Starting on Thursday, sports fans seeking live action instead of a classic replay are in luck. The only catch is, you’ll need to stay up late – or get up early – to watch.
Australian Rules Football (AFL) kicks off its season Thursday when the defending champion Richmond Tigers host the Carlton Blues at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The match will air in the US on FS2, starting at 4 a.m. ET.
The AFL’s starting the season is a bit of a controversy, as most major professional sporting leagues elsewhere around the world chose to suspend activities because of the coronavirus pandemic. Concerns were heightened in Australia, where earlier this week, the government put into place measures that restrict crowd sizes in an effort to contain the outbreak.
Gillon McLachlan, the league’s chief executive, said AFL officials came to the decision after consulting with the teams, the country’s chief medical officer, and top government authorities.
“We also embark on this journey with clear instruction from the government that all industry and all parts of society need to keep moving forward, and we simply cannot stand still,” McLachlan said.
Still, league officials implemented some proactive measures for this season. For starters, the games will go on without fans in the stands to abide by the government’s crowd restrictions. Quarters will last just 16 minutes, as opposed to their usual 20. The regular season, if played in its entirety, will consist of 17 games, meaning everyone would play each other just once.
While some of us who grew up on ESPN’s overnight programming in the 1980s may remember the rules for the fast-paced game, the video below from the AFL will give you a quick primer.
Early Games Can Offer Value Opportunities
Not only does the start of the Aussie Rules season give fans a chance to watch a live event, but they can also bet on it where it’s legal in the States.
Over at PointsBet, Richmond is a 19.5-point favorite over Carlton, and on the moneyline, they’re offering the Tigers at -325 and the Blues, who finished 16th out of 18 AFL teams last year, at +240.
Ron Shell, PointsBet’s Vice President of Customers and Insights, told Casino.org Wednesday that the first few weeks of the season can be the hardest of any sport to set odds. As a result, there can be some good values out there.
There’s no huge amount of sources as well, because Australian Rules Football is only played in Australia,” said Shell, an Australian native now based in PointsBet’s Denver office. “The pricing’s done only in that country. As opposed to most other sports, you can find comparative sources all around the world.”
The lack of fan support may also make an impact on the teams, especially in the early games, Shell said. The 100,000-seat MCG is Richmond’s home turf, and it has a large passionate group of supporters. Without them in attendance Thursday, that could have an impact on the team.
Among the other tips Shell offers is to look at their preseason results. In Carlton’s last game, the Blues scored the first goals before giving up 16 of the next 22 scored in a 111-66 loss to Brisbane. The Tigers, meanwhile, fell to the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants 109-95 in a rematch of last year’s Grand Final – the Super Bowl of Aussie Rules.
Tigers Favored to Repeat
Besides standard betting opportunities, PointsBet also offers futures betting on both the Premiership, or winner of the Grand Final, and the Minor Premiership, or the regular season champion.
At +375, the Tigers are the favorites to win the Premiership, with the West Coast Eagles the second choice at +450. Both teams are co-favorites to win the regular-season title at +300 each.
GWS has +800 odds to win the minor premiership and +650 to win the championship. The Collingwood Magpies have +650 odds to win the premiership and +800 to win the regular season.
With few other sports available right now, Peters told Casino.org there’s an opportunity to grow the betting market for Australia’s favorite sport here in the states.
“The beauty of Aussie Rules, for people that haven’t watched it before, is that it is very, very exciting, high-scoring. There’s not many stoppages,” he said. “So, it’s definitely a sport we want to get people more exposed to.”
While PointsBet’s retail book is closed in Iowa because of the coronavirus, its mobile applications are available in Indiana and New Jersey. Iowa customers also can bet using the mobile app if they registered for an online account.