AFL 2024 Top 8 Betting Preview - Odds & Expert Predictions

AFL Expert Predictions
AFL 2024 Top 8 Betting Preview

As we enter the last couple of months of the home and away season, the ladder is beginning to more closely resemble what it will come finals time, but there is still plenty of water left to go under the bridge. The Swans, having established themselves as clearly the team to beat, are locked away not just in the finals but probably in top spot, but below them there are few certainties. The Blues will get there barring a disaster while a few others look very likely to, but there are still plenty of spots up for grabs and a good amount of value as a result. Below, we take a look at some of those better value options to play finals in 2024.   

AFL Best Value Selections to Make the Top Eight

Collingwood Magpies

Collingwood Magpies AFL

Clearly the Magpies are not the longest odds team in this list, but even at $1.25 they look like decent value to make it through to the top eight. They have been as good as anyone barring the Swans this year with the exception of the first three weeks, when they lost all of their games. In the 11 games after that stretch, however, they lost just one, and they did that with plenty of injuries to worry about and despite the fact that they did not play at their best for much of it. They just continue to get the job done week in week out, and have climbed rapidly up the ladder since that slow start to the point where a top four finish looks more than likely.    

For them to miss the finals things would have to go horribly wrong; this team is one of the absolute best in the business once again and is every chance of going back to back, and missing the finals isn’t really too much of a concern at this point in the year. They have a really tough month of the home and away season, but with a number of games they really should be winning prior to that they will probably have done more than enough to ensure they play finals by then anyway. This is all but a lock, and though the value isn’t fantastic, it is still better than bank interest. 

  • What brings them here? The Magpies obviously won the flag last year and finished top four the year before that too, so aside from their slow first two or three weeks this year there has never been any suggestion they would not again find themselves right up the top come season’s end. 
  • What has changed? The Power brought in a couple of players in positions of need, including Esava Ratugolea from the Cats and the Brandon Zerk-Thatcher from the Bombers down back, and Ivan Soldo from the Tigers in the ruck. Xavier Duursma was a significant loss, with the talented youngster heading to the Bombers.
  • Injury update: The Pies have had a few injuries to deal with this year, though they are slowly getting some cattle back. Dan McStay remains in a race against the clock to return this year after an ACL tear in last year’s finals, while Tom Mitchell, Mason Cox and Jamie Elliott are all listed as due back around late July from their injuries. 

Bet on the Magpies to make the top eight @ $1.25 with PlayUp 

Greater Western Sydney Giants

GWS Giants AFL

The Giants looked like they would have just about won enough games by this point to lock themselves into the finals a month or so into the season, winning their first five of the year to establish themselves as a genuine Premiership threat. But once Carlton ended that winning streak the losses began to pile up, with six defeats inclusive of that game coming in the next nine rounds to put them right back in the pack. They are now smack bang in the middle of a very tightly packed section of the ladder, and they could just as easily either end up finishing top four or miss the finals entirely. But despite their indifferent form over an extended period, this is still a very capable team, and one which should be not just playing in September, but causing damage once there.  
 
With experienced veterans like Toby Greene, Lachie Whitfield and Josh Kelly combining with names like Tom Green and Sam Taylor, who have quickly established themselves as a couple of the best players at their positions in the league, and a number of talented youngsters running around, this is a well-balanced and highly talented list which should be winning more games than it loses in the run to September. Courtesy of their unbeaten first five weeks of the season, that would be enough to see them play finals. The Giants really shouldn’t be missing out on September this year, and at $1.50 they offer decent value to get there. 

  • What brings them here? The Giants looked like a bottom four team for the first half of last year, but once they hit their straps under new coach Adam Kingsley they quickly transformed into a top four team, and this year they should again be much closer to the top of the ladder than the bottom. 
  • What has changed? The Dockers did lose a number of best 22 players last year, with Lachie Schultz heading to the Magpies and Liam Henry to the Saints, though they did also pick up Jeremy Sharp from the Gold Coast.
  • Injury update: Josh Fahey will likely miss the rest of the season with a foot injury, while Sam Taylor and Braydon Preuss are both indefinite with a ruptured testicle and back injury respectively. Nick Haynes is due back around mid-July from a hammy.

Bet on the Giants to make the top eight @ $1.50 with PlayUp

Geelong Cats

Geelong Cats AFL

The Cats have had a similar first three or four months of the season to the Giants, albeit with more significant extremes. They too jumped out of the blocks, their own undefeated start to the season extending to seven games – making them the last side to lose a game. But once the Demons ended that streak with an eight-point win, the floodgates opened and the Cats ended up losing six of their next seven to nearly even their win/loss ledger after a 7-0 start. The wheels well and truly fell off during that period, and Tom Hawkins being ruled out for an extended period certainly doesn’t help – though he has been far from his best this year.  
 
But this club, more than any other in the league, always finds a way. Though they certainly have some gaps to fill and their midfield in particular lacks depth, they still have plenty of talent and experience. Names like Jeremy Cameron and Tom Stewart are among the game’s absolute elite while the likes of Patrick Dangerfield and Mark Blicavs still have plenty to offer as they near the ends of their brilliant careers. But more importantly than that, the Cats have a pretty friendly run home, with games against North Melbourne, West Coast and the Saints at home within the last five weeks. They should have no troubles winning those as well as a couple more over the past couple of months of the season, and that will be enough to see them lock themselves away in the top eight.  

  • What brings them here? The Cats are very rarely not here, last year being a notable exception. That was just the second time since 2006 that they haven’t played since September.
  • What has changed? The Cats lost Norm Smith Medalist Isaac Smith to retirement while Jonathan Ceglar also hung up the boots, and Esava Ratugolea was traded to the Power. They didn’t acquire any major names, with their ins all via the drafts.
  • Injury update: Tom Hawkins’ aforementioned foot injury will keep him on the sidelines until mid-late August, while Tanner Bruhn is due back in late July from a scaphoid injury. Cam Guthrie is nearing a return from his Achilles injury.  

Bet on the Cats to make the top eight @ $1.50 with PlayUp

Western Bulldogs ($3.40)

Western Bulldogs AFL

After perennially disappointing through their inconsistency since making the Grand Final in 2021, the Bulldogs might just be finally hitting their straps – though given their penchant for not living up to the high expectations generally set of this list, caution is advised. Their start to the year was the type we’ve come to expect from them; at their best they were electric, pumping the Suns by eight goals and the Saints by ten, but wedged in between those performances were a few stinkers.  
 
But just when pressure reached boiling point after they lost to the Hawks, their fourth defeat in five games, they turned it all around. It started with an easy win over the injury-riddled Tigers, but they would go on to win four of their next six. Granted one of the losses was a poor performance against the Lions, but that aside they were impressive every week during that month-and-a-half patch, beating the Giants, Magpies and Dockers and going close to the Swans along the way. Led, as always, by Marcus Bontempelli, they have a talented midfield and more key forwards than you could poke a stick of, most of whom have plenty of talent. They are far from a perfect team and their tendency to concede big runs of scores remains an issue, but their best is easily good enough to play finals. 

  • What brings them here? The Dogs have won 12 games in each of the last two seasons and finished 8th and 9th those years, but their talent level is such that they are capable of at least repeating that this season.
  • What has changed? Josh Bruce retired and Jordon Sweet was traded to the Power, while coming in was James Harmes from Melbourne, Nick Coffield from the Saints and impressive number six draft pick Ryley Sanders.
  • Injury update: Bailey Smith won’t play all season after an ACL injury prior to the opening round, while Ryan Gardner is pushing it to be available again this year due to a wrist injury. Alex Keath is due back in late July/early August from a hamstring and Jason Johannisen a couple of weeks earlier from the same injury. 

Bet on the Bulldogs to make the top eight @ $2.10 with PlayUp

Port Adelaide Power

Port Adelaide Power AFL

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Power were vying for Premiership favouritism, but with a couple of months left to go in the 2024 season they are far from assured a spot in the finals. They reeled off 13 consecutive wins at one point last year to establish themselves as one of the best in the business, and those who remember their thrilling home and away game against the Magpies which ended the streak will remember just how high quality that game was. But they subsequently fell in a heap following that loss and were ultimately eliminated in straight sets, and basically since the start of this year have been viewed as a decent team that is incapable of matching it with the best of the best. They have not done all that much to disprove that narrative. The Power have certainly had their moments; they pumped the Bombers by 69 points, and enjoyed a scintillating first half in Geelong and just held on to win that game. But against the best teams they have by and large struggled, going down by 42 points to the Magpies, and recently, 36 points to the Blues, 22 points to the Giants and then 79 points to the Lions in consecutive weeks.  
 
But for all of that, it’s not all doom and gloom in Port Adelaide. They remain in the tightly bunched group in the middle of the ladder and with a couple of wins could quickly put themselves back in the fold not just to play finals, but to challenge for a spot in the top four. This is far from a perfect team, with a backline that has not been shored up as much as they would have liked with the acquisition of Esava Ratugolea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, and a forward line which doesn’t function quite as well as its talent would suggest it should. But a midfield boasting Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Jason Horne-Francis, with Brownlow Medalist Ollie Wines and the underrated Willem Drew on the fringe, makes it hard to write off this team. They have a tough final month of the season, but prior to that have a number of winnable games, so it would be no surprise to see their odds to make the eight shorten over the coming weeks. 

  • What brings them here? The Power have finished in the top three in three of the past four years, so this group is certainly no stranger to finals footy.
  • What has changed? As mentioned, the Power brought in Esava Ratugolea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher in the offseason, while Ivan Soldo has stepped in as their number one ruck early in the year after coming across from Richmond. Tom Jonas and Scott Lycett both retired at the end of 2023, while Xavier Duursma was a big loss as he headed to Essendon in a trade.
  • Injury update: Sam Powell-Pepper is out for the season with an ACL injury, while both Ryan Burton and Ivan Soldo are expected to be unavailable until late July. Trent McKenzie and Jase Burgoyne should be available a couple of weeks earlier than that, and Charlie Dixon in Round 18 after a suspension in the SANFL.

Bet on the Power to make the top eight @ $2.10 with PlayUp

Gold Coast Suns

Gold Coast Suns AFL

There is a sense of déjà vu surrounding the Suns this year, as there has been often in the past, with the league’s second newest club once again looking to secure their first ever finals appearance but looking more likely to fall just short. In their first season under Damian Hardwick, the Suns have been decent albeit unspectacular for the most part, and split their first 14 games at seven wins and seven losses. There have been some impressive performances, none less than their 164-100 defeat of the Cats, but for the most part they have been unable to beat the teams above them, with five of those seven wins coming against teams in the bottom eight – including the bottom three in North Melbourne, Richmond and West Coast.  
 
It feels like every year at around this time the Suns are in the same position; still capable of making the finals but behind a few other teams jostling for the bottom spots in the eight. That may well be where they end up again this year, but with so little separating so many teams in the middle parts of the ladder it would only take one or two upset wins for them to break their way into the eight and play in September for the first time in their history. To get there, they will need to find a way to beat at least one or two teams above them – something they have so far struggled with this season – but if they can do that they will put themselves right in the mix. 

  • What brings them here? The Suns have been in the mix for the finals for quite a few years now without ever managing to break through, though with a three-time Premiership coach now at the helm, could this be the year they finally get there?
  • What has changed?  The Dockers did lose a number of best 22 players last year, with Lachie Schultz heading to the Magpies and Liam Henry to the Saints, though they did also pick up Jeremy Sharp from the Gold Coast.
  • Injury update: Brandon Ellis will be out until the end of July with a calf injury, while Lachie Weller is due to make his long-awaited return from an ACL perhaps the week prior. That aside, the Suns are looking pretty healthy. 

Bet on the Suns to make the top eight @ $2.80 with PlayUp

Melbourne Demons

Melbourne Demons AFL

It’s hard to believe the Demons are so far down this list, but based on their form throughout June they deserve to be. A top four lock the past three years, they were solid albeit unspectacular to start the year, but a six-week period in May and June which saw them go 2-4 has really dented their hopes. Those wins came against St. Kilda and in very unconvincing fashion against North Melbourne, while they lost by 35 points to the Eagles, 38 points to the Magpies and worst of all, 92 points to the Dockers. They have looked like a shadow of their former selves in that time, during which Christian Petracca also went down with a horrible injury which will see him sidelined for the rest of the year. And with Clayton Oliver not playing at even close to the level to which we have become accustomed, their elite starting midfield which has for so long formed the backbone of this team no longer has nearly the presence that it has over the past few years.  
 
But for all that negativity, it’s too early to write the Demons off just yet – certainly too early to assume they won’t make finals. Petracca won’t return and Oliver’s form may remain indifferent, but Jake Lever is returning after missing a few games and they still have enough talent and experience across the park to at least partially turn things around. They are locked right in the midst of the glut of teams in the middle of the ladder, and though there is no denying their poor form of late, the AFL world might have jumped off the Demons just a little too soon. 

  • What brings them here? The Demons over the past few years would just about be locked into the finals by this stage of the season, but they have regressed a lot in recent weeks and now have their work cut out to turn things around. 
  • What has changed? The Demons lost Angus Brayshaw to retirement and so too Michael Hibberd, while Brodie Grundy, James Harmes and James Jordon were traded. Jack Billings, Shane McAdam and Tom Fullarton were traded in.
  • Injury update: As mentioned, Petracca will miss the rest of the season with a serious injury to his ribs and spleen. Both Ben Brown and Charlie Spargo are listed as TBC with their injuries, while Jake Melksham should be available from his ACL injury earlier than expected in early-ish July. 

Bet on the Demons to make the top eight @ $3.00 with PlayUp

Hawthorn Hawks

Hawks AFL

After losing their first five games of the season you would have been forgiven for writing the Hawks off completely from finals contention, but their turnaround since then has been one that no one could have seen coming. After a win against the Kangaroos they were pumped by the Swans the next week, but over the next seven weeks they lost just a single game – and that coming by just a point against the Power when they conceded two goals in the last 25 seconds to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That streak levelled their win/loss record at 7-7, and hard as it is to believe they have been one of the in-form teams in the league now for a couple of months.  
 
This is still a young team with a long way to go in their development, but under coach Sam Mitchell there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about their future. But of course, this market is not about the future, it’s about the now, and the question is whether the Hawks’ young team has it in them just yet to continue their hot form for the rest of the season. Clearly that remains to be seen, but given that they were a second away from winning seven games in a row and yet are still at pretty long odds to make the finals, the Hawks look – surprisingly – like pretty decent value to get there. 

  • What brings them here? The Hawks showed some good signs in the back half of last year, but few would have expected them to be as impressive as they have been in the past few weeks after a shocking start to the season.
  • What has changed? The Hawks traded Jacob Koschitzke to the Tigers, Tyler Brockman to the Eagles and Brandon Ryan to the Lions. Massimo D’Ambrosio has been a great pick-up after coming across from the Bombers, while they also secured Jack Gunston, Jack Ginnivan and Mabior Chol in trades.
  • Injury update: James Blanck is out for the season with an ACL, while Sam Butler is too with a leg injury. That aside, the only names the Hawks have on their injury list at the time of writing are there with short-term concerns.

Bet on the Hawks to make the top eight @ $3.00 with PlayUp

Our Prediction

With only a game or two separating a whole bunch of teams in the middle portion of the ladder, the way that the top eight will be made up come season’s end is anyone’s guess. That leaves us with plenty of potentially good options in this market, but one which stands out as offering the best value is the Demons. Given how they have played throughout May and June that might be hard to believe, particularly with Petracca out for the year. But this is still a team boasting plenty of Premiership players, and led by the likes of Max Gawn, Steven May, Jake Lever and Kysaiah Pickett, there is more than enough talent running around to play finals and be dangerous once there. Earlier in the year it seemed like a lock that they would finish in the top eight; it is certainly no longer than that, but given how much their odds have ballooned they look like some pretty good value.  

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James is a sports writer from Melbourne, and has contributed to a variety of publications covering a range of sports including basketball, cricket, Australian Rules, golf and surfing to name a few. An avid fan of all of the above and more, James’ downtime is spent falling ungracefully off his surfboard, turning over footies and playing an out of tune guitar.

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