The AFL’s traditional home-ground advantage is taking a hit in 2018 with a slew of teams relishing life on the road.
It’s no secret that odds skew significantly in favour of the home side in the AFL – and most sports, for that matter. Clubs generally have a better record at their home ground, in front of their loyal fans.
In the AFL premiership that is more pronounced than most codes when teams are hosting an out-of-town opponent (ie. not derby matches between Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth or Sydney teams).
Last season, home teams went 87-3-52 when playing an out-of-town visitor, providing punters with clear cause to steer away from teams on the road.
The overriding trend looked set to continue in 2018 when teams in Round 1 hosting an interstate opponent went 5-1 (Sydney’s win over West Coast at Optus Stadium was the only exception).
But since then away teams have achieved remarkable success. Home teams are just 12-1-14 in non-derby matches in the past five rounds, with several unfancied visitors pulling off stunning upsets.
Both Adelaide teams have shocked the Swans at the SCG; the Suns beat the Blues to tune of 34 points at Etihad Stadium in Round 2; the Magpies thrashed the heavyweight Crows by 48 points at Adelaide Oval in Round 4; and the Swans inflicted a rare loss on the Cats at Kardinia Park in Round 6. Tidy profits were had by punters willing to take the juicy odds on offer for an away boilover.
One team who will be ecstatic with the trend reversal are the Eagles.
A force to be reckoned with every time they stepped out onto Subiaco Oval in 2017, the Eagles were a dismal 4-8 interstate, which ultimately saw them scrape into the finals in eighth spot.
Heading into 2018 the Eagles had won just three of their last 13 in Victoria – which makes it a little difficult to win premierships. But they’ve prevailed in both of their Melbourne assignments so far this year, contributing to their share of the AFL premiership lead with a 5-1 record and punters backing them in to $16 to win the flag and $2.50 to finish in the top four.
Let's keep this train rolling!!!
Get to the game on Saturday as we take on Port Adelaide!
— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) May 1, 2018
While it is expected that normal transmission will resume and home teams will start saluting on the regular again, a winning rate of 53 percent so far this season (and 46 percent in the past five rounds) – compared to 62 percent in 2017 – is enough to cast doubt on the natural inclination to throw your hard-earned on the home favourite.
Looking ahead to Round 7, it provides food for thought about the Giants as $2.95 outsiders away to the Cats, the Suns going in as rank $4.70 underdogs against the Bulldogs, and the rising Kangaroos’ $5.20 price for another SCG upset of the Swans.
If the pendulum doesn’t swing back considerably towards home teams this season, it could have big implications for the AFL finals series.
Home teams against out-of-town opponents went 7-1 during the 2017 playoffs (the Eagles’ extra-time upset of the Power in week one was the only exception), while the last five grand finals have been won by Melbourne clubs over interstate teams at the MCG.
But with sides increasingly overcoming travel sickness and embracing wanderlust, the AFL’s customary home-ground advantage may be blunted this September – and the Victorian stranglehold on the premiership trophy may be loosening.