As the world around us is as uncertain as it’s been in our lifetimes, the sporting world mirrors just that. All major (and minor) sports in the United States and Europe have come to a halt as we as a planet fight our first ever battle together in the fight against COVID-19. Even still, the search for normalcy continues and as our betting menu continues to shrink, the Australian Football League (AFL) rises to the occasion as the league continues as planned starting this weekend. By all accounts, the players themselves are to thank as they came forward as a united front with a desire to continue play.
A cross between rugby, soccer, and American football (with a sprinkle of basketball?), the AFL has a unique set of rules which I found most easy to understand by watching this short video. By the looks of it, Aussie Football should offer no shortage of action, and the athletes involved are clearly some of the world’s toughest, most imposingly athletic figures.
Let’s take a look at a match tonight that bounces down just before midnight on the east coast.
Fremantle Dockers at Essendon Bombers (-15.5, O/U 146.5), 11:00 PM EST (via DraftKings Sportsbook)
Allowing an average of 81.1 points per game last season while scoring 77.4, the Bombers were the only team of the eight who made the playoffs last year that actually maintained a minus point differential throughout the season. The two-game preseason was a mixed bag for the Bombers this winter (summer), as they collected narrow wins in both games but suffered as many as 15 separate injuries and will now be without key players Dyson Heppell and Cale Hooker in this one.
The last time these two teams met was the second to last game of the regular season in 2019, a must-win spot for the Bombers. After scoring the initial three goals of the match, the Bombers never looked back ultimately claiming a 30-point victory to seal their spot in the postseason. With the Bombers typical home field advantage now gone in this one thanks to COVID-19, they will welcome in a Dockers team in search of a new identity.
You have to go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time Fremantle won a road match to open up a season, a 70-point win on the road at Dockland. This season, however, the Dockers welcome in a new head coach in Justin Longmuir who is said to be bringing in a slower, more methodical style of play than they have trotted out in recent seasons. The Bombers also enjoyed a successful preseason run, winning both of their matches by an average of 24 points as veteran new-comers Jacob Townsend and Tom Cutler have already started to make a difference for the squad.
One tangible impact that the virus will have on Aussie Rules this season is that quarters will now be 16 minutes compared to 20. While this has certainly likely been adjusted already in the number, looking back at scores from last season, I don’t believe enough. Additionally, in all sports, the defense typically has the advantage early on in seasons when the offenses aren’t flowing as naturally as they will be when the season progresses.
I’m taking the under on a number that continues to dip as the match approaches.