet in the form of a bonus bet. It is exclusive to Australian residents, as are its other less enticing AFL Grand Final betting offers.
Back either Hawthorn or Sydney in the head-to-head market and, if your selection is losing at three-quarter time and goes on to win the game, Luxbet will match your head-to-head betting stake with a bonus bet, up to a maximum of $200.
Sportsbet (www.sportsbet.com.au) will refund all losing first bets placed on the AFL Grand Final, up to a maximum of $100 in cash rather than bonus bets, if any player boots five or more goals.
Franklin has kicked three or more goals in 98 of his 160 AFL games and eight of his 14 matches against Sydney so there is probably a better than even-money chance that Centrebet will have to action its primary AFL Grand Final betting offer.
According to the AFL Grand Final quarter-by-quarter odds of several bookmakers, the probability of the Hawks losing at three-quarter time and winning the game is about 10 per cent and the probability of the Swans doing likewise is about 8%.
Sportsbet may be refunding cold, hard cash but its AFL Grand Final betting offer is the least enticing of the three as no-one has kicked five or more goals in the big one since Cameron Mooney starred for Geelong in 2007. And before that one has to go back to Brisbane’s Jason Akermanis in 2003.
For a ranking of the best Australian based bookmakers online, check out the table below. We urge you to read reviews of each and decide which one suits you best.
Take advantage of Centrebet’s special offer
Sydney may have the wood on Franklin but still there remains an excellent chance that Centrebet will have to refund the losing first AFL Grand Final bets of its Australian clients.
Pick the match winner before betting on the Norm Smith Medal
Only four players on losing AFL Grand Final sides have won the Norm Smith Medal since it was handed out for the first time in 1979. Do not back Hawks players if you fancy the Swans and vice versa. The odds will be against you.
Respect recent head-to-head form
Based on this season’s two clashes, there is no way that Sydney should be such a big underdog versus Hawthorn.