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march 20th 7:25pm
Essendon and Hawthorn start their respective 2021 AFL campaigns with a battle against each other from Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
Both teams will be seeking to atone after disappointing 2020 seasons saw the Bombers finish well and truly outside the top eight with a 6-11 record, while the Hawks spent the majority of its year in the bottom six after finishing with a 5-12 record.
In a game that is steeped in tradition and an immense rivalry dating back to the ‘Line in the sand’ game back in 2004, there will be absolutely no love lost.
The only issue is that Joe Daniher – who kicked three goals in the win – is now a Brisbane Lion, while dashing flanker Adam Saad has become Carlton man.
Essendon will need to manufacture a focal point up forward if it is to get the four points over the Hawks in Round 1.
Newly appointed Bombers coach Ben Rutten worked the angles and helped his team find enough avenues towards goal against Geelong in the AAMI Series, it was just the inaccuracy that hurt them.
Cale Hooker looks an absolute lock to play as a permanent forward this season and he will attempt to give the Hawthorn defence something to think about come Saturday night.
His four-goal display against Geelong will not have gone unnoticed by Hawks coach Alistair Clarkson.
The four-time premiership coach has almost already conceded 2021 as a write off given the young profile of his list and the inexperienced heads that are likely to partake in their season opener.
While the Bombers did lose Adam Saad and Daniher from the winning team against Hawthorn last season, Clarkson’s men did start the $1.97 outsiders.
The return to full fitness of Bomber Devon Smith as well as the midfield ball winning role likely to be played by Bombers youngster Darcy Parish, Essendon look poised to make it winning start to 2021.
Prediction: Essendon by 15 points
Essendon head to head at $2.13
FIRST GOAL SCORER
jayden laverde or jacob koschitzke
Everyone loves a first goal scorer bet and we’ve had an in depth look at this particular market to find some value for the punters.
Essendon were notoriously slow starters from a first goal perspective last year only managing to kick the opening major of the game on four out of 17 occasions.
In those instances, it was Devon Smith, Anthony McDonald Tippungwuti, Jayden Laverde (twice) who managed to nail the first goal of the game.
For Hawthorn, Jack Gunston (three times), Luke Breust, Chad Wingard, James Worpel, Mitchell Lewis made it seven first goals during the 2020 season.
Jack Gunston will definitely miss the Round 1 clash following back surgery, so it leaves the door ajar for another Hawk to step up and take the mantle of first goal scorer.
Jacob Koschitzke looks like one of the more potent tall forwards likely to line up in the Hawks forward 50, while Cale Hooker for the Bombers is all but certain to start at full forward.
Laverde looks over the odds as does Koschitzke.
Jayden Laverde first goal scorer at $18
Jacob Koschitzke first goal scorer at $12
total points scored
The current market is set at 167.5 points for the total points scored in this game.
If we look at the game between the sides last season, it was well under that current quota as both teams combined to score 158 points in Round 14.
Fast forward to Round 1, with neither team boasting forwards lines that are potent enough to kick massive scores week in week out, we expect this one to unders.
The last time the teams met at Marvel Stadium, the total score reached 173, however, both teams had much more by the way of genuine forward talent.
Joe Daniher and Jack Gunson both lined up for their respective sides, whereas now, both will not be on the field.
Suggested Bet: Total points scored under 167.5 at $1.90