The opening game of the 2021 AFL playoffs kicks off on Friday with the Geelong Cats vs Port Adelaide Power.
Home-ground advantage goes to Port, which finished second on the ladder. Just behind them was Geelong, so it should be a tight contest.
The online sportsbook has the Power as 5½-point favorites, but an upset could be on the cards.
Geelong Battles Against Demons
Last week’s 81-77 loss to the Melbourne Demons should have been a win after holding a big first-half lead. Despite giving up the four competition points and losing out on the minor premiership, Geelong is in good stead.
The Cats were strong when beating St Kilda 85-71 in Round 22, and even better when beating Fremantle 100-31 in Round 18.
Celebrating his 300th game is Cats superstar Tom Hawkins. However, due to Covid restrictions, his family can’t make the trip to Adelaide, which has left the forward gutted.
“Obviously, they’re not going to be able to come across and I’m going to be away from them for a bit, which to be honest I was shattered about early,” Hawkins told News.com.au.
“I would have loved to have my immediate family and my friends at the game to watch me play. But, I take solace in the fact that I’ve got my teammates there who are the other part of getting me to where I am today.”
— pat (@patmoore1r) August 23, 2021
Hawkins is excited about giving the Cats another chance to win the premiership, which would be its first since 2011.
“I think I’m in a privileged position where I’m in my 15th season, I’m going into my 14th year of finals,” Hawkins said. “Although you could arguably look back on the last 10 years and we haven’t been able to win a premiership, but we get given a chance every year.
“There’s nothing more exciting than the feeling that finals gives.”
AFL betting markets have the Cats as +5½ outsiders, which is a generous line. Port Adelaide has had a tough time beating top-four opponents, so they’re no sure thing.
Can Port Handle Pressure?
Port Adelaide has not beaten a team in the top four this season, including a 112-91 loss to the Geelong Cats in Round 13.
They have suffered losses to Geelong, Brisbane and Melbourne, so most of their winning performances have come against the easier teams. That is a big worry entering the playoffs, especially given it’s the favorite to win.
Port ended the regular season with a 66-64 win over the Western Bulldogs, which was too close for comfort. It was a much-needed win and it secured the second spot on the AFL ladder.
However, a recent 86-55 loss to Melbourne demonstrated their struggles against top-echelon teams. Scoring only 55 points, especially at home, isn’t a good effort. The Power only scores big totals against the bottom-eight teams, so scoring over 75 points would be a good effort on Friday.
Port Adelaide has locked in a top two spot after an incredible comeback.
— AFL.com.au (@AFLcomau) August 20, 2021
Many critics, including club great Kane Cornes, believe this is the year for Port Adelaide to shine after years of not delivering in the finals.
“It has been building nicely for Port Adelaide for the last seven to eight weeks,” Cornes said. “They finally got all their players back and not just back, they’ve had a good month run in, particularly with those small forwards (Robbie Gray, Connor Rozee and Zak Butters).
“The situation to be able to play at home, they’re in really good form and they’ve timed their run exceptionally well.”
Port Adelaide is a dangerous team, but we wouldn’t have priced them as favorites. Geelong demands respect and will be tough to hold out.
Cats vs Power Pick
We think the Geelong Cats are the stronger team and they’re being undervalued by bookmakers.
Losing last week to the Demons hurt, but it should spur them on. They have been a powerhouse in the AFL for many years, so paying off that consistency with a premiership win is possible.
Port Adelaide are yet to beat a top-level team, and we expect that to continue.