Essendon are living a nightmare. The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s doping suspensions have rocked the Bombers, who will be without 12 senior players in 2016. Dons fans should therefore brace themselves for some beltings, despite being allowed to top up their squad with recently retired or delisted footballers.

The Bombers’ quote to claim the 2016 Premiership ranges from $67 with bet365 to $501 with Hills, Unibet and Centrebet. You can get $30 with Betfair for the Dons to make the finals but it is just not going to happen. Do not waste your cash. We repeat, do not waste your cash.

We reckon the flag is heading to Hawthorn, West Coast, Fremantle or Geelong.

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Despite losing ruckman David Hale and full-back Brian Lake to retirement, the Hawks have kept their star-studded midfield together and bet365 has them at $4.25 to claim a fourth successive cup. Bustling full-forward Jarryd Roughead (knee) will miss the first half of the season which is a real hammer blow. We feel the loss of such a key player will be the start of Hawthorn’s death by 1000 paper cuts and we are tipping the dynasty to end in 2016.

Fremantle have been challenging for several years but West Coast’s meteoric rise means there is a big chance that the flag could be headed across the Nullarbor in 2016.

Last season’s minor Premiers, the Dockers, have drifted in flag markets with the corporates. They had been as short as $6 in February but now you will not find them any less than $9.

Star recruit Harley Bennell will miss the early part of the season with a calf injury and we think the purple Premiership window is closing. Back them if you have faith in Ross Lyon but he has coached four Grand Finals without a victory and our patience is wearing thin.

West Coast, meanwhile, are on the second line of flag betting at $5.50 and they are our top pick. The team that got spanked in last year’s Grand Final has more or less stayed together. Vice-captain Scott Selwood, who missed selection for the decider, left for Geelong as a free agent. Matt Rosa, who started with the bib in the big loss to the Hawks, was traded to Brisbane.

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bet365 is offering $1.75 for West Coast to get a double chance and that is surely a formality, despite the early season absence of midfielders Dom Sheed (pectoral), Chris Masten (ankle) and Sharrod Wellingham (knee).

Geelong are the other Premiership threat. Explosive midfielder Patrick Dangerfield fell into the Cats’ lap during the trade period and, if his pre-season form is anything to go by, the boy from Moggs Creek is set for a huge year.

Geelong missed the finals for the first time since 2006 last season and BoyleSports was offering $13 in February for the cup to head to the Cattery this year. The $9 that bet365, Sportsbet and Unibet are now offering is as good as it gets but it is still worth serious consideration. The $2.10 Luxbet will gift you when the Cats get a double chance is easy money.

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Sydney and the Kangaroos also have claims for the top four. North Melbourne’s season has ended at the preliminary final stage in the past two years and we do not think they are ready to take the next step. Betfair is offering $4.14 for North Melbourne to get a double chance this season but the $1.80 that bet365 is offering for them to make the eight is safer.

The Swans might have lost Adam Goodes (retired) and Lewis Jetta, who was traded to West Coast, but their midfield is still elite and their forward line is among the AFL’s most damaging. They will make the finals ($1.50 with Betfair) but, sorry, Bloods fans, we think your boys will get squeezed out of the top four this year.

Richmond supporters have been tearing their hair out for years as the Tigers promise so much but deliver so little season on season. The addition of former Carlton goalsneak Chris Yarran will provide another avenue up forward, although he will spend the early stages of the season on the sidelines with a foot injury. Unibet is offering $3.75 for Richmond to make the top four this season and, considering they were fifth last year, we say you should take it.

Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs are the big unknowns in 2016. After being one kick from a Grand Final in 2014, the Power missed the top eight last year. Things got worse when No.1 ruckman Paddy Ryder and Angus Monfries, who are both former Bombers, were suspended for this season as part of the supplements scandal. We reckon the Power are overrated and cannot resist bet365’s juicy $2.80 for Port to miss the finals.

Like the Eagles, the Bulldogs were the big movers last season. Tom Liberatore, who missed all of 2015 with a knee injury, will boost their engine room and the $1.85 that bet365, Luxbet and Betfair are offering for a Doggies top-eight finish looks pretty safe.

Adelaide had a chaotic 2015, which was headlined by the mid-season murder of coach Phil Walsh, but they still managed to finish seventh. However, we reckon they’re on the slide. Dangerfield has gone and new coach Don Pyke is untried in the driver’s seat. You can get on the Crows to make the eight at $2.56 with Betfair, if you have the guts.

Greater Western Sydney’s squad was raided in the trade period but much of their best 22 remained untouched. They will miss Adam Treloar, who went to Collingwood, and Tomas Bugg, who joined Melbourne. Luxbet is offering $2.65 for the Giants to make the finals but stay away. The $1.50 bet365 will give you if the Giants miss the eight is easy money.

Collingwood finished 12th last season but they have been touted as a finals chance and are paying $1.80 with Luxbet to taste September action. We reckon this is just hot air surrounding the Pies and they will be cold this year. If you want an extra 10 cents, take bet365’s $1.90 for Collingwood to miss the finals.

It’s hard to make cases for Melbourne, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Carlton or St Kilda to reach the finals but the improving Demons won seven games in 2015 and were undefeated in the NAB Challenge this year. You would still need to be committed if you actually backed them to make the top eight.

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Coleman Medal
Eagle Josh Kennedy booted 80 goals last season and heads the market at about $4.50 with most corporates. Meanwhile, after a disappointing 2015, Swans spearhead Buddy Franklin is stable at around $6.

Adelaide’s Eddie Betts, last year’s runner-up with 63 goals, is a silly chance at $34 with bet365, Betfair and Luxbet.

Giant Jeremy Cameron also booted 63 goals last year but has been a big drifter. He was paying between $9-$11 in February but has since been suspended for the first four rounds of the season. His quote has blown out to $26 with Hills and Centrebet.

Brownlow Medal
Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett was the top pick for much of the summer but his failure to play a pre-season game has seen Nathan Fyfe edge him as favourite.

Ablett is 32 in May and played only six matches last year due to a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, Fyfe had surgery to repair a broken leg after last season and hurt his back when training in December. However, a strong pre-season campaign has allayed bettors’ fears and he is definitely one to watch.

Fyfe is $7 with William Hill and Centrebet and $5.50 with Luxbet, while you can get on Ablett for $7.27 with Betfair. At the same time, Dangerfield flexed his muscles in the NAB Challenge, racking up hauls of 28, 24 and 30 disposals for the Cats in a sign of things to come. He is paying $9 with most agencies.

Elsewhere, Betfair is offering the best prices for West Coast’s Matt Priddis ($12.40), Geelong’s Joel Selwood ($25), Swan Dan Hannebery ($17.10) and Hawk Sam Mitchell ($19).
West Coast
AFL [Grand Final Winner]
1pt
13
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Lance Franklin
AFL [Coleman Medal]
1pt
4.25
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Nathan Fyfe
Brownlow Medal
1pt
11
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