AFL 2024 Top 8 Betting Preview - Odds & Expert Predictions

By:
James Salmon
AFL Betting Tips
AFL Expert Predictions 2024
AFL 2024 Top 8 Betting Preview

As it has been for a while, the AFL looks incredibly well balanced entering the 2024 season. At least 14 teams could lay claim to being a reasonable chance of making the top eight, while if you want to include the Hawks and the Tigers you could stretch that out to 16. There are only a couple of teams, namely our Grand Finalists from last year, who are at really short odds to make the finals, meaning that there is plenty of value out there in the top eight betting markets. On this page, we will take a look at a few of the best value teams to make the finals in 2024, and what they need to go right in order to get there.

AFL Best Value Selections to Make the Top Eight

Port Adelaide Power

Given how consistently they’ve been right up the pointy end of the ladder the past few seasons, the Power often don’t get all that much respect from the footballing public. Granted they were eliminated in straight sets last season, missed the finals the year prior after a dreadful start to the year, and who can forget that dreadful Preliminary Final showing against the Demons in 2021. But the fact remains that they have finished in the top four in three of the past four seasons, and last year were right up there among the Premiership favourites for a significant stretch of time. The clash against the Magpies which broke their extended winning streak was one of the highest quality home and away games we’ve seen for a long time, and though that kickstarted a four game losing streak, they still went 17-6 over the course of the season. Their midfield of Zak Butters, Connor Rozee and Jason Horne-Francis should only improve this year while their backline, a notable Achilles heel the last few years, will be boosted to an extent by the additions of Esava Ratugolea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher. They’re not at huge odds to make the finals, but nor should they be. It would be a huge surprise to see them miss out on September action, and even at $1.40 they look like decent value to get there.

  • What brings them here? The Power have been here for a while. Aside from a blip on the radar in 2022 when they lost their first five games of the season, Port Adelaide have won 17 games in two of the past four seasons and 14 out of 17 in the Covid-shortened other, finishing in the top three in each of those years.
  • What has changed? The Power have lost Xavier Duursma while former captain Tom Jonas has retired, but Duursma was injured much of last year and Jonas couldn’t get a game. Meanwhile, they’ve picked up Esava Ratugolea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher to bolster their backline, and Jordon Sweet and Ivan Soldo to bolster their ruck stocks.
  • Injury update: As far as starting 22 players go, the Power have a pretty clean bill of health. Quinton Narkle won’t be available for the first couple of weeks of the season, while Zak Butters suffered an ankle injury in a pre-season game but was cleared of any major damage. 

Bet on the Power to make the top eight @ $1.40 with PlayUp 

Carlton Blues

It’s hard to get out of the mindset that the Blues are a difficult team to trust, which probably makes sense given they didn’t make the finals between 2014 and 2022, and last year were again destined for a season of disappointment until more than halfway into the season. But in the second half of the season they were right up there with the best teams in the league, and the two finals wins which helped them into an unlikely prelim franked that form and should have given them confidence in their ability to compete deep into September. The undeniable talent of this team has long failed to translate into any seasons of note, but at long last the core of Patrick Cripps, Charlie Curnow, Jacob Weitering, Sam Walsh, Sam Docherty and Harry McKay looks set to deliver. There will, of course, be the burden of expectation under which the Blues have so often wilted in the past, but this team should not have any problems making it through to the finals. Coach Michael Voss appears to have galvanised his talented troops in a way that previous coaches have not been able to manage, and the result should be a second consecutive finals appearance for Carlton – and hopefully for long-suffering Blues fans, an even deeper run into September. 

  • What brings them here? A scintillating last couple of months of the 2023 season. The Blues hadn’t made the finals since 2014 despite having the talent on paper the last few years, but finally it all came together last year and they ended up in a Preliminary Final.
  • What has changed? Paddy Dow finally got a well-earned trade to a destination where he should get more opportunities in St. Kilda, while Zac Fisher went to North Melbourne and Ed Curnow and Lachie Plowman retired. Orazio Fantasia and Elijah Hollands are their two major acquisitions.
  • Injury update: Unfortunately the Blues do have some big names on the injury list entering the season. Jack Silvagni will miss the entire season after doing his ACL, while Jacob Weitering, Sam Walsh and Caleb Marchbank will miss at least the first couple of games of the season. Jack Martin will also miss the first few weeks of the year.

Bet on the Blues to make the top eight @ $1.45 with PlayUp

Melbourne Demons

The Demons have had no shortage of criticism to deal with of late, both for on and off-field performance. On it, they’ve been knocked out in straight sets, while off it they have had superstars going wild and drug-related offences keeping them on their toes. But that this team is sixth in the betting to make the top eight is crazy. Yes they were knocked out in straight sets last year, but those losses were a seven-point defeat to the eventual Premiers and a two-point loss to the rampant Blues. They still won 16 games, which they also did the year before, while in 2021 they won 17 of them and ended the season Premiers. Clayton Oliver has had his issues but from all reports is ready to go, and though they have lost a couple of players in the off-season – most notably Angus Brayshaw, who retired on the eve of the season due to continued concussions – they remain one of the best teams in the AFL. Their midfield of Max Gawn, Christian Petracca, Oliver and Jack Viney is perhaps the best quartet in the league, their defence is as robust as any, and while their forward line leaves a little to be desired, they’ve managed to win at least 16 games a season for three years with it. This team should still be one of the Premiership favourites, and should be at much shorter odds than what they are to make the finals.  

  • What brings them here? The Demons have been among the best teams in the league for years now. Despite having lost four finals in a row over the past two years, they were still a Premier just three years ago and have finished top four in the two years since. 
  • What has changed? Angus Brayshaw is a big loss following his retirement, while Michael Hibberd also retired at the end of last season. Brodie Grundy was, as expected, traded north, while James Harmes and James Jordon also found new homes. The Dees did pick up a couple of solid names though, with Jack Billings joining them from St. Kilda and Shane McAdam from Adelaide.
  • Injury update: Lachie Hunter as well as McAdam will both miss the first few games of the season, while Harrison Petty is likely to miss a couple as he recovers from his toe injury. Jake Melksham will miss most of the year with his knee, while Kozzy Pickett misses the first game of the year through suspension and Joel Smith won’t likely play for them again due to his own suspension for off-field reasons.

Bet on the Demons to make the top eight @ $1.55 with PlayUp

Melbourne Demons

The Demons have had no shortage of criticism to deal with of late, both for on and off-field performance. On it, they’ve been knocked out in straight sets, while off it they have had superstars going wild and drug-related offences keeping them on their toes. But that this team is sixth in the betting to make the top eight is crazy. Yes they were knocked out in straight sets last year, but those losses were a seven-point defeat to the eventual Premiers and a two-point loss to the rampant Blues. They still won 16 games, which they also did the year before, while in 2021 they won 17 of them and ended the season Premiers. Clayton Oliver has had his issues but from all reports is ready to go, and though they have lost a couple of players in the off-season – most notably Angus Brayshaw, who retired on the eve of the season due to continued concussions – they remain one of the best teams in the AFL. Their midfield of Max Gawn, Christian Petracca, Oliver and Jack Viney is perhaps the best quartet in the league, their defence is as robust as any, and while their forward line leaves a little to be desired, they’ve managed to win at least 16 games a season for three years with it. This team should still be one of the Premiership favourites, and should be at much shorter odds than what they are to make the finals.  

  • What brings them here? The Demons have been among the best teams in the league for years now. Despite having lost four finals in a row over the past two years, they were still a Premier just three years ago and have finished top four in the two years since. 
  • What has changed? Angus Brayshaw is a big loss following his retirement, while Michael Hibberd also retired at the end of last season. Brodie Grundy was, as expected, traded north, while James Harmes and James Jordon also found new homes. The Dees did pick up a couple of solid names though, with Jack Billings joining them from St. Kilda and Shane McAdam from Adelaide.
  • Injury update: Lachie Hunter as well as McAdam will both miss the first few games of the season, while Harrison Petty is likely to miss a couple as he recovers from his toe injury. Jake Melksham will miss most of the year with his knee, while Kozzy Pickett misses the first game of the year through suspension and Joel Smith won’t likely play for them again due to his own suspension for off-field reasons.

Bet on the Demons to make the top eight @ $1.55 with PlayUp

Adelaide Crows

The Crows have had an entire off-season to stew on the remarkable goal umpire blunder which pretty directly cost them a spot in the finals last season, but they should be able to more than make up for it in 2024. They were one of the most improved teams last year, with the exciting brand of football gradually implemented under coach Matthew Nicks making them one of the more dangerous teams in the league at various points in the season. A jump of eight wins in 2022 to 11 last year might not seem that significant, but they improved a hell of a lot more than that change would suggest, and a percentage of 116.84% despite losing more games than they won was more indicative of where they were at. Twice they went down to the Magpies by two points or less, while they also lost to the Demons by four points and the Swans courtesy of the aforementioned goal umpiring error by one point. They were a finals team last year that fell just short, and they should improve even more this year. Of course, progression is not always linear and for a young, developing team there is always the prospect of taking a couple of steps forward and then one back, but based on how they played throughout the course of last year this team should easily be winning enough games to make finals, and potentially even challenging for top four. 

  • What brings them here? The Crows have won an increasing number of games every year since 2020, and though their improvement on paper was just three games from 2022 to 2023, the on-field development they demonstrated was a lot more significant than that. 
  • What has changed? The Crows have lost Shane McAdam to Melbourne while Tom Doedee utilised free agency to move to Brisbane, and Paul Seedsman retired after a year struggling with concussion. Chris Burgess, meanwhile, moves across from the Suns.
  • Injury update: Riley Thilthorpe had surgery on a meniscus tear in the lead up to the season which will keep him out for a decent albeit unconfirmed period of time, while Nick Murray and Harry Schoenberg will miss half the season with a knee and Achilles injury respectively. Rory Sloane missed the first couple of games of the season as he recovers from a detached retina.

Bet on the Crows to make the top eight @ $1.75 with PlayUp

Gold Coast Suns

Given that they haven’t made the finals in their 13 attempts, it might sound hard to justify the Suns being value to play in September, but there is every chance that this could be their year. After two consecutive years of being just on the cusp with ten and nine wins, they have gone ahead and signed a coach who could hardly be better equipped to take an average team and turn them into a very good one. Damian Hardwick spent years toiling away at Richmond as they struggled to make an impact on September, before, as we all know, he ultimately oversaw the dynasty during which they won three flags in four years. Maybe that’s out of reach for the Suns, but that’s fine – improvement  The Suns have for years been a little bit like a 30-year-old still mooching off their parents, but the AFL will be desperately hoping that Dimma can help their most disappointing child finally find their own feet. A proven coach could be just the recipe this decent but unspectacular list needs, not to make it to the Promised Land, but just to scrounge those extra couple of wins they need to make their first ever appearance in September. 

  • What brings them here? Certainly not past history, with the Suns having never made the finals in their existence. But they’ve been close plenty, and the acquisition of a seasoned coach with a history of success could be just what they need to take them the extra step.
  • What has changed? Though they brought in a new coach, the Suns have lost Connor Blakely to retirement, and Chris Burgess, Mabior Chol and Elijah Hollands were traded.
  • Injury update: Lachie Weller will miss at least half the season as he continues to recover from his ACL tear, while Malcolm Rosas entered the season under an injury cloud – albeit a minor one – from a quad injury.

Bet on the Suns to make the top eight @ $2.75 with PlayUp

Gold Coast Suns

Given that they haven’t made the finals in their 13 attempts, it might sound hard to justify the Suns being value to play in September, but there is every chance that this could be their year. After two consecutive years of being just on the cusp with ten and nine wins, they have gone ahead and signed a coach who could hardly be better equipped to take an average team and turn them into a very good one. Damian Hardwick spent years toiling away at Richmond as they struggled to make an impact on September, before, as we all know, he ultimately oversaw the dynasty during which they won three flags in four years. Maybe that’s out of reach for the Suns, but that’s fine – improvement  The Suns have for years been a little bit like a 30-year-old still mooching off their parents, but the AFL will be desperately hoping that Dimma can help their most disappointing child finally find their own feet. A proven coach could be just the recipe this decent but unspectacular list needs, not to make it to the Promised Land, but just to scrounge those extra couple of wins they need to make their first ever appearance in September. 

  • What brings them here? Certainly not past history, with the Suns having never made the finals in their existence. But they’ve been close plenty, and the acquisition of a seasoned coach with a history of success could be just what they need to take them the extra step.
  • What has changed? Though they brought in a new coach, the Suns have lost Connor Blakely to retirement, and Chris Burgess, Mabior Chol and Elijah Hollands were traded.
  • Injury update: Lachie Weller will miss at least half the season as he continues to recover from his ACL tear, while Malcolm Rosas entered the season under an injury cloud – albeit a minor one – from a quad injury.

Bet on the Suns to make the top eight @ $2.75 with PlayUp

Essendon Bombers

2024 officially marks 20 years since Essendon last won a final – hooray for the Bombers! In that time they have made the finals on six occasions, though aside from a 12-point loss in 2014 they’ve been pantsed by eight goals plus in each of the rest of them. There’s every chance that the streak will continue this year, but there is reason to believe they are edging ever so slowly closer to that elusive finals win, and for the sake of this market we only need them to make the top eight anyway. Last year they put themselves in a great position to make it a few weeks out only to fall in a heap and finish in 11th place with 11 wins, the fifth time in seven years that they have won either 11 or 12 wins. Long-suffering Bombers fans won’t likely have much faith in their ability to improve on that, but they did actually have a pretty good off-season which could see them add the extra couple of wins needed to make the top eight. Xavier Duursma will add some much-needed class to this team, Jade Gresham will provide an added spark and Ben McKay will hopefully provide the size and presence they’ve so desperately been lacking down back. There are also big wraps on their first round pick Nate Caddy, though he can’t exactly be expected to drag them out of the doldrums in which they’ve resided for 20 seasons in his rookie year. Still, they look like a better team than last year, and though they are a very difficult side to trust, at close to $3 they look like decent value to make the finals. 

  • What brings them here? The Bombers have long been chasing that elusive first finals win since 2004, and though they still haven’t got particularly close, they have been hovering just beneath the top eight for a couple of years and with a few savvy pick-ups and the continued guidance of Brad Scott, perhaps this could be the year. 
  • What has changed? Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti retired (again), as did Andrew Phillips, while Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and Massimo D’Ambrosio were traded. But there are plenty of good ins for the Dons, with Xavier Duursma, Jade Gresham, Ben McKay and Todd Goldstein coming in, and Nate Caddy looking like a good selection in the draft.
  • Injury update: Tex Wanganeed is expected to miss the first six weeks of the season with a foot injury, while Jordan Ridley will miss around the first month. Dylan Shiel has had to recover from a foot injury in the pre-season too, but won’t likely miss more than a game or two if that.

Bet on the Bombers to make the top eight @ $2.75 with PlayUp

Fremantle Dockers

It’s easy to forget that it was only the year before last when the Dockers won 15 games and just barely missed out on a top four. That came on the back of gradual improvement since coach Justin Longmuir took over the reins, with the defensive game style he had implemented finally being accompanied by a little bit more offensive flair. Unfortunately, those gains they made in 2022 appeared to entirely desert the Dockers last year as they struggled mightily to score with any regularity and won just ten games. They subsequently lost both Lachie Schultz and Liam Henry to the lure of Victoria and didn’t get too much that will immediately serve them back in return, and all of a sudden there is a whole heap of pressure on this team and in particular Longmuir. None of that sounds like it bodes particularly well for their ability to make the finals, but it has also contributed to bookies installing them with odds that I think look relatively juicy. If they play the way they did for most of last year they won’t be going near September, but they would hardly be the first team in history to have a disappointing season thrown in amongst a gradual climb up the ladder. As much as people want to believe the contrary, very rarely do teams work their way up the ladder in a linear fashion. The bulk of this Dockers team was part of a side which won 15 games just two years ago and for a period looked as good as anyone in the league, so at $3.75 they look like excellent value to bounce back in 2024.

  • What brings them here? From a glass half full perspective, the Dockers were a borderline top four team just a couple of years ago and have the bulk of that same side still on their list in 2024.
  • What has changed? Admittedly Liam Henry and Lachie Schultz are pretty hefty outs, while forgotten man Joel Hamling was traded to Sydney. Draft picks aside, their only acquisition was Jeremy Sharp from the Suns.
  • Injury update: Josh Corbett will miss the entire season with a hip injury, while Sean Darcy and Nathan O’Driscoll have knee injuries which will see them miss the opening rounds. Heath Chapman has a short-term injury cloud while Michael Frederick and Brennan Cox have had issues in the lead-up to Round 1, but may not miss a game.

Bet on the Dockers to make the top eight @ $3.75 with PlayUp

Hawthorn Hawks

Last season, the Hawks were a pretty unequivocal 16th best team in the league. Early in the year it was them alongside the Kangaroos and Eagles who looked set to fight it out for the Wooden Spoon, but Hawthorn pretty quickly established themselves as substantially better than those two, albeit still not at the level of virtually every other team in the league. But as the season progressed they began to show more and more signs, and over their last 14 games they were a decent 6-8 in a period which included comfortable wins against both eventual Grand Finalists in the Lions and the Magpies. There is a clear direction forward in Sam Mitchell’s third year in charge, with plenty of young talent across the park meaning they are well placed to improve upon the seven wins that they managed last year. Their impressive form over the back half of the year had most of the AFL world on notice to the point where significant improvement this year almost felt taken for granted, but bookmakers appear to have avoided jumping the gun and still have them ahead of only the Eagles and Kangaroos as finals chances. Jumping from where they were particularly in the first half of last year into the finals this year would be a serious effort and the chances are that they won’t improve to that extent, but with a pretty high ceiling on what they could achieve, they look like decent value at $6. 

  • What brings them here? The Hawks haven’t been anywhere near the top eight the past few years, but they have built a pretty solid collection of talent over the past few years and have plenty of scope for improvement.
  • What has changed? There are a couple of nice acquisitions for the Hawks; Jack Ginnivan comes across from the Pies while they also picked up Mabior Chol from the Suns, club legend Jack Gunston from the Lions and Massimo D’Ambrosio from the Bombers. Tyler Brockman, Jacob Koschitzke and Brandony Ryan were both traded, so it’s safe to say they will have a pretty different forward line this year compared to last.
  • Injury update: Will Day and Changkuoth Jaith will miss the first few weeks while Chad Wingard will miss even longer as he recovers from his Achilles injury. Seamus Mitchell and Bailey Macdonald miss at least a couple of weeks to start the year, Denver Grainger-Barass will miss half the season, and defender James Blanck is out for the season with an ACL. 

Bet on the Hawks to make the top eight @ $6.00 with PlayUp

Our Prediction

There are a number of ways to approach this market, with various teams ranging from short-priced favourites to teams like the long-odds Hawks all potentially offering up some value. A couple of standouts to me look like the Dockers at $3.75 – not that they will necessarily make it, but the value is there – and the Demons. The Dees, in particular, look like a good bet, whether to anchor a multi or just as an outright. They’re not offering a huge amount of value but it’s nearly impossible to imagine them missing the finals. They are one of the best teams in the league, and despite having suffered a couple of ignominious ends to the last two seasons and an arduous off-season in many ways, they still have one of the most well-rounded lists in the business. Barring a total breakdown they will play finals, and at $1.55 look like overs.  

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.