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 23 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!
AFL Round 23: Richmond v Hawthorn

We usually stay away from talk about the betting markets, but the Hawks were magically backed as if unbeatable at some stage on Tuesday. We have been underestimating Hawthorn lately yet we have a reasonable handle on the Tigers, who only seem to play a couple of competitive quarters a week.

Team selection gives us a fair hint. Richmond have nearly broken the world record for changes, with no fewer than TEN players coming out of the side. Incredible. The list of inclusions isn’t too bad when you look closely, but clearly their side is pretty decimated now. The Hawks welcome back Worpel, O’Meara and (out of nowhere) Luke Breust. Could not be more contrasting signals from these two sides.

It’s one of those weird Round 23 matches where anything could happen. The new Tigers line up could just play like the shackles are well and truly off, even if they look severely out of their depth on paper. Still enough quality across the board to enjoy the wide open spaces of the MCG, where Riewoldt and Lynch have combined for 32 goals this season. After a shocker last week from both of them, pride alone should dictate a lift in form against a Hawks side not exactly flush with incredible key defenders at the moment.

Still, given the form of these two sides it’s no wonder the avalanche of support has come for the Hawks. Three wins in a row, two of them against teams in the top six. We learned our lesson by underestimating them for several weeks, but with that kind of setup there is always the danger of them being softened up for a flat one. Given the send off for Alistair Clarkson and the kind of side the Tigers have produced, you still have to think the Hawks finish on a high note.

This is one of those games where it all seems too obvious. Are we in for a surprise here?

Pick Hawthorn by 10

🍻 Pub bet
Richmond +17.5
$1.90 with TopSport

AFL Round 23: Sydney v Gold Coast

The finals might come a couple of weeks too late for Sydney, who are showing signs of tapering off a little after a big year of rapid improvement. Add to that Nick Blakey and Josh Kennedy’s season-ending injuries and they have a tough task ahead of them to go deep into the finals series.

Still, they come up against the Suns at a pretty good time. Even without Buddy last week, the Swans had an average of 92 games experience across their playing group. The Suns had only 68, which makes it no surprise that they have conceded some big scores in the past month. The season has caught up with them in a big way, admittedly in one of the toughest runs home any side has faced.

On the offensive side they haven’t offered much themselves. Either side of the win against Carlton in Round 21, the Suns have managed eight goals in eight quarters of football. Can they find the sort of effort that managed to beat the Swans in Round 6 out of nowhere? In that game they posted a 195 pressure rating and found plenty of ways to score, posting 100 points for only the second time this year. A repeat of that level of pressure goes close to challenging Sydney (and most sides) but they haven’t reached that level since they peaked across Round 16 and 17 with wins against the Giants and Tigers.

The Swans have far too many offensive options not to post another 90+ total here. No Franklin last week and Isaac Heeney was well held, so up bobs Will Hayward and Tom Papley to hit the scoreboard. The ground level players for Sydney will be an absolute handful for the Suns, and enough to get them over the line despite their injury worries.

Even taking into account some usual final-round madness, it’s hard to see the Suns having enough scoring power here. Sydney probably hit their top form at the wrong time this season but a good win here will give them some solid confidence heading into the finals next week.

Pick Sydney by 28

🍻 Pub bet
Top goalscorer: Lance Franklin
$3.60 with TopSport

AFL Round 23: Brisbane v West Coast

After a two-goal loss to Hawthorn in Round 20, many feared the Lions had lost their mojo a little. Looking back now, and knowing the kind of form the Hawks are in, it wasn’t actually as surprising a result, and probably the loss they needed to have. They’ve scored 120, 118 and 142 either side of that game, confirming that their best form of defence is probably just to attack.

The Eagles will give them plenty of opportunity – they are the worst pressure side in the competition, among the worst tackling sides in recent history (hard to get a true measure as the official tackle/missed tackle stats aren’t a very good guide), and have a back six that can’t defend one-on-one.

Once the teams dropped the Lions just became even stronger favourites. No Kennedy, McGovern, Kelly or Sheppard in the Eagles side. Brisbane unchanged.

Something would have to go horribly wrong for the Eagles to pinch this. Is their glimmer of hope the midfield? They could roll the dice at stoppage, win the clearance battle and give their forwards enough supply to compete, but it could just as easily backfire if they are too offensively-minded. It might be Nic Naitanui BOG or bust.

The stoppage angle relies heavily on the Eagles having unbroken chains for long periods – as soon as the Lions can force it back into a contest, West Coast are disadvantaged again. They have the worst post-clearance contested possession figures in the comp in most categories. On a fast ball movement deck like the Gabba, this spells trouble.

The real enemy of Brisbane might be themselves. When you find yourself in a low-pressure contest outside of stoppage situations, there is a tendency for some teams to let their natural flair get the better of them. The Lions certainly fit into this category – remember a few weeks ago when we mentioned that it looked like all their forwards wanted to be the “finisher” rather than stick to the basics? They can’t afford to fall back into that trap in this one, right on the eve of the finals.

Really hard to see how the Eagles have the energy to get over Brisbane in this sort of matchup. Team selection suggests they’ve waved the white flag, although the positive spin is that some pretty hungry depth players will get their chance. Nevertheless, it seems like it’s all become too difficult for them this season. A summer of drastic change awaits.

Pick Brisbane by 44

🍻 Pub bet
Brisbane -37.5
$1.85 with TopSport

AFL Round 23: Geelong v Melbourne

Top spot at stake here, plus the choice of finals venue against 4th spot in week one.

Interested to see if these two play all their cards in this one. There’s a slim chance they meet again around 7 days later, so that might come into consideration depending on what happens Friday night. You’d think the Cats are more likely to pull a few surprises, while the Dees generally don’t mess with their formula too much these days.

What do we do here? Tricky one.

Melbourne’s A-game is built on the back of turnover scoring. Geelong are equal parts competent at both styles of contests – stoppages and turnover, perhaps with a lean towards a bit more of a stoppage grind. The longer these sides can get the game on their terms, the better their chances at winning.

The skinny GMHBA deck probably isn’t much of a factor with this matchup. It’s more a case of the running power of Melbourne up against the contest work of Geelong, combined with their two big superstar forwards.

We find ourselves with the two best teams at forward 50 mark differential. The Dees haven’t taken as many as Geelong over the course of the season for obvious reasons, but they more than make up for it up the other end by denying their opposition. Steven May returns to hold down a key defensive post alongside Harry Petty, leaving Jake Lever to do what he does best.

Really feel like this is Melbourne’s defence vs Geelong’s offence, and the Demons turnover game vs the Cats’ stoppage power around the ground. No result would shock here, and we certainly wouldn’t talk you out of picking Melbourne who have been able to win under a variety of circumstances this season. They have the soldiers to get the job done, as long as they can contain those Cats forwards.

Heart says Demons, head says Cats. Take your pick.

Pick Melbourne by 4

🍻 Pub bet
Full time tri-bet
Either team under 9.5 points
$3.65 with TopSport

AFL Round 23: Carlton v GWS

A club under absolute siege, running out of fit players, wishing their season away. Another just needing to win to make a late charge for a deep finals run. This only ends one way, right?

Would happily make a case for Carlton here, if we could find one. Is it the lack of genuine scoring power from the Giants that gives them a chance? The Giants haven’t hit the 80-point mark in six of their last eight matches. A Blues offence without McKay will still find it tough, but with a low scoreline you’re never really out of it if you can build some belief early on.

The first quarter is critical for both sides. GWS flew out of the blocks against Richmond, and this is no greater challenge. The Blues are 50/50 in first quarters over the past two months with a positive score differential – even last week against Port they were up and about early before it all fell apart. Neither side has a great second half record of late. The Giants have won only a single last quarter in their past 8 matches.

With Toby Greene out of exile (again), and their midfield absolutely flying, the Giants just have to play to their recent level and they win here. Carlton haven’t won a clearance count since Round 18, have lost 9 of their past 12 differentials (and broken even twice in that period) and have outscored their opponent from stoppage by more than two goals only once this entire season.

From a turnover standpoint, the Giants aren’t setting the world on fire but steadily improving now they have some confidence back. Given the Blues aren’t valuing defence all that much, GWS will focus on preventing this game from resembling a bit of circle work. If it’s too open they won’t have as much chance to exert their dominance at the contest.

Giants are slowly becoming one of our favourite sides. We will drop off them quite quickly if they can’t win this one.

Pick GWS by 23

🍻 Pub bet
GWS -21.5
$1.95 with TopSport

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