The AFL is back for another season and there are plenty of big games in round one, starting with the Blues and Tigers on Thursday night. Here’s The Wolf’s AFL tips for the opening round of the season. 
Blues v Tigers
MCG, Thu 21/3, 7.20pm
Carlton +35.5 ($1.90)Richmond 1-39 ($2.20)
Magpies v Cats
MCG, Fri 22/3, 7.50pm
Collingwood -8.5 ($1.90)Collingwood/Collingwood half time/full time ($2)
Demons v Power
MCG, Sat 23/3, 1.45pm
Melbourne -22.5 ($1.90)Melbourne 40+ ($3)
Crows v Hawks
Adelaide Oval, Sat 23/3, 4.35pm
Hawthorn +20.5 ($1.90)Adelaide 1-39 ($2.05)
Dogs v Swans
Marvel Stadium, Sat 23/3, 7.25pm
Western Bulldogs ($2.30)Western Bulldogs +8.5 / Under 174.5 ($3.40)
Lions v Eagles
The Gabba, Sat 23/3, 8.20pm
West Coast -13.5 ($1.90)West Coast 1-39 ($2.10)
Saints v Suns
Marvel Stadium, Sun 24/3, 1.10pm
Gold Coast +25.5 ($1.90)Gold Coast 1-39 ($4.65)
Giants v Bombers
Sydney Showground Stadium, Sun 24/3, 3.20pm
Essendon ($2.30)Essendon 1-24 ($3.90)
Dockers v Kangaroos
Optus Stadium, Sun 24/3, 6.20pm
North Melbourne ($1.90)North Melbourne 1-39 ($2.45)

Carlton Blues ($5.25) v Richmond Tigers ($1.16)

Tigers to roar, but Blues will keep it close
In what has become a staple of the AFL fixture, Carlton and Richmond will once again open the season at the MCG on Thursday night. The Tigers will be gunning for their eighth win in a row against the Blues, who are coming off just two wins a season ago. The upside for Carlton is they snared gun midfielder Sam Walsh with the first pick in the 2018 draft and he looks a star. He averaged 25 disposals across the two JLT games and is the real deal. The Tigers fell a game short of the Grand Final and will definitely give the top end of the table a good shake in 2019. The Wolf knows round one can throw up some surprise results, but expects the Tigers to get the job done. The Blues have kept within the near six goal handicap on offer in this game in nine of their past 10 games against the Tigers and that’s the way to go to kick start the season.
H2H: Carlton +35.5 ($1.90)Value: Richmond 1-39 ($2.20)

Collingwood Magpies ($1.62) v Geelong Cats ($2.30)

Pies to prevail against sliding Cats
The Pies came within a whisker of ultimate glory last season and come into this season with high hopes and open their season against Geelong on Friday night. Collingwood lost its only game against the Cats last season by 21 points and manage season-low low five goals in the round eight defeat. Dayne Beams return to the club after a stint with the Brisbane Lions, while fans can expect Jordan De Goey and Jaidyn Stephenson to lace up the boots after injury curtailed their pre-season games. It’s a healthy Geelong squad and many of the familiar names will be carrying a club that was bounced out of the finals in week one a year ago. The Wolf thinks that the Pies are real contenders this season, while the Cats could miss the finals for the first time in a long time. Collingwood should flex their muscle against a Cats team that lacks real x-factor and win by at least a couple of goals.
H2H: Collingwood -8.5 ($1.90)Value: Collingwood/Collingwood half time/full time ($2)

Melbourne Demons ($1.31) v Port Adelaide Power ($3.45)

Dees could demolish under strength Power 
The Dees were a whisker away from last years Grand Final but were totally outclassed by the eventual champs West Coast in the prelim final. They come back this season having improved their defence, acquiring gun former Gold Coast defender Steven May, although he misses this one through suspension. The Power disappointingly missed last season’s finals and on their day can be one of the competitions most exciting teams. The trouble for Ken Hinkley’s men is that they struggle to play consistent footy. The selection table will present plenty of headaches for the veteran coach with Charlie Dixon, Ollie Wines and Hamish Hartlett all out, while Paddy Ryder will be given until later in the week to prove his fitness. As many as four debutants could lace up the boots for the Port in this one. The teams have split their past four meetings and the Power have a 4-3 win-loss record at the ‘G since 2015. Despite this, The Wolf sees the Dees winning this one comfortably given the Power’s lack of experience in midfield, with the home side to kick away in the second half.
H2H: Melbourne -22.5 ($1.90)Value: Melbourne 40+ ($3)

Adelaide Crows ($1.34) v Hawthorn Hawks ($3.25)

Hawks dominant record against the Crows means they’ll keep it close
The Crows and Hawks bring contrasting pre-season form into their round one game at the Adelaide Oval. Adelaide won its early season hit outs against Port and GWS, while the Hawks were beaten by Brisbane and Richmond. The Crows have the luxury of almost an entire roster to pick from in this one, while the Hawks midfield stocks have taken a hit during the preseason. New recruits Chad Wingard and Tom Scully won’t take the field for the brown and gold this week, while Brownlow Medalist Tom Mitchell is out for the season. Hawthorn has won a staggering nine of its past 10 games against the Crows at all venues and The Wolf knows better than to underestimate one of the best teams of the past two decades. They’ll keep it close all the way, but Adelaide should pinch it late.
H2H: Hawthorn +20.5 ($1.90)Value: Adelaide 1-39 ($2.05)

Western Bulldogs ($2.30) v Sydney Swans ($1.62)

Doggies to get the job done at home
The Dogs have failed to reach lofty heights since their dramatic 2016 premiership triumph and face a tough test against a Swans side that is 19-7 at Marvel Stadium in the past four seasons. There is plenty of concern for the Dogs on the injury front with Tom Boyd, Liam Picken, Dale Morris and Jason Johannisen just some of their injured brigade. Gun forward Lance Franklin will need to pass a fitness test on Thursday and if he’s able to play will be the main avenue for the Swans going forward. Sydney managed just 30 points in last year’s final against GWS, with kicking a winning score this season likely to be the challenge for both clubs. The Wolf is taking a chance on the Doggies to catch the Swans and an underdone Lance Franklin in an opening round upset.
H2H: Western Bulldogs ($2.30)Value: Western Bulldogs +8.5 / Under 174.5 ($3.40)

Brisbane Lions ($2.65) v West Coast Eagles ($1.48)

Eagles to fly high
The Brisbane Lions should be one of the big movers once its all said and done this season as they push for finals for the first time since 2009. It’s a tough ask for them in round one as they face reigning champs the West Coast Eagles. Recent results between the two clubs is grim reading for the Lions fans, who will see that their club has lost their past eight games to West Coast dating back to 2012. The Gabba holds no fears for the Coasters either, who’ve picked up five wins on the trot at the ground. Josh Kennedy is the big injury concern for the visitors and he will need to prove his fitness before taking the field in this one. Andrew Gaff and Nic Naitanui will both miss out for the champs. The Lions have a relatively clean bill of health when it comes to their star players and will welcome the chance to test themselves against the best there is. The Wolf thinks it’s hard to ignore West Coast’s total dominance of the Lions when picking a winner in this match and although they had a shorter pre-season than most, will be too good on Saturday night.
H2H: West Coast -13.5 ($1.90)Value: West Coast 1-39 ($2.10)

St Kilda Saints ($1.25) v Gold Coast Suns ($4)

Suns offer all the value in battle of last years bottom four 
It’s injuries aplenty for the Saints and Suns when they take the field on Sunday at Marvel Stadium. Saints coach Alan Richardson is the man under the most pressure before a ball is bounced this season after a number of leans years at Moorabbin. Gold Coast have been underachievers since joining the competition 10 years ago and are staring at another season of rebuilding after losing Tom Lynch and Steven May in free agency. Jack Steven, Dan Hannebury and Jake Carlisle are among the Saints big names that are missing and they’re far too short to tempt The Wolf into backing them at $1.25 given they won just four games last season. Take the Suns at the line as they should put in a spirited round one performance
H2H: Gold Coast +25.5 ($1.90)Value: Gold Coast 1-39 ($4.65)

GWS Giants ($1.62) v Essendon Bombers ($2.30)

Dons to pick up where they left off last season
The Giants have won at least one finals game in the past three seasons but just can’t get over the hump and there is fear that their premiership window may be closing ever so slightly. They host an Essendon side that will fancy themselves as finals contenders after winning 10 of their final 13 games after losing six from eight to start the year, including a loss to bottom-placed Carlton a season ago. Joe Daniher and Cale Hooker are the only injury concerns for the red and blacks, while the Giants look lean in the ruck with Shane Mumford and Jonathan Patton both out. Essendon dominated GWS in Sydney a season ago by 35 points and while The Wolf thinks this one will be a bit closer, the result will be the same. Bombers for me.
H2H: Essendon ($2.30)Value: Essendon 1-24 ($3.90)

Fremantle Dockers ($1.90) v North Melbourne Kangaroos ($1.90)

Roos to bounce Dockers in Perth 
The closest betting game of the round sees the Dockers host the Roos in Perth on Sunday night. The market is struggling to split these two clubs who both missed the finals a season ago. The Dockers have the longest injury list of any club in the league with the likes of Jesse Hogan, Brad Hill, Aaron Sandilands and Brandon Matera all out for this game. Neither side picked up a win in the pre-season and they have split their past four meetings two apiece. The Wolf is concerned about North’s weak defence, but struggles to see how the Dockers will score enough goals to win on Sunday. The Roos will catch Freo out in round one and hop out of Perth with a win.
H2H: North Melbourne ($1.90)Value: North Melbourne 1-39 ($2.45)

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