2018 AFL Grand Final Predictions and Betting Preview

West Coast Eagles v Collingwood Magpies

Saturday, September 29 2:30pm, MCG

The 2018 AFL Grand Final will see a rematch of the Qualifying final between the Collingwood Magpies and the West Coast Eagles. This is probably a matchup that not many expected as both sides were tipped for a bottom 8 finish before the season. So credit goes to each side for overcoming the doubters.

Last week, Collingwood came out of the blocks against Richmond and put them to sword in the first half. It was a bit like their start against GWS, except this time they converted opporunitines into goals. Just before half-time, the Pies lead was over 50 points and the game was pretty much over from there. Steele Sidebottom was best on ground with 41 disposals and 13 marks. He picked up 2nd place in the Brownlow on Monday and will be a favourite for the Norm Smith. de Goey kicked 4 goals and beat his matchup with Alex Rance. Brodie Grundy was impressive once again in the ruck with 56 hit-outs and added a goal. Taylor Adams continued his form this finals with 36 disposals. But the highlight of the game was American Mason Cox. It’s really an amazing story having not played AFL as a kid, he made the Tigers defence looks clueless. They really had no answer to his height as he took 11 marks and kicked 3 goals. He’s now 2nd in AFL history for contested marks taken in a final as well. Other good stories were Jack Crisp kicking 2 goals and the underrated Tom Langdon taking 13 marks.

Much like the Magpies performance, West Coast’s Preliminary final was over before half-time. They led by around 70 points at the break as they dominated the poor Dees. The Eagles ran harder and tackled furiously to put immense pressure on the away side. Jack Redden was outstanding and proved he’s incredibly underrated. He picked up 31 disposals, kicked a goal and laid 9 tackles. With Gaff out with suspension, he’s proving to be a handy replacement. The Eagles forward line has been hard to stop this season, especially at Optus Stadium, and that proved the difference. Josh Kennedy kicked 4 goals straight and Jack Darling was inaccurate but still kicked 3. Then the small forwards had a field day as LeCras and Cripps both kicked 3 goals. There is some concern for defender Jeremy McGovern as he battles a corky but I doubt he misses such an important game.

In the head to head, the two sides met each other twice in season 2018, including the finals. In the Qualifying final at Optus Stadium, a tough final saw the Eagles just get home by 16 points in the end. It was probably the best final to watch of the series so far and hopefully the Grand Final proves similar. Previously in Round 17, the points went to the Eagles again as they travelled to this venue and beat the Pies by 35 points. West Coast have won both games at the MCG this season and I think building Optus Stadium to a similar layout as the home of footy has been a huge factor in their performances away from home in 2018. In previous seasons, there would have been a question mark on their game style at the MCG but not anymore.

The road to the Grand Final for the Magpies hasn’t been easy but credit goes to Nathan Buckley and his men. Buckley has been under immense pressure since taking this job and the faith in him has eventually paid off. They kicked off the season with 2 straight defeats and the doubts started again. But 3 straight wins seemed to right the ship. In the middle of the season, they won 7 straight as their forward line started to dominate. They headed into the finals on the back of 3 straight wins which setup a tough final over in Perth. They went down by 16 points but they weren’t totally outplayed, which showed in their next 2 victories. They outclassed the Giants at the MCG and the 10 point margin doesn’t really tell the story since they missed a number of easy goals in the first quarter. Then as mentioned, they dominated the top side in the AFL last week and ended the Tigers 22 game winning streak at the ‘G.

The Eagles started the season with a 29 point loss against Sydney and then proceeded to win their next 10 games to put them near the top of the ladder. Coming into 2018, there was a lot of question marks on their experience. Matt Priddis, Sam Mitchell and Drew Petrie all retired in the offseason but the core of the Eagles has proved strong. They’ve also had to deal with the added distractions of the Andrew Gaff suspension and Nic Nat season ending knee injury. Those two players will be missed this Saturday but the Eagles depth is proving it’s worth at the moment. In the end, they finished 2nd on the ladder and gained home advantage at Optus Stadium. As a result, they won both finals at the venue and will now travel to Melbourne for ultimate glory.

West Coast will play in their first Grand Final since 2015 and they were no match for the Hawks on that occasion in a 46 point defeat. Meanwhile, it’s been 7 long years since the Pies reached this day. They were also smashed in their last Grand Final, going down by 38 points against the Cats. So with both sides coming off poor performances in the big game, that should make them desperate to overturn history.

In the end, Collingwood are the favourites in the betting but this will likely be another close affair. Especially since the Eagles are 2-0 against them this year and beat them at the ‘G in the regular season. However, picking a winner is tough and I’ll be looking at either team to win this by under 24.5 points. The last final between the sides finished in a 16 point margin and I think this will be a similar type of game. The key in this game staying close is the even matchups around the ground. The Pies have Tyson Goldsack who can lockdown on either Kennedy or Darling. While small forwards can be contained by Langdon and Maynard. While in the Eagles backline, Hurn and McGovern are hard to get past. In the ruck, the Eagles usually play 2 ruckmen which should help them against Grundy. The midfield battle probably favours the Pies with the likes of Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Adams, Phillips and Treloar all in good form. The Eagles will miss Gaff but Redden and Shuey are playing well enough to gather plenty more possessions. Enjoy the game!

Stadium Record

The Magpies are 2-0 at the MCG in the finals this year and 10-6 overall. West Coast has travelled to the ‘G twice in 2018 and have won both.

Head to Head Record

Since 2010, the Magpies hold a 9-6 advantage, which is 7-1 at the MCG. But the Eagles have won both clashes against them in 2018.

Best Bet

Triple Margin II – Any Other Result ($1.82)

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