AND then there were two.
Will it be the almighty Hawthorn Hawks ($1.60 with Sportsbet.com.au) taking home their third AFL premiership in as many years or can the upstart West Coast Eagles ($2.40 with Sportsbet.com.au) cause an upset on the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Saturday’s grand final?
The Eagles have already dealt with the Hawks once, albeit in Perth, and they will be riding high on that win, giving them the confidence to get the job done against a side many are saying is invincible.
And punters with sportsbet.com.au have jumped on board the Eagles bandwagon, smashing them in early betting.
“Hawthorn are rightly favourites in our book, they’re a class act and West Coast have a tough task on their hands,’’ sportsbet.com.au’s Christian Jantzen said.
“But punters still have West Coast’s dominant win over the Hawks from week one of the finals in their minds.
“We expect the Eagles’ price to shorten if the current rate of money continues.
“Punters are taking advantage of the juicy price of $2.40 for West Coast
“Fifteen per cent more has been wagered on the Eagles compared to the Hawks, who are the $1.60 favourites.”
Punters who backed the Hawks in earlier this season are already laughing, with the bookie paying out more than $1 million in July on a pre emptive hit at them to win the flag.
If you’re hunting up a bonus, you’ll get your cash back, up to $100, if your team loses, but leads at any break in the match on all head to head bets with sportsbet.com.au.
If you’re looking for the best price on the favourite on the day of the grand final, then WilliamHill.com.au has cut out the need for research, providing the top odds on the head to head market, when compared to Sportsbet, TAB, CrownBet, Ubet (Tatts) and Ladbrokes.
They also have a bonus for those who take advantage of their in play feature, with losing bets using that medium on teams who score the last point of the match, but get rolled, returning money back of up to $50.
While the Eagles hammered the Hawks in the qualifier, 14.12 (96) to 9.0 (64), they did it tough early against North Melbourne in Saturday night’s preliminary final, 10.20 (80) to 7.13 (55).
Poor kicking marred the match for both sides, but it could have been disaster for the Eagles, as the wasteful Roos booted 3.4 to 0.2 to open up a 20 point quarter time lead. But they whittled away at it after the first break, then booted five goals in the third quarter to take the lead back, never surrendering it again.
Sharrod Wellingham played perhaps his best game, providing sturdy defence, coupled with flair and rebound out of defence, collecting 27 disposals with three marks and a goal.
At the other end, monster Josh Kennedy only kicked two goals, but his influence was telling, with 20 disposals, nine marks and six frees for. He was too hot to handle for the North defence.
Tonight’s Brownlow Medal runner up Matthew Priddis had 26 disposals and seven tackles and, after missing the game against the Hawks through injury, he was a match winner.
The Eagles had the backing of a rabid packed out home crowd to help get them over the line and it was just the tonic, Wellingham said after the match.
“The crowd was enormous,” Wellingham said.
“You could feel them out there.
“We knew they were right behind us.
“It’s awesome. The feeling after the game was amazing. The crowd were unbelievable.
“It was a great team effort. Being able to fight back was fantastic. To dig deep was great.”
Wellingham is one of just three West Coast men to win a flag, which he did with Collingwood in 2010, early in his career.
“I just always tried to enjoy the week and just make the most of the situation we’re in,” Wellingham said.
“It’s not every year you get yourself into a grand final so it’s always good to just soak up the week and then get your mind right come game day.
“Knowing that we can take it up to them is a big factor. But they’ve been the benchmark for so long.
“We’ll get our meetings underway to work out how to approach the game.
“It’s about getting your mind right but also being able to enjoy the week.
“We’ve known for a long time that we had a talented group and our best footy was pretty good.”
Meanwhile, the loss to the Eagles in week one of the finals might have been the motivation the Hawks needed to kickstart their post season.
They trounced Adelaide by 74 points in the semi final, 21.19 (135) to 8.13 (61), and then dealt with minor premier Fremantle on Friday night, 15.4 (94) to 10.7 (67).
Hawks superstar Sam Mitchell, as he so often does, led the way with 35 disposals, while Taylor Duryea played perhaps his best match for the club, with 26 touches to go along with 10 marks. Cyril Rioli led the way up forward with three goals and 18 disposals, to go with eight marks.
Both sides have a near-clean bill of health, with gun forward Jack Gunston passed fit for the Hawks, after missing the clashes with Adelaide and Fremantle.
It leaves the Hawks with a selection conundrum, with Ryan Shoenmakers expected to make way for the club’s leading goal kicker.
Captain courageous Hodge hurt his leg late on the weekend, but Mr September would have to be in a wheelchair to miss this one, while little man Duryea copped a knock on the shoulder, but should be fit to play.
Priddis is the best backed to win the Norm Smith Medal, but he’s on the second line of betting at $7 alongside two-time winner Hodge. Mitchell is the $6 favourite.
One guy who won’t be playing in the grand final, but still has plenty of reason to celebrate, is Dockers’ superstar Nat Fyfe, who has just won the Brownlow Medal tonight.
Fyfe, who amazingly racked up 24 disposals against the Hawks, despite breaking his leg in the first contest he was involved in, racked up the third most Brownlow votes in the modern era with 31, three ahead of Priddis.
“I’m a bit blown away to be honest,” Fyfe said.
“It’s greater than me, it’s the Fremantle footy club and all our members and fans and supporters.
“We can take this home and really celebrate it as a club and as a community.”
“The last few days have been a whirlwind … until I really sat down and the vote got under way, I didn’t really put much thought into it, to be honest.
“But the nerves started to come late.”
Fyfe is the first Docker to win the award and the victory vindicated CrownBet.com.au’s decision to pay out on him in August.
In other AFL punting news, former West Coast Eagles premiership coach John Worsfold is the very short priced favourite to be Essendon’s coach next season.
Sportsbet.com.au has trimmed Worsfold’s price in from $1.18 to $1.10 after news emerged that he’s leaving the Adelaide Crows.
“Nearly half of all the money wagered on the market has gone on Worsfold, and punters have backed him in from as much as $14,” Jantzen said.
And, if you’re not happy with the Hawks or Eagles making the grand final, you can already get a punt on next year’s AFL premiers.
And it appears punters are on the Geelong band wagon, with Adelaide superstar Patrick Dangerfield expected to do all he can to make his way to the Cats this off season.
Jantzen said the Cats had their price trimmed in from $31 into $17 on the back of a $6100 bet on them to win next year’s Grand Final at the juicy price of $23.
Another punter has also put their confidence in Dangerfield, by placing a $4000 bet when the Cats were at $28.
“Geelong is the only side that’s been backed to win next year’s flag and clearly punters aren’t waiting around for official confirmation of Dangerfield’s move,” he said.
AFL grand final markets
West Coast Eagles ($2.40) vs. Hawthorn Hawks ($1.60)
West Coast Eagles 1-39 ($2.95)
West Coast Eagles 40+ ($9.50)
Hawthorn Hawks 1-39 ($2.25)
Hawthorn Hawks 40+ ($4.40)
Norm Smith Medal
Sam Mitchell ($6 @ Sportsbet.com.au)
Luke Hodge ($7)
Matt Priddis ($7)
Jordan Lewis ($9)
Josh Kennedy ($12)
Andrew Gaff ($13)
Nic Natanui ($13)
Cyril Rioli ($15)
Jarryd Roughead ($17)
Next Essendon coach
John Worsfold ($1.10, in from $1.18 @ Sportsbet.com.au)
Simon Lloyd ($11)
Brendan McCartney ($17)
Stewart Dew ($17)
Blake Caracella ($21)
Mark Harvey ($21)
Matthew Egan ($21)
Brett Ratten ($26)
John Longmire ($26)
Mark Williams ($26)
Robert Harvey ($26)
Scott Camporeale ($26)
2016 AFL Premiers
Hawthorn Hawks ($4)
West Coast Eagles ($5)
Fremantle Dockers ($8)
Sydney Swans ($10)
Port Adelaide Power ($11)
Richmond Tigers ($13)
North Melbourne Kangaroos ($15)
Geelong Cats ($17, in from $31 @ Sportsbet)
Adelaide Crows ($18)
Western Bulldogs ($18)
Collingwood Magpies ($23)
Greater Western Sydney Giants ($23)
Gold Coast Suns ($41)
Essendon Bombers ($67)
Melbourne Demons ($101)
St Kilda Saints ($101)
Brisbane Lions ($151)
Carlton Blues ($251)
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