AFL Finals: Week 1 Preview

AFL finals picks - daily fantasy AFL

We’re finally here! After 23 rounds of AFL footy we’re now just a month away from finding out from potentially crowning a back-to-back champion or ushering in new premiers.

This is the best weekend of footy of the season, with four high quality matches including the top teams all facing off in electric atmospheres with everything to play for.

Richmond head into the series as the undeniable favourites, and rightfully so, but they are far from a sure thing. There appears to be two or three legitimate contenders coming out of the lower group, with Sydney and GWS in particular boasting as much talent as anyone in the competition. Expect fireworks galore as the best eight teams of the year go head-to-head this weekend.

Let’s take a look the matchups and top daily fantasy picks from each contest.

Richmond vs. Hawthorn

The first match of the week appears to be the most lopsided on paper, but if we’ve learned nothing else from this season, it’s to expect the unexpected. Richmond demolished the competition en route to the minor premiership, but they will know the job really is only halfway done. They will look to join Brisbane and Hawthorn as the only teams to win consecutive flags since the turn of the millenium, and you’d be brave to doubt them. Hawthorn, however, potentially post the team with the most staunch opposition to their campaign. Not through their talent, which certainly comes in at second best, but through a culture that has been built over a decade through Alastair Clarkson. This team believes it can compete with anyone on any stage in any situation, and their raucous finish to the season and assault on the top 4 is further evidence of that. I expect this to be a low scoring, cagey affair, with the Tigers winning by less than two goals.

Gun: Tom Mitchell ($19.6m)

Richmond’s complete lack of top level fantasy options combined with Tom Mitchell absolutely running away with the overall scoring title makes the Brownlow medalist to be a no brainer. He’s always up for the big games, producing some of his best performances of the season against the top 6 and he currently has the lease on the MCG. Richmond’s ball pressure is elite, but potentially less affective around the contest and Mitchell made short work of even Sydney’s great midfield last week, so I wouldn’t be concerned about him here. Huge minutes and plenty of touches for the game’s best ball winner.

Dud: Toby Nankervis ($14.7m)

The Tigers’ no.2 fantasy player this year, only behind a fast finishing Dustin Martin, Toby Nankervis has backed up last year’s wonderful POD season with another strong showing, but I can’t find value here. With both Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn still featuring in the finals, and Nankervis coming up against former All-Australian ruckman Ben McEvoy, investing $15m in the Nank doesn’t feel astute and would be a desperation play to grab a player in a team that haven’t offered value all year.

Point of Difference: Jack Gunston ($14.3m)

Jack Gunson has leapt back into the thinking of fantasy owners over the past month, finding huge success playing back in the full forward line. Hawthorn clearly have shown their hand in the later rounds, as it appeared to have been the plan all along to move Gunston up front as they established their lineup for the finals. He’s an elite one-on-one player, contested marker and can be a lethal kick in front of goal. If the Hawks are to get anything out of this one, Gunston will have to be heavily involved.

Melbourne vs. Geelong

A Friday night blockbuster of the highest level. A plethora of stars across all lines on both teams, a smorgasbord of All-Australians and elite fantasy options. This will be a game you don’t want to miss. Geelong won both their meetings this year by a combined 5 points, largely due to a Max Gawn miss at the hooter and a Zach Tuoy bomb after the buzzer. That suggests we are in for an absolute classic. Dangerfield, Ablett and Selwood vs. Oliver, Viney and Jones. That’s worth the admission on its own. I think Gawn is the key here, and if he can get clean distribution to his star trio and dominate the matchup presumably led by Blicavs, that could just about decide it. Demons in a close one.

Gun: Max Gawn ($17.2m)

Max Gawn has dominated everyone put in his way this season. Another season of the highest quality from the big bearded one, while Brodie Grundy won the fantasy sweepstakes, Gawn reminded even him during their Round 12 matchup who the undisputed king of the position still is. Geelong are without a recognised ruckman, usually offering a mixture of Mark Blicavs, Ryan Abbott and Tom Hawkins. That doesn’t bode well for the Cats. I expect Gawn to dominate with 45+ hit outs to advantage and a monster score well over triple figures.

Dud: Joel Selwood ($16.4m)

Joel Selwood’s scores have taken a hit over the past month or so of footy after Geelong took him off the contest and almost played him in a sweeping role between the midfield and defensive lines. While his team reaped the benefits and significantly helped the fantasy outputs of Gary Ablett and Patrick Dangerfield, and Tim Kelly for that matter, his suffered and I don’t think it’s going to change here. He isn’t quite the player he was, and while he’s still capable of really solid 90-100 scores, I think there are better options.

Point of Difference: Tom Hawkins ($13.9m)

Big Tom Hawkins has been the form forward of the competition the past month, and he’s going to be a real issue for the Demons in this one. He was the architect of their late comeback in Round 18, kicking 7.0 in arguably the best game of his career. Melbourne’s defensive line don’t really have a matchup for him, particularly in the absence of Jake Lever, so it’s going to have to be a team effort to stop the Tomahawk.

Sydney vs. GWS

We’re spoiled with our second Sydney derby in just three weeks, as the Swans host their little brothers at the SCG on a bumper Saturday afternoon knockout finals match. The Swans won both matchups this year, by 16 and 20 points respectively, and have completely dominated the historical battle between the two. I flat out do not trust the Giants in finals football. They have shown so much promise for years and have all the talent in the world, but they have consistently failed to produce when they’ve needed to and the week off for Luke Parker and Lance Franklin should have the Swans in position to inflict more pain on GWS.

Gun: Lance Franklin ($14.5m)

The AFL may not have been a greater showman than Lance Franklin. Few rise for the big occasion like Buddy, and he has a history of humiliating the Giants. He kicked 5.4 on them a fortnight ago, but four of those goals came after arch nemesis Phil Davis was hobbled by a hip injury. He returns for this marquee matchup, but the week off for no.23 should have him fit and raring to go. I’m banking on Buddy to go huge.

Dud: Lachie Whitfield ($16.7m)

Lachie Whitfield really struggled in the most recent meeting, finding just 17 touches and being forced to play on Buddy at times. He has had a wonderful couple of months of footy given the chance to distribute out of the backline in the absence of Heath Shaw, but his defensive work rate will have to be extremely high against a relentless Sydney attack, and I can’t see value in the 15th most expensive player in the game.

Point of Difference: Tim Taranto ($14.9m)

With all eyes on Jeremy Cameron and Josh Kelly as far as the Giants forwards go, and potentially a Toby Greene return, this is the kind of game where Tim Taranto could make a complete nuisance of himself. Sydney has a young backline, highlighted by the elite play of Dane Rampe and Jake Lloyd, but have inconsistent performers thereafter. Taranto ripped the Swans for 6 goals a fortnight ago playing just that role, floating on the flank off the play and taking advantage of an overloaded defensive unit attempting to quash the distribution of the star-studded Giants midfield. Taranto isn’t cheap, but if their last meeting was any kind of measuring stick, he could be a winning play.

West Coast vs. Collingwood

The final game of the round sends us over to the West Australian capital where an undermanned West Coast host a dangerous Collingwood. For me, this is the most likely game to produce an upset. The Eagles over-performed in the absences of Nic Natanui and Andrew Gaff, and should be commended for rehabilitating their season despite a worrying slide. The Magpies won’t be trusted until they show us something, but I think there is more class and experience in the key positions that give them the edge. Brodie Grundy will be key, and if he can dominate the ruck, as he should, a rejuvenated Taylor Adams should be able to combine with the ever-reliable Steele Sidebottom and Scott Pendlebury to push the Pies a win away from the grand final.

Gun: Brodie Grundy ($19.1m)

In the absence of Nic Nat, there’s only one way to go here. The no.2 scorer all year, Brodie Grundy has shown us how good he can be when he’s healthy, and the results are evident by Collingwood’s top 3 finish. He is the best all-round ruck in the game, capable of intercepting in the game, kicking goals up forward and running the field unlike any other big man in the game. The no.1 fantasy ruck in the game by a long way, you can’t go wrong, particularly coming up against Scott Lycett. Superstar.

Dud: Jack Redden ($15.6m)

Jack Redden has picked up a lot of the slack left over by Andrew Gaff and has helped the Eagles maintain a top 2 finish. I just don’t see the value here however. At $15.6 he comes in as the 26th most expensive player in the game and with a plethora of better options available in this game let alone the other fixtures, I don’t think you can justify picking a midfielder in a unit that shouldn’t have much success. There is certainly value in West Coast’s defensive line, Elliot Yeo at the top of that list, as well as their forward line with Jamie Cripps and Jack Darling, but Sidebottom, Adams and Pendlebury should make it a long day for Redden.

Point of Difference: Jeremy McGovern ($10.8m)

Jeremy McGovern may prove the key to West Coast should they win this game. McGovern has had huge success when being pushed into the forward line, and with Collingwood without a real key forward, this could be the time the Eagles unleash him forward. Whether or not that happens there should be plenty of chances for contested possessions and marks, and if I’m correct and he gets moved up the ground, goals come into the equation as well. He’s tremendous value and offers real POD value.

That’s all for Week 1’s daily fantasy AFL picks, now be sure to get your lineups in. Good luck!

Pick a team and win your share of guaranteed cash prizes playing daily fantasy AFL at PlayON, including entries into the $5,000 Grand Final game.