IT’S the sport that captivates a nation every weekend from March to September.
The Australian Football League is the most popular code to watch, attend and punt on in the country.
As a result of the rabid support and passion for the game, AFL fans receive the golden treatment from online bookmakers. There are typically hundreds of individual betting markets on each game and, along with the future and novelty markets, there is an incredible spread of betting options for all punters.
The AFL is the highest level of professional football in Australia.
Currently made up of 18 teams, the competition has nine home and away matches per week, spread over 23 weeks. The premiership season typically begins in the final weekend of March and a four-week finals period with eight qualifying teams begins in September. The AFL year culminates in the Grand Final, which decides the league’s champion.
The AFL first started in Victoria, where the then Victorian Football League was established in 1897 with just a handful of teams taking part.
After tremendous growth across the nation in the 1970s and 80s, the VFL expanded, welcoming the West Coast Eagles as its first interstate team in 1987 and eventually becoming the AFL in 1990.
There are now eight interstate teams and 10 teams based out of Victoria, making up the league.
The AFL attracts the biggest crowds each year and dominates television ratings in Australia. With many games telecast live on free-to-air networks, a dedicated TV station on cable and a great streaming service for online viewers, football fans and punters have access to watch their team play live from anywhere in the world, on almost any device.
The 18 AFL teams and home grounds
Adelaide Crows, Adelaide Oval, South Australia
Brisbane Lions, GABBA, Queensland
Carlton Blues, Etihad Stadium, Victoria
Collingwood Magpies, MCG, Victoria
Essendon Bombers, Etihad Stadium, Victoria
Fremantle Dockers, Domain Stadium, Western Australia
Geelong Cats, Simonds Stadium, Victoria
Gold Coast Suns, Metricon Stadium, Queensland
Greater Western Sydney Giants, Skoda, Stadium, New South Wales
Hawthorn Hawks, MCG, Victoria
Melbourne Demons, MCG, Victoria
North Melbourne Kangaroos, Etihad Stadium, Victoria
Port Adelaide Power, Adelaide Oval, South Australia
Richmond Tigers, MCG, Victoria
St Kilda Saints, Etihad Stadium, Victoria
Sydney Swans, SCG, New South Wales
West Coast Eagles, Domain Stadium, Western Australia
Western Bulldogs, Etihad Stadium, Victoria
When betting on the AFL, it’s crucial to take note of where the match is being played and who has home ground advantage.
As the AFL does not enforce a uniform rule for the size of its playing fields, many of the grounds have slight differences, which can result in different game plans and styles.
Playing on a different-sized ground, in a different climate against a hostile crowd means that the home ground advantage is a very real and substantial variable in the AFL.
Betting on the AFL
Some of the most popular betting markets on the AFL include:
Line or handicap betting
Individual player markets
Top goal scorer
First goal scorer
Each of these bets, excepting live betting, can be placed well before a match starts. Bookmakers will often have odds released up to a week in advance of each match, with more detailed player markets released after team selection closer to the weekend.
No matter your personal interest in a match, there is a betting market for it in the AFL if you look hard enough.
It’s always important to have different online bookmaker accounts, because bookmakers will often offer different markets and different odds – it’s always better to do your homework and get the best bang for your buck.
Futures markets betting in the AFL
One of the most popular Australian traditions in AFL betting is picking out your future bets at the start of each season, then watching how they unfold over the next six months.
The most popular AFL futures markets include:
– AFL Grand Final winner
– The Brownlow Medal winner for the game’s best and fairest player
– The Coleman Medal for most goals in the season
– The Norm Smith Medal for best player in the grand final
– The Rising Star for best rookie
– A club’s placing on the ladder at season’s end
– Wooden spoon (finishing on the bottom of the ladder)
These markets typically open just hours after the previous season has finished and will stay open and evolve throughout the course of a season.
For example, you can place on a bet on a player to win the Brownlow Medal before the start of the season, then watch that player’s odds grow or shrink, depending on his form from week to week. Like any fixed odds bet, if the odds change throughout the year, your initial odds and prospective return will remain unchanged. So, with this in mind, it’s always handy to do your research and uncover which players and bets represent value at the start of a season.
When counting in betting for the Brownlow Medal, Coleman Medal and Grand Final, AFL futures betting is arguably the most-popular form of wagering in the sport. Like the Melbourne Cup, it is a national past time to have at least one wager on the sport’s biggest occasions.
In many instances, online bookmakers will now pay out early on futures markets they believe to be ‘done and dusted’. This is worth taking note of when you sign up with your next bookmaker – especially if you like getting your hands on your winnings early!
If a bookmaker, for example, think that Fremantle star Nat Fyfe is a certainty to win the Brownlow Medal in 2015, it will reward punters months early with a pay out on the bet, hoping that punters will re-invest.
How does head-to-head betting work in the AFL?
Head-to-head betting in the AFL is the same for any other sport around the world. Two teams take the field – only one can walk away the winner. Who’s it going to be? Take a look at the odds, pick your team and cheer them home.
Head-to-head odds are engineered purely for a win without considering margins, lines or other factors within the game – the only thing the team you picked has to do for you to collect your cash is win the game, even by one solitary point.
At the start of the week, the bookmakers will set odds for a match. Those odds will then fluctuate, depending on betting behaviour from punters in the lead up to that match.
For example. Geelong play Richmond on Saturday night. Earlier in the week, Geelong was paying $1.45 to win, compared to Richmond’s $2.60.
If enough punters bet on Geelong at $1.45, bookmakers will respond by lowering the odds further to protect itself, winding Geelong into $1.30 or even $1.25 to deter.
It has happened many times before that a team has started a match paying just $1.01 against a lowly opponent.
Underdog teams in the AFL have been known to start as long as $10 for the win in a two-horse race if they are up against a superior opponent.
The longest odds a club has ever overcome was $15. On that occasion the Greater Western Sydney Giants created history by beating the heavily-favoured Sydney Swans, creating the biggest upset in terms of head-to-head odds in AFL history.
How do I place a line bet?
To understand the lines given to each AFL team by bookmakers, you have to imagine each line as a sort of golfing handicap.
A typical AFL line bet option will look something like this:
Richmond (-17.5) vs. Collingwood (+17.5)
Line bets will typically pay somewhere between $1.85 and $1.95.
For Richmond, the -17.5 means that for this bet, they are giving up a 17.5-point handicap for the match. If you bet on Richmond at the line and they fail to win by more than 17.5 points, you will lose the bet, even if they win the match.
Conversely, in this scenario Collingwood is given a 17.5-point head start. So, if you bet on the Magpies, even if they lose, as long as they do so by less than 17.5 points, you can still win this bet.
Line betting is a way for bookmakers to even up lop-sided contests and keep punters interested throughout the duration of a match. To calculate lines, bookmakers will take in a number of factors including current form, past encounters, home ground, injuries, average scoring numbers and more.
While you may think you see a mistake in a line offered by bookmakers, always be aware that the bag men have done all of the homework and come up with every set of odds for a reason.