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Balancing AFL Odds - Will Hawthorn Hawks Rookie Gamble Pay Off?

From Claire Siblot
August 2016.

In a season where literally anything can happen, the AFL's Hawthorn Hawks are making a bold move in a bid to secure a place in the top eight. With bye rounds out of the way and the official run towards the finals now in progress, the Hawks have looked in supreme form for much of the season. However, a loss to Melbourne and an injury blow to defender Ben Stratton have made the league leaders vulnerable.

While a place in the top eight is still on the cards, the side's for and against percentage could see them falter at the final hurdle. For some, this was always going to happen. According to's Ashley Brown, West Coast were the hot favourites for the Premier title heading into the season, while the Hawks were destined for third place on the 2016 ladder.

Odds Favour Hawks but Pundits Pick West Coast

"First of six vs Port 2011" (CC BY 2.0) by raider of gin

As events have played out, the Hawks have risen up and the odds now reflect that. According to the oddsmakers at William Hill, 13/4 says that the Hawks will clinch the Grand Final later this year. In contrast, when you click here to get the best AFL odds for the 2016 season, you'll notice that many people's early pick, West Coast, are now 20/1 outsiders for the title.

For those with an eye for value, 20/1 on a team like West Coast could be too good an opportunity to pass up, but it could all depend on whether the Hawks' gamble pays off. In a bid to maintain their dominant position and prevent a side like Sydney (15/4 odds at William Hill) from making a late surge, the Hawks are putting their faith in Ryan Burton. The first-round draft pick might not be a household name for AFL fans, but with his injury worries behind him it could be his time to shine. Although few are expecting miracles on his debut, the 19-year-old kicked three goals and took nine marks in a recent VFL game and looks to be a hot prospect for the future.

Can Fresh Blood Keep Hawks' Dreams Alive?

"Celebration on Buddy's 500th" (CC BY 2.0) by raider of gin

In fact, with seasoned players like Stratton succumbing to injury, many are suggesting that the Hawks' ability to call on fresh talent could make the difference as the season draws to a close. However, while players like Burton will bring a flush of youth into the side, the fate of Hawks' season will still rest on the shoulders of the old guard and, according to the Herald Sun's Sam Landsberger, the club's physios.

With Paul Puopolo and Cyril Rioli putting their bodies on the line as the games pile up, the physios are working double-time to keep things ticking over. Indeed, with Stratton sidelined, the Hawks can't afford any more injuries as they walk what Landsberger has described as a "tightrope" into September.

Success and Defeat Just a Kick Away

"Lance Franklin. First of eight vs Port 2" (CC BY 2.0) by raider of gin

In a season where league success can hinge on a single game, making a bold move by starting a rookie like Burton could payoff for the Hawks. Of course, while the odds might favour the Hawks at this stage, there are several sides that could still nip in and upset the odds. Whether it's West Coast as the outside shot, Sydney Swans or Adelaide Crows at 4/1 with William Hill, the only thing that is clear this season is that literally anything could happen.

Will the Hawks' big play prove decisive or will recent results come back to haunt them? At this stage, only time will tell.


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