The 2023 AFL premiership rolls into Round 3 with a Thursday night Bulldogs-Lions showdown and features Magpies-Tigers and Demons-Swans blockbusters, along with Adelaide and WA derbies. 

AFL Tips – Western Bulldogs V Brisbane Lions

19:20 (AEDT), Thu 31st Mar @ Marvel Stadium, Melbourne

History: Played 43: Bulldogs 22, Lions 21

Last meeting: Round 16, 2022 – Lions 16.12 (108) d Bulldogs 9.13 (67)

Team News: Desperate for a turnaround from last weekend’s big loss to the Saints, the 0-2 Bulldogs have some calls to make. Arthur Jones has been confirmed for a debut and Ryan Gardiner is tipped to return; Adam Treolar and Rory Lobb still have to pass tests. Bouncing back in Round 2 with a win over the Demons, the Lions are likely to line up the same way again. Keidan Coleman may force his way back in to the Brisbane line-up if he recovers from concussion.

What We Like: Three of the teams’ last four matches produced sub-170 totals and the under 178.5 is a clear play here with the Bulldogs averaging just 53 over the first two rounds. Will Ashcroft is a great option for 25+ disposals at $2.40 after chalking up 31 against the Demons.

Final Thoughts: The Bulldogs have won the teams’ last four games in Melbourne, while the Lions’ 41-point win at The Gabba last season was the first between the clubs in eight matches decided by more than 24. But the Bulldogs are under the pump after a pair of 50-plus losses to the Demons and Saints, struggling at both ends. The Lions responded well to their heavy loss to Port for the most part, dominating the Dees until the blackout at the Gabba, after which they took their foot off the gas and only won by 11. But there was enough there from the crack Brisbane midfield group and their exciting forwards to suggest they can start stringing some wins together.

Best Bet: Handicap – Lions -11.5 @ $1.90

AFL Tips – Collingwood Magpies V Richmond Tigers

19:50 (AEDT), Fri 31st Mar @ Melbourne Cricket Ground

History: Played 214: Magpies 120, Tigers 92, draws 2

Last meeting: Round 8, 2022 – Magpies 17.11 (113) d Tigers 12.14 (86)

Team News: Collingwood are on fire and have Jack Ginnivan available after serving his suspension. Brody Mihocek isn’t expected to miss any games despite suffering a dislocated finger. Unbeaten Richmond have a few injury interruptions though, along with Nathan Broad’s suspension. Jayden Short is definitely out, while Dustin Martin and Jacob Hopper are maybes.

What We Like: Punters should be all over the total points line – set at 179.5 – with the Magpies’ two games averaging in excess of 210 and the Tigers piling on 108 points last week. Mihocek kicked three goals against Port and is $2.70 to do it again, while in the 30+ disposals market Nick Daicos ($1.86) and Tim Taranto ($2.35) deserve a look, averaging 33.5 and 30, respectively.

Final Thoughts: Collingwood could hardly have started more impressively, overwhelming Geelong and putting a confident Port to the sword by 71 points to stamp themselves as the new flag favourites. Nick Daicos has been at forefront of the Magpies’ early surge, but they look a very cohesive unit across the park. After their low-scoring draw against Carlton, Richmond flexed their muscle with a 32-point win over Adelaide in which they kicked 17.6. But a third-quarter lapse in which they were outscored 38-7 would not have impressed Damien Hardwick. A depleted Tigers side will struggle to keep up this Friday.

Best Bet: Handicap – Magpies -16.5 @ $1.90

AFL Tips – Hawthorn Hawks V North Melbourne Kangaroos

13:45 (AEDT), Sat 1st Apr @ UTAS Stadium, Launceston

History: Played 180: Hawks 100, Kangaroos 78, draws 2

Last meeting: Round 17, 2022 – Hawks 19.7 (121) d Kangaroos 11.9 (75) at Blundstone Arena

Team News: Hawthorn, coming off two big defeats, may bring Harry Morrison in following his VFL return last week. Buoyed by a 2-0 start, North Melbourne will go for three straight without the suspended Jy Simpkin. Will Phillips and Aaron Hall are in the frame for the co-captain’s spot.

What We Like: UTAS Stadium has produced plenty of low-scorers in recent seasons, and with the Hawks scoring the fewest points in the AFL over two rounds and the Kangaroos ranking 12th for points scored, the under 171.5 looks good. Nick Larkey already has 10 goals on the board in 2023 and is $2.70 to kick another bag of four.

Final Thoughts: The big storyline is North Melbourne coach Alistair Clarkson going up against his old club. But that’s arguably been superseded by the Kangaroos’ first back-to-back wins since the opening two rounds of 2020, while they’re shooting for three straight for the first time since 2019 here after edging the Eagles at home and the Dockers on the road. Hawthorn find themselves as two-goal underdogs following heavy losses to the Bombers (59 points) and Swans (81 points). It’s hard to see the inexperienced Hawks beating anyone right now, let alone a side with 2-0 momentum.

Best Bet: Result / Total Double – Kangaroos / Under 172.5 @ $2.85

AFL Tips – GWS Giants V Carlton Blues

16:35 (AEDT), Sat 1st Apr @ GIANTS Stadium, Sydney

History: Played 14: Giants 9, Blues 5

Last meeting: Round 5, 2022 – Crows 15.11 (101) d Tigers 12.10 (82) at Adelaide Oval

Team News: GWS wingman Jacob Wehr will be ruled out, but the 1-1 Giants are boosted by the return of Lachie Whitfield and Josh Kelly from concussion absences. Carlton are brimming from an upset of Geelong and Michael Voss is unlikely to make changes, with Marc Pittonet impressing as a late replacement for Jack Martin last Friday.

What We Like: Charlie Curnow has booted eight goals in two rounds, including five against Geelong. He should get plenty of oppportunites against the Giants and is $2.00 to slot three or more. GWS’s Toby Greene is a generous $2.50 to do the same after kicking four against West Coast.

Final Thoughts: GWS followed up a 16-point home win over Adelaide with a 19-point road loss to West Coast. There’s definite positives, particularly in the form of the forward line, but the Giants look every bit the bottom-half team. Meanwhile, Carlton fans are getting excited after the Blues backed up a season-opening draw against Richmond with a high-quality eight-point win over the premiers – though in classic Carlton, it was more nerve-wracking than it needed to be. The Blues look stronger in defence and on the wings. After losing the teams’ previous five clashes (to sink to a 3-9 record in the rivalry), the Blues won both encounters in 2022 – by 30 points in Sydney and 36 points in Melbourne. These are the games Carlton must win – preferably convincingly – if they are to end years of Top 8 heartbreak.

Best Bet: Handicap – Blues -10.5 @ $1.90

AFL Tips – St Kilda Saints V Essendon Bombers

19:25 (AEDT), Sat 1st Apr @ Melbourne Cricket Ground

History: Played 218: Bombers 144, Saints 70, draws 4

Last meeting: Round 14, 2022 – Bombers 15.17 (107) d Saints 11.6 (72) at Marvel Stadium

Team News: The Saints’ sizzling 2-0 start has been dampened by Jack Steele’s broken collarbone, adding to the club’s heavy injury toll. Jack Bytel looms as the likely replacement in the engine-room contingent if he can recover from the knee issue that ruled him out of Round 2. The Bombers are also 2-0 and get a key man back in the shape of Sam Weideman, while Nick Hind and Jake Stringer are pushing for selection after big VFL performances.

What We Like: Both of Essendon’s games have gone over the total points line, while both of St Kilda’s have gone well under. With the line set low at 160.5, the over looks the better play. Jack Sinclair had 33 disposals for Saints last week and is $2.75 to top 30 again as he looks to help make up for Steele’s absence.

Final Thoughts: Injury-ravaged St Kilda’s flying start – outlasting the Dockers by 15 points and thumping the Bulldogs by 41, conceding a competition-low 93 points along the way – has been one of the big early-season surprises. Ross Lyon has instilled trademark defensive backbone back into the Saints, but adding Steele to the casualty ward is a tough blow to take. Essendon cruised to a 59-point win over Hawthorn and finished 28 points ahead of Gold Coast by kicking five goals to one in the last quarter. All four aforementioned opponents are 0-2, so this is a great litmus test for both teams that should go down to the wire.

Best Bet: Tri Bet – Either Team by 19 or Less @ $2.08

AFL Tips – Port Adelaide Power V Adelaide Crows

19:30 (AEDT), Sat 1st Apr @ Adelaide Oval

History: Played 52: Power 27, Crows 25

Last meeting: Round 23, 2022 – Power  16.15 (111) d Crows 7.13 (55) at Adelaide Oval

Team News: Port Adelaide couldn’t back up their Round 1 display and are now going to be missing Ryan Burton through suspension. Trent McKenzie (ankle) is the hopeful replacement, otherwise Tom Clurey is the likely option. Travis Boak should return to the Power 22. Winless Adelaide will be without Patrick Parnell, which should see Wayne Milera return in his place.

What We Like: Only one of the last seven Showdowns have produced more than 166 points; the total line here is set at 170.5. Charlie Dixon has a very modest goalkicking record in Adelaide derbies, but he’s kicked three in both of Port’s matches so far and is a very tempting $2.70 to repeat that effort.

Final Thoughts: The first Showdown of 2023 sees Port Adelaide with a point to prove after hype over their brilliant 54-point win over Brisbane was deflated by a 71-point drubbing at the hands of Collingwood. Adelaide are hoping the derby atmosphere can inspire their first victory, having blown a 28-point halftime lead against GWS and going down to Richmond by 32 points in which they only played one decent quarter. They did show incredible resolve to cut a 45-point deficit to one against the Tigers – but the Crows have to put that form together across four terms and their midfield doesn’t look strong enough to do that. The Power have won five of the last six derbies – four of them by margins of 49-plus. The Crows did manage a Round 3 upset last season, however, winning on the siren. Expect Port to be too strong this time around.

Best Bet: Tri Bet – Power -24.5 @ $2.30

AFL Tips – Gold Coast Suns V Geelong Cats

14:10 (AEST), Sun 2nd Apr @ Heritage Bank Stadium, Gold Coast

History: Played 14: Cats 12, Suns 2

Last meeting: Round 22, 2022 – Cats 18.11 (119) d Cats 9.5 (59) at Heritage Bank Stadium

Team News: The Suns are 0-2 and likely to be missing Charlie Ballard through suspension; Jy Farrar shapes as the defensive replacement. Mabior Chol and Will Powell were among those to impress in the VFL. Meanwhile, there’s not a great deal of relief in the short-term for winless premiers Geelong with Mitch Duncan, Sam Menegola and co. still sidelined. Jake Kolodjashnij (concussion) may be available.

What We Like: Both teams two games so far have produced more than 170 points, so over the 170.5 total line looks a good play. Jeremy Cameron is a skinny $1.86 to kick three goals after his bag of six last week, but Tom Hawkins ($3.05) shapes as a value option in that market after a quiet-ish start to the year.

Final Thoughts: A fair bit of pressure on Geelong to get on the board, despite being far from disgraced in losses to Collingwood and Carlton. Injuries have played their part and the midfield has been outplayed twice, but the likes of Jeremy Cameron have been outstanding and it seems only a matter of time before the champs gel. Rated a cheeky chance of a Round 1 upset, Gold Coast were belted by the Swans by 49 points and then went down to Essendon by 28 after a super-tight first three quarters. The Suns forward line has to get its act together – fast. The Cats have won their last six against the Suns by an average margin of 57.5 points. A win by that magnitude may be ambitious, but the Cats should enjoy the opportunity to take on a team down on confidence and win comfortably.

Best Bet: Handicap – Cats -16.5 @ $1.90

AFL Tips – Melbourne Demons V Sydney Swans

15:20 (AEST), Sun 2nd Apr @ Melbourne Cricket Ground

History: Played 213: Swans 117, Demons 94, draws 2

Last meeting: Qualifying final, 2022 – Swans 14.7 (91) d Swans 10.9 (69) at MCG

Team News: Melbourne is coming off a loss in Brisbane and hopeful of having Steven May back, but Max Gawn is out for at least a month. Jacob Van Rooyen may be the tall to get the call-up. Lance Franklin is available to return for Sydney, creating a tough decision for coach John Longmire with Hayden McLean the likely player to make way.

What We Like: Ben Brown has kicked four goals in both of the Dees’ games, so $3.40 for three or more looks crazy value.In 17 of 24 games since the start of last season, Franklin has kicked multiple goals – and he’s $1.92 to slot two or more here. With the Swans averaging 114 points and the Demons 98.5, over the 169.5 total line is a solid option.

Final Thoughts: The teams meet for the first time since the Swans’ stirring 22-point qualifying final win over the defending champs in September at the MCG, which was their 16th victory from their last 20 matches against the Dees. Sydney have doused notions of a grand final hangover with big wins over the Suns (49 points) and Hawks (81 points), but this shapes as their first real test. Melbourne were super-impressive in beating the Bulldogs by 50 points but were caught on their heels by the Lions. They were flattered by the final 11-point losing margin, kicking six goals to one after the three-quarter time blackout. Gawn is a huge out for the Demons – and enough to tip the scales towards a Swans mini-upset.

Best Bet: Result – Swans @ $2.10

AFL Tips – Fremantle Dockers V West Coast Eagles

17:20 (AEST), Sun 2nd Apr @ Optus Stadium, Perth

History: Played 55: Eagles 32, Dockers 23

Last meeting: Round 22, 2022 – Dockers 9.17 (71) d Eagles 7.5 (47) at Optus Stadium

Team News: Desperate to get off the mark with a derby win, Fremantle is also sweating on Nat Fyfe’s fitness with a foot injury. Michael Walters will likely come into the Dockers’ 22. West Coast is 1-1 but the drums are beating for Campbell Chesser to be replaced, with Brady Hough or Elliot Yeo (if fit) potentially coming in. Nic Naitanui is a chance.

What We Like: Only one of the last WA derbies has produced more than 153 points, which would partially explain the low total line of 158.5 – and the under is still the smart play. With the Dockers scoring just 124 points across two games against modest opposition, taking them to score under 85.5 may be an even better option.

Final Thoughts: After losing the previous 11 derbies, the Dockers have won their last three against the Eagles. They romped to a 55-point win in Round 3 and by 24 points in the penultimate round despite an atrocious goalkicking display. But Fremantle have bigger fish to fry than crosstown bragging rights, backing up a 15-point loss to severely depleted St Kilda with a jarring one-point defeat to perennial battlers North Melbourne at home. Also beaten by the Kangaroos in Round 1, West Coast bounced back with a handy 18-point win over the under-strength Giants underpinned by an eight-goal second quarter. Man for man, the Dockers have it all over the Eagles, but their slow game style is getting found out so far in 2023. The Eagles have shown their intent play a faster style and it paid dividends against GWS – there will be hitches along the way but the promise is there. On form it’s hard to make a case for the Dockers as a warm favourite.

Best Bet: Handicap – Eagles +13.5 @ $1.90