MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: A general view is seen as Dustin Martin of the Tigers runs with the ball during the round one AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the Carlton Blues at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 24, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

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Carlton vs. Richmond

Thursday, MCG 7:20pm, AEDT

It’s been a long preseason, but finally season 2017 is here. Tonight two massive clubs of the competition, Carlton and Richmond, will lock horns. All the pressure will be on the Tigers, who have made a number of changes in the off-season. The big ins of Prestia (Gold Coast), Caddy (Geelong), and Nankervis (Sydney), mean the expectation from the ‘yellow and black’ faithful, is again at a high.

The Blues have also made some changes, however not to the level that Richmond have. There is little pressure on Carlton, as the Blues are paying $3 compared to the Tigers who are favourites at $1.40. Many believe the Blues will be cellar dwellers, and claim the wooden spoon, however this could work in their favour, as the Tigers will no doubt be feeling the heat.

The forecast is clear, and it is set to be a perfect night for the season opener. Expect upwards of 60,000 people to walk through the gates of the MCG. Richmond should win, they are a better team on paper, and they are playing for the respect of the league. But, it will be closer than most think, the Blues will surprise some people.

Tip: Tigers by 17

Collingwood vs. Western Bulldogs

Friday, MCG 7:50pm, AEDT

It seems like an age ago since the Bulldogs raised the premiership cup. Now they will begin their quest to go back-to-back by returning to the MCG to play Collingwood. The Pies have had a less than ideal week heading into round one. The controversy surrounding Jordan De Goey, and talk about Nathan Buckley’s job security, has the potential to distract them from the task at hand.

The reigning premiers will attempt to avoid the infamous “Premiership hangover”. Whether there is any truth to the idea, the Bulldogs will no doubt be craving a round one win, and some new faces should provide some extra motivation. According to UBET the Dogs should start begin 2017 with a win, as they’re favourites at $1.40 compared to Collingwood at $3.

Travis Cloke will be thrown straight into the fire, lining up against his old side in his first outing with the Dogs. The forward provided great service to the Pies, however it is unclear how the supporters will react to him playing in another jumper. Cloke’s game, and the fan’s reception of him, will provide an interesting sub-plot to keep an eye on.

Tip: Bulldogs by 29

Sydney vs. Port Adelaide

Saturday, SCG 4:35pm, AEDT

Port Adelaide will have the tough job of travelling to Sydney to take on the Swans in round one. The Power had a mixed JLT Community Series, and with the pressure mounting on Ken Hinkley, they need to perform. President David Koch has gone on record saying that anything less than making the finals will be a disappointment, adding even more expectation to the mix. The Power will either respond with an impressive effort against Sydney, or will falter and crack under the pressure.

The Swans at home will be confident of overcoming Port Adelaide. Jarrad McVeigh (calf), Isaac Heeney (glandular fever), Gary Rohan (back), and Tom Papley (knee), will all be missing however, and this opens the door for more young talent to gain some experience at the top level. Sydney’s first pick in the draft, Oliver Florent, will make his debut, Zak Jones should feature, and Dean Towers, who impressed in the pre-season, could also be an inclusion.

This could be one of the big blowouts of the round, as the line for this game currently sits at -25.5 in favour of the home side. If you look at potential match-ups across the ground, there are few that could be seen as potentially positive for Port Adelaide. There is no doubt the Swans will come out all guns blazing, and should dominate their way to a big win over the Power.

Tip: Swans by 44

St Kilda vs. Melbourne

Saturday, Etihad Stadium, 4:35pm AEDT

This is the contest that many AFL fans are most excited for. Two up and coming teams facing off, both trying to make a push for the top 8 in 2017. The Demons have built on an already promising list, adding the experience and talent of Jordan Lewis, amongst others. Meanwhile St Kilda’s mix of talented youngsters, and experienced legends of the club, seems to be building towards success.

The Demons will have their hands full in defence, with the likes of Tim Membrey, Paddy McCartin, Josh Bruce, and Nick Riewoldt all expected to feature in round one. The same will go for reverse, with Jesse Hogan, Christian Petracca, Jack Watts, and potentially Sam Weideman likely to be a part of a potent Melbourne forward line. The game could be won and lost in the midfield and whoever can win the contested ball and get good delivery inside their 50, should be well on the way to winning the game.

Excitement is growing for both of these sides, and hopefully it will reflect in attendance for the game. This should be one of the tighter games in the round, with the line at -6.5 in St Kilda’s favour, just.

Tip: Demons by 5

Gold Coast vs. Brisbane

Saturday, Metricon Stadium, 8:05pm AEDT

The Q Clash is set for another chapter, with the two teams facing off in round one for the first time. Gold Coast have bragging rights at the moment, winning their latest game by 26 points, however Brisbane lead the head-to-head 7-5.

It wasn’t a great year for Queensland Aussie rules last year, with both sides having tumultuous seasons. Things are slightly more promising this time around as the Suns welcome back a seemingly healthy Gary Ablett Jr, and more young talent, while the Lions continue to get important experience into their highly rated draft picks from the past few years.

This might not be the most impressive game skills wise, but it should still be a tough contest. Tempers are likely to flair at some point, so the umpires will no doubt be kept busy. The Suns look like the better side on paper, and their talent level should be enough to get them over the line in this one, as UBET has them with a -22.5 head start.

Tip: Gold Coast by 11

Essendon vs. Hawthorn

Saturday, MCG, 7:25pm AEDT

What a match-up for the return of the banned Essendon players. The Bombers will have little time to get sentimental about the occasion, as bitter rivals Hawthorn will come ready for battle. The Hawks have been at the receiving end of some heavy criticism because of their off-season moves. This could give motivation for the perennial grand-final contenders, who may think they have something to prove.

The AFL world will have a close eye on those Essendon players who will be featuring for the first time in over a year. Their performances will be heavily scrutinised, and thus will feel extra pressure to perform. Most of the attention has been, and will be, focused on Jobe Watson. He was one of the games best players before the saga began, and also was one of the most likely to not return to the game.

Both teams have plenty to prove heading into season 2017. Despite the fanfare surrounding the Bombers, the Hawks will go in favourites, with a $1.42 price tag attached, compared to Essendon at $2.90. They should claim the victory, but will face stiff competition from the Dons.

Tip: Hawks by 18

North Melbourne vs. West Coast 

Sunday, Etihad Stadium, 1:10pm AEDT

After the exodus of numerous big names, North Melbourne will have some new, and relatively unknown faces take the field against West Coast. The Kangaroos are expected by many to bottom out hard, however their JLT Community Series form suggests otherwise. Missing Mason Wood, and Ben Jacobs will hurt their chances in this one though.

One of the stars to leave North Melbourne will front up against them in this one as Drew Petrie was the only one of the four (Brent Harvey, Michael Firrito, Nick Dal Santo) who were forced out by the club, to find a new home. Like Travis Cloke his performance, and treatment, will be something to keep an eye on. Expect the North Melbourne supporters to show their respect and love for Petrie.

Arguably the biggest move of the off-season was Sam Mitchell’s exit from Hawthorn. West Coast have welcomed him with open arms, and the change of scenery could rejuvenate the Brownlow Medallist. Despite missing Nic Naitanui, the Eagles should take home the victory, and they’ve been well backed, as they currently have a -20.5 line in their favour. Their midfield and forward line should be too strong for the Roos, and they should win relatively comfortably.

Tip: Eagles by 31

Adelaide vs. GWS

Sunday, Adelaide Oval, 3:20pm AEDT

GWS fell one game short of their first ever grand final appearance last year. Now in 2017 they begin the season as premiership favourites at $4.50. This favouritism is fair, and expect them to come out and prove exactly why in round one.

The Crows come into the game with an injury cloud hanging over some of their big names. Rory Sloane is recovering from a fractured eye socket, while skipper Taylor Walker is also in doubt. The Giants will be missing star Stephen Coniglio and new recruit Brett Deledio, however their depth means the gap they leave should be somewhat filled.

The Giants are tough to tip against as they have quality across the ground. They will drop a game here and there, but it wont’ be this one. A less than 100% Crows side should be easy pickings for GWS.

Tip: Giants by 39

Fremantle vs. Geelong

Sunday, Domain Stadium, 7:40pm AEDT

The final game of the round sees Geelong make the trip to Domain Stadium to play Fremantle. The Cats have made some key inclusions for 2017, with Zac Tuohy likely to make an immediate impact. The Dockers have done the same as the inclusion of Cam McCarthy should help cover the retirement of Matthew Pavlich, while the return of Nat Fyfe will bring smiles to the Freo faithful.

The Cats were one of the highest scoring sides last year, while Ross Lyon teams are known for their stingy defence. These two opposing styles of play should lead to an entertaining and enticing battle. The potential match-up of Fyfe and Dangerfield is mouthwatering for the supporter of any side around the league.

Based on last year, you have to stick with the Cats in this one. They’ll go into the match as $1.47 favourites, while Fremantle are outsiders at $2.70. However some off-season changes and returns mean it should be a much tighter affair than their 2016 form suggests.

Tip: Cats by 21

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