Footy betting, line betting, afl analysis, AFL round 20. afl finals week 1

Pete Roberts from Behind The Footy is sharing some of his great content with us for the 2021 AFL season. Pete spent fifteen years in AFL coaching boxes as an analyst. He now shares those insights with footy fans. Here’s his AFL Round 20 Preview.

🍻 Pub bets Watching a game and want an interest? We’ve thrown in the pub bet for that very reason… it might just be a smart way to play based on Pete’s excellent analysis!

Very excited to hear of a few people shooting up the tipping leaderboards after our 8/9 effort last week. Let’s see if we can do the same here, or even go one better. Usually at this point in the year everyone just blindly chooses the favourites, so there is an edge to exploit if you choose the right games to go against the crowd.

Unfortunately, Round 20 doesn’t look like it presents many upset opportunities – some very heavy favourites, only a couple that look anywhere close to even contests, and a few teams that look to have one eye on an off-season holiday to Queensland (rather than Bali, for obvious reasons).

Hopefully the fixture is stable this weekend. We will do our best to roll with any late venue switches or team changes.

Best Matchup GWS v Port Adelaide

Best Underdog GWS, Fremantle

Team Under Pressure Carlton (again)

Player To Watch Toby Greene – would be coiled up like a steel spring after being kept in Covid isolation for two weeks just for attending the rugby. He could do anything on the weekend.

AFL Round 20: St Kilda v Carlton

It might seem like a pretty ho-hum matchup on the surface, but there’s a lot to unpack here.

The Saints are the Kings of beating themselves. One week it might be inaccuracy – they are bottom four overall, bottom two for set shot conversion. Another week their skill errors cost them dearly – they are in the bottom four at conceding scores from midfield turnovers. Despite all of this, their recent formline is still pretty solid.

The Blues, on the other hand, had been ultra-competitive for months but have now hit the wall. A 39-point loss against the current wooden spooner was their worst for the year, in both the margin and they way it unfolded.

With a mounting injury list for Carlton we don’t really get a fair fight here – McKay returns at least (will he play?), alongside Charlie Curnow (more on that later). Betts and Williams now on the sidelines, Docherty and Gibbons already done for the season. A large chunk of their best 22 won’t take on St Kilda. That might be lost in the rush (from others, not us) to pile into Carlton at every opportunity, but it’s totally relevant when assessing their chances here.

The Saints have a fit Rohan Marshall coming out of isolation as well as Higgins, Highmore and Clark to give them more depth than previous weeks. They are in far better shape than the Blues as it stands. Does it mean they are an automatic pick here? Not quite.

After a week of the usual soul searching following a shock loss to the bottom side, the real test for the Blues will be their immediate response. It’s incredibly hard to be confident in their ability to get off to a fast start given they’ve won only a single first term since Round 11 – against Fremantle in Round 16. The consistently start games on the back foot. Super critical they don’t do it again on Friday night.

The window for the Blues to pinch this one relies on them doing things the data suggests are highly unlikely to happen. Can they pressure the Saints into enough turnovers? As a bottom three pressure side, probably not. Can they jump the Saints and build some confidence early? See above for their record in first quarters. Can Weitering and Jones hold off the avalanche of inside 50s and marking opportunities for an in-form Max King? The Blues would be hopeful at best.

As exciting as it sounds, adding Charlie Curnow into the mix could easily backfire on Carlton. A player like Charlie will attract the footy regardless of his form or fitness – if he shows the expected signs of significant rust then the Saints should be able to dine out on the Blues predictability and get the ball back up the other end pretty quickly. It’s the age old problem we’ve seen so many times before – play your star in a compromised VFL competition or just get them back into the big time on quality grounds in a much cleaner game for key forwards to succeed.

Clearly the intangible is how they will perform now everyone expects them to fail. Some teams respond when they aren’t going into the game as heavy favourites. After a week under pressure, will Carlton be able to respond against a side not exactly super trustworthy?

Saints to win. As long as they don’t become their own worst enemy again.

Pick St Kilda 19
🍻 Pub bet
St Kilda -11.5
$1.85 with
TopSport

AFL Round 20: Western Bulldogs v Adelaide

Remarkably, the Dogs are still yet to play to of the bottom four teams this season. Facing the Crows in Melbourne should be an automatic four points given the absolute gulf between their recent form.

If we take out the 128-point flogging of North Melbourne when the Roos were basically starting from scratch early in the season, the Dogs definitely have a knack of taking the foot off the pedal against the “lesser” teams. As recently as two weeks ago they allowed the Suns to feel good about themselves with a four goal first term.

Fresh off the win against Melbourne, it would be good to see the Bulldogs go full throttle here. The Crows are unlikely to bring the type of pressure that can bring them undone, nor put up a score they will find much of a challenge. The loss of Alex Keath hurts a little – a bag from Tex Walker or Darcy Fogarty and there is hope for the Crows – but across the board the Dogs have far too much class, clearly.

Excited to see the Naughton, Bruce and Ugle-Hagan forward line in action again, even though the venue is a curious one. Did the Dogs get a choice? You would think playing at Marvel Stadium would be their first preference, or even the MCG to get another game under their belt there before the finals series. As much as they have invested in Ballarat, it doesn’t exactly play to their strengths.

A windy, wet Mars Stadium isn’t quite the perfect setup for a demolition job – 3rd vs 18th in forward 50 marks would be a scary proposition under a roof, not so much for a 12:20pm start in Ballarat in the middle of winter.

Pick Western Bulldogs by 34
🍻 Pub bet
Total under 142.5
$1.85 with
TopSport

AFL Round 20: North Melbourne v Geelong

The Roos have won three of their past five matches to give them a glimmer of hope in avoiding the wooden spoon. They return to Blundstone Arena, where most would argue they play their best football. One win, a draw and two losses this year suggest that’s not exactly true, but given they’ve played Melbourne, GWS and the Lions down there it’s a tough question to answer.

The real fear in this setup is that North Melbourne have been softened up for a hammering here. The leap from a terrible defensive team in Carlton to arguably the best defence in the competition is immense. Against the Blues last week, the Roos piled on 8 goals from midfield turnovers – the best figure of the round. The Cats have conceded that figure only once this year – to the Demons way back in Round 4.

This is a completely different game compared to last week for North Melbourne. And they would have to do something completely different to win. Losing Zurhaar and Cunnington (thoughts with the North veteran after his latest news) makes it even harder.

You always have to be wary of developing sides like North Melbourne once they have been “up” for a while. Inevitably, they put in a flat one or just fail to execute as well as previous weeks. If it happens against a quality side, look out for the margin to balloon to a reasonably large figure.

Like a lot of teams, the Cats do have the ability to cruise through games for long periods when they know they have the other side covered. That’s probably the only question mark in this one. They have enough discipline to play the right way and enough depth to make it hard for North to compete for four quarters.

A case of how far Geelong, it seems…

Pick Geelong by 50
🍻 Pub bet
Geelong -36.5
$1.95 with
TopSport

AFL Round 20: Gold Coast v Melbourne

A real test of the coaching and mentality of the playing group here. Even in Covid-affected times, not knowing where you are officially playing three days out from a match is absolutely wild. Clearly both teams are used to the uncertainty given the past two seasons, but some players will definitely deal with it better than others.

Get the feeling that Melbourne will relish the dryer conditions now that Queensland is the state of choice. It will give them an opportunity to keep honing their turnover game and go forward with speed when they win it back – under those scenarios you don’t need superstar forwards ahead of the ball to do something special, you just need them to work hard and be in the right spots to convert.

When Melbourne’s game style is working well, the goals are the easy part. It all depends on how well they can move the ball further up the ground, and how many times they can turn it over. The Suns have given up the second-most forward half turnovers in the last six weeks

In Round 19 against the Lions it was their own skill errors – you wouldn’t expect them to be as bad again but Melbourne are the exact team disciplined enough to continually force the Suns into giving the ball back. From there it’s a battle between the sticky Suns defenders and the Dees forwards who thrive on being constantly on the move.

Defensively you’d have to back Melbourne to cover off the Suns forwards. With any sort of discipline they should limit Gold Coast’s opportunities – it wouldn’t surprise to see large periods of the game where the ball just lives in Melbourne’s forward half.

A strong clearance side could find an edge over Melbourne. The Suns just don’t seem to be that side in the absence of Hugh Greenwood and a recognised ruckman. No choice but to strongly favour the Demons here

Pick Melbourne by 26
🍻 Pub bet
Quarter-by-quarter leader
Melb-Melb-Melb-Melb
$1.79 with
TopSport

AFL Round 20: Collingwood v West Coast

One of the most fascinating games of the weekend – if the Pies have any life left in them they should smell a kill in this one: a potentially wet MCG is the perfect setup to beat West Coast. Just not sure if Collingwood are the team to get it done.

The Pies have lost four of their past five games, only one of them against a current finalist. The weather might bring the Eagles back to their level a bit, but there’s a big question mark on whether Collingwood might have run out of gas.

Clearly this will be one and lost at the contest – these two are middle of the road in contested ball this season: Collingwood 9th, West Coast 10th. Even just taking their last five games, they are still next to each other in the rankings. Neither side have set the world on fire in that area, so it might just be a case of whoever is the least worst at it.

The loss of Pendlebury obviously makes a big difference to Collingwood. He’s impossible to replace, but we might find Robert Harvey using this as an opportunity to blood some others through the middle. Taylor Adams is clearly on one leg so they can’t expect him to carry his usual load. Expecting a lot of players to be tried through the middle this weekend.

So in some ways this is the perfect test for the Eagles. Have they progressed at all since they were shown up in the wet by a gallant North Melbourne side (a week after being obliterated by Sydney)? Is Elliot Yeo now completely match fit to give them the kind of midfield grunt they need here? Can the defenders bounce back after a poor showing last week and win the ball back in other ways, instead of just relying on intercept marks? Really interested to see how they play in this one.

We would be inclined to pick most other sides to upset the Eagles in this kind of setup. Just not sure if we can rely on the Pies to get it done

West Coast vulnerable, Collingwood shaky like a lot of sides waiting for the season to end. Incredibly difficult to predict this one.

Pick West Coast by 8
🍻 Pub bet
West Coast H2H
$1.70 with
TopSport

AFL Round 20: Essendon v Sydney

Arguably the match of the round – the Bombers finals hopes are still alive, even though it might be in their best interests to miss out this year. The Swans are still everyone’s second favourite team and look to be incredibly dangerous they way they are playing.

There have been significant danger signs in Essendon’s last two weeks – bottom four in pressure, bottom two at conceding uncontested marks, only breaking even at midfield turnovers despite playing 18th and 12th at the time. The step up to the Swans will exploit their lack of defensive intent if they don’t improve – no one has a bigger midfield turnover score differential than the Swans.

Is there any sort of confidence that the Bombers can rise again after a flat couple of weeks? Unsure. Their window of opportunity might be turning the game into a stoppage battle, then finding enough marks up forward, but the Swans are so honest down there it will be incredibly difficult – only the Cats and Demons have conceded fewer forward 50 marks this season. Big statement from the Bombers dropping Cale Hooker – time for Wright, Stringer and Stewart to get it done.

If Essendon can lock down the contest and let their midfielders get to work, that’s their best chance of causing the upset. The Gabba does lend itself to favouring those who can win centre bounce, so in that respect the Bombers could find a way.

In a battle between the turnover game of the Swans and the stoppage threat of Essendon, we will always side with the more lethal turnover team. Sydney clearly fit that bill.

An Essendon win in a tight one wouldn’t shock, but loving what the Swans are doing at the moment. A happy team is a formidable team…

Pick Sydney by 17
🍻 Pub bet
Total over 164.5
$1.90 with 
TopSport

AFL Round 20: Hawthorn v Brisbane

What do we do with the Lions? Stacked with talent, missing their bookends in Hipwood and Adams, and playing like they are just waiting for the finals to begin. You obviously don’t want to be playing your best footy in July, but there are a few things they need to fix before we can consider them up to the other contenders.

Often your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. For the Lions, the spread of scoring options is a genuine weapon – except for the fact that all of them want to be the goalkicker. For a quality visual example, check out Footy Classified from the 26th of July. If we thought the Giants were world record holders for burning their teammates last year, the Lions have definitely taken that title in 2021.

Down in Tassie, are the Hawks any hope? Perhaps if it turns into a bit of a grind and they can somehow find enough of a contribution from their forwards. Still feel like Marcus Adams missing has been criminally underrated in assessing the Lions’ recent form. They just aren’t defending as well without him holding down the last line of defence to free up Harris Andrews and co.

Between Koschitzke, Lewis and Breust, the Hawks have just enough quality to push the Lions. Will they get the ball down there enough? Dead last at Inside 50 differential (by a long way), playing the 2nd-ranked side this weekend. That alone should ensure the Lions put up a score the Hawks can’t match, as long as they don’t keep playing like millionaires and get back to basics.

As with a couple of other sides, there is a feeling the Hawks are trending downwards for the run home. The effort against Melbourne looks like a late-season peak, so the assumption is they won’t be able to reach that level again this year. Brisbane haven’t lost to a side in the bottom six all season. Tough to see it starting here.

Pick Brisbane by 33
🍻 Pub bet
Full-time Tri-Bet
Lions by 25+ points
$1.69 with
TopSport

AFL Round 20: GWS v Port Adelaide

Chose this one as the match of the round, for obvious reasons. If we know Port Adelaide are a rung below the top contenders, where does that put the Giants in the pecking order? Not far off Port in our book. Sets up for a perfect prime time Sunday contest at the neutral ground of Metricon Stadium.

Finlayson and Greene return to give the Giants a bit more firepower. Their past fives scores have been between 64 and 72 points. Remarkably consistent, but they’ll need at least a couple more unless they completely shut down Port up the other end.

The couch critics call Port Adelaide flat track bullies. They haven’t beaten a current top eight team. The Giants are eighth. Here’s their chance. Obviously it’s not as straight forward as that. Just a slight drop off in offensive potency compared to last season has cost them so far – they’ve gone from 2nd in scoring in the 2020 shorter quarters to 6th overall in 2021. A couple of goals at both ends has made a huge difference to their fortunes against the better sides.

Do we call the Giants a good side or an also-ran? They are probably in the same boat as the Bombers, Tigers, Dockers and Saints. Enough talent to compete yet with a very mixed formline.

The one area the Giants have an edge is through the middle. They bat so deep with quality on-ballers who seem to get better the longer the game goes. If they can keep Parish and Merrett to season low disposal counts (yep, they did), can they do the same to Wines and Boak? They are slightly different players than the Bombers pair so it’s a solid test.

Really torn with this one. The stoppage game favours GWS, while Port have shown they can score more freely. Probably comes down to whether the Giants can save a couple of goals down back and turn them into scores of their own. Can’t wait to find out if they do.

Pick Port Adelaide by 6
🍻 Pub bet
Full-time Tri-Bet
Either team by <12.5 points
$3.15 with
TopSport

AFL Round 20: Fremantle v Richmond

Another interesting game to finish. The Dockers go in as outsiders thanks to an unrelenting run with injury – imagine their team with Cox, Hamling, Hill and Lobb. Now add their latest absentees in Fyfe, Walters and Pearce. They are seriously cursed.

Of course the Tigers depth has been tested a fair bit as well – no Martin, Broad, Balta, Vlastuin or Houli. As we’ve said all along though, their forward line is largely untouched. And that’s where they do their damage.

The Tigers need a repeat of their 16 marks inside 50 against Brisbane two weeks ago. Last week the Geelong defence held them to half that figure. Fremantle aren’t close to either side defensively, so we can be confident the Tigers can find room up forward for Lynch, Riewoldt and Chol to control the air.

The Dockers’ best chance might be to lock this game down. A stoppage grind will be right up their alley with Darcy in red hot form and a midfield group that has shown they can compete with most sides, even without Nat Fyfe. No one has a better stoppage score differential than the Dockers in the past seven matches. That’s their golden chance to win the territory battle and figure out ways to score.

Went into this preview looking to make a case for the Dockers. They do have a stoppage edge, but it’s just so hard to see how they stop Richmond from scoring, particularly through their key forwards. Without Cox, Pearce and Hamling they are seriously stretched. Any side would find it difficult under that scenario.

Freo not without a hope in front of a home crowd. They will know the blueprint, it’s just a matter of execution. Really wish their scoring profile was a little bit better recently. If they can’t find avenues to score then the more potent forward line of Richmond should prevail.

Pick Richmond by 4
🍻 Pub bet
Full-time Tri-Bet
Either team by <12.5 points
$3.00 with
TopSport

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