Who will win the 2017 AFL premiership and what are the best value bets to be back this year? Gavin Smit picks out three value plays ahead of the start of the season.
“You have to lose one to win one” is a popular belief when it comes to AFL premierships. Last season's premiers the Western Bulldogs proved that’s not always the case. After a first round finals exit in 2015 they backed up and went all the way in 2016. Coming from 7th position after the home and away rounds to win the 2017 flag and break a 62-year club drought. The Dogs will be out to defend the flag this season but it’s their Preliminary Final opponents from 2016 that are the team to beat now. The GWS Giants never made to the big dance last year but they certainly “lost one”. Having belted the Swans in Round 1 of the 2016 finals, they threw away a three goal final term lead and were eliminated by the Dogs in a home Preliminary Final. That capitulation in front of their home fans will be a driving force behind a successful 2017 campaign. They have added Brett Deledio to their already impressive list and have a perfect blend of experience and talented youth. Talented youth is an understatement, the Giants are full to the brim of up and coming superstars in all areas of the ground particularly through the mid-field where this group will evolve the game in the next few years. GWS are on the verge of a dynasty era, perhaps the greatest the competition has ever seen. I expect 2017 to be the year of their first flag with many more to follow.
“Oh when the Saints go marching in, oh when the saints go marching in, oh how I love to be on St Kilda, when the Saints go marching in”. The Saints are posted as a $2.60 chance to make the top 8 this season. They went agonisingly close in 2016 finishing in 9th place on percentage only. You can expect that to be improved on this year and we will all be marching in to collect when the Saints finish top 8 this year. Their list has improved over the off season. Potential superstar swingman Jake Carlyle is a massive addition after a 12-month ban, their kids have another year in their legs and the prime movers are still there. St Kilda is a club on the right side of a rebuilding phase and with 14 games at Etihad Stadium, their favorite track, you can back them with confidence to make the 8 this season.
Saint Nick is coming off an outstanding 2016 season and to cash in on him in 2017 it’s his marking strength we will focus on. Last season the St Kilda champion took a total of 222 marks in 21 games at an average of 10.57 per game. Heath Shaw ran a distant second with 183 total marks despite playing three more games than the St Kilda champion.
Riewoldt’s marking has been his greatest strength throughout his career and recent seasons have been no exception. He has topped the AFL for most marks in a season nine times in his career including 3 of the past 4 seasons at a career average of 8.84 marks per game. He sits second on the all-time marks list and will pass Gary Dempsey during the year for the number one position should he stay fit. And stay fit is all he has to do to see us get the chocolates here. If Reiwoldt can play 18-plus games he will take enough marks to top the competition yet again and give punters a nice collect in this market.