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The Australian Football League Finals Series gets under way this weekend and there is a genuine possibility that one of the marquee matches will end up being a one-sided encounter.
First-placed Fremantle will host fourth-placed Sydney in an Australian Football League qualifying final on Saturday and, if you had polled Australian Rules followers this time last week, they would have given the Swans a legitimate chance of upsetting the team sitting top of the table at Domain Stadium in Perth.
But a week is a long time in professional sport and Sydney’s world has collapsed over the last seven days. First, Sydney midfielder Kieren Jack sustained a potentially season-ending injury as the Swans defeated Gold Coast 127-64 to solidify its place in the Australian Football League top four, which most pundits think is imperative in terms of challenging for the ultimate prize. Jack has missed one Australian Football League game over the last fours years and it resulted in Sydney losing 67-99 to Greater Western Sydney in a huge upset. Jack, whose brother Brandon is a member of Sydney’s first 22, has been ruled out of Saturday’s Australian Football League match at Fremantle and Swans officials believe that is three weeks away from being fit again.
Second, there is the story that has captivated Australia and that is the health issues that Sydney forward Lance Franklin is experiencing. Franklin, who is better known by his Buddy nickname, was ruled out of Saturday’s Australian Football League game at Fremantle with what Sydney described as a mental health problem. Subsequently it emerged that Franklin had collapsed at a Sydney cafe last week and the latest reports are that he suffers from mild epilepsy. Franklin is the Australian Football League’s highest paid player after he signed an unprecedented nine-year contract in 2014 worth an estimated 10 million dollars. Unsurprisingly, Franklin is Sydney’s key goal kicker and the Swans have a relatively poor record without their 28-year-old superstar. Franklin has sat out eight Australian Football League matches since he joined Sydney from Hawthorn and, while the Swans have won five of them, they have covered the spread only twice. Also, Sydney minus Franklin has been thrashed in what one would rate as its two tricky Australian Football League away games – the Swans lost 63-95 at Geelong and they slumped 51-103 at West Coast, both heavy defeats taking place in 2015. It may be significant that Sydney’s 52-point Australian Football League loss to West Coast occurred at Domain Stadium because the Eagles share that extremely large venue with Fremantle.
The long-priced bet in which one is interested is Fremantle to defeat Sydney by 40 or more points at odds of +260 with Bet365. The structure of the Australian Football League Finals Series means that one could forgive Sydney for not busting its balls on Saturday if Fremantle jumps out to an early lead – the losing side will back up next week in a home sudden-death game against either North Melbourne or Richmond. Fremantle beat a full-strength Sydney 74-60 at Domain Stadium in Australian Football League Round Four, a match in which Franklin led the Swans with two goals and two behinds for 14 points and Jack had 19 possessions, including a team-leading five inside the 50-metre arc. Franklin and Jack are hugely influential players for Sydney and they are not the only Swans guns missing, either. Ball magnet Luke Parker fractured his right leg a few weeks ago and Sydney faces its first real test without him on Saturday.
Fremantle’s stars ought to be as fresh as daises because Dockers coach Ross Lyon rested more than half of his side’s best 22 in the final round of the Australian Football League regular season. Fremantle was secure in first place on the Australian Football League ladder and, therefore, it has nothing to either gain or lose from its Round 23 fixture.
Fremantle to defeat Sydney by 40+ points
12th September 06:20 GMT
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