Bookmakers rate the chance of Australian Football League Grand Final debutant Fremantle making a decent fist of its first appearance in Australian Rules football’s main event but history points to Hawthorn beating the Dockers easily.
Fremantle merits respect having improved from a team that struggled to crack into the top eight under Mark Harvey to an Australian Football League premiership contender under Ross Lyon. Fremantle went from 10th to 7th in Lyon’s first season and then the Dockers qualified for this year’s Australian Football League Finals Series as the third seeds, beating Geelong in Geelong and Sydney at Patersons Stadium to qualify for the Australian Football League Grand Final.
Lyon is the Australian Football League’s most highly rated defensive coach and Fremantle conceded the fewest points of the competition’s 16 teams during the regular season – 1,518 in its 22 games, 176 points fewer than Sydney and 341 points fewer than Hawthorn. Fremantle is the Australian Football League’s top grinder, assuming that mantle from Sydney.
But that is where the positives for Fremantle end. Hawthorn is the Australian Football League’s top offensive side, with the Hawks having kicked 374 goals and 279 behinds during the regular season for a total of 2,523 points. Only two other teams broke the 2,300-point barrier – Geelong (2,409 points) and North Melbourne (2,307 points) – and Hawthorn only got to play the competition’s whipping boys, Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney, once apiece. Hawthorn ranked first for offence and fifth for defence (1,859 points), whereas Fremantle ranked 12th for offence (2,035 points) and first for defence. No other Australian Football League Finals Series participant scored fewer points than Fremantle.
Australian Football League Grand Final handicap lines favour Hawthorn by as few as seven and a half points – one can back the Hawks against the spread at odds of 1.91 with William Hill – and that seems like a good bet, particularly when one considers the raw results of the two Australian Football League matches between the finalists since Lyon walked into Fremantle and turned it into a contender.
Last year, Hawthorn beat Fremantle 119-63 at its home away from home in Launceston. And this year, Hawthorn defeated Fremantle 118-76 at the same Tasmania venue, with the Hawks kicking 18 goals and 10 behinds to the 11 goals and 10 behinds of the Dockers. Hawthorn took control of the game from the opening siren, racing into a 32-2 lead by the end of the first quarter, pretty much squaring the second and third quarters and kicking away again in the fourth quarter.
The switch from the Aurora Stadium to the Melbourne Cricket Ground is unlikely to assist Fremantle in closing the gap between it and Hawthorn, with the wide-open spaces of the MCG oval suiting the Hawks more than the Dockers. So back Hawthorn to win its 11th Australian Football League flag with something to spare. And that is not all, either.
The quarter-by-quarter statistics of Hawthorn and Fremantle, as well as the recent head-to-head data, points to a bet on the Hawks winning the second half at odds of 1.62 with Bet365. Hawthorn is 15-9 in the third quarter this year and 19-5 in the fourth quarter. Fremantle is 14-1-9 in the third quarter and 14-10 in the fourth quarter over the same period. Fremantle’s numbers gets progressively worse as time goes by, which has a lot to do with its defensive pressure. It is impossible to press like Fremantle does for four quarters so the Dockers tend to run out of gas late on.
Finally, if this season’s Brownlow Medal count is any guide, Hawthorn midfielder Grant Birchall represents the Norm Smith Medal value at odds of 21.00 with Bet365 and William Hill. Birchall was the man of the match when Hawthorn defeated Fremantle by 42 points earlier this year. Shaun Burgoyne and Sam Mitchell were the other Brownlow Medal points winners in that Launceston game, with Burgoyne trading at Norm Smith Medal odds of 13.00 with Bet365 and William Hill and the same bookmakers offering odds of 8.00 about Mitchell.