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Sentiment plays a major role in AFL, NRL Premiership markets

Sydney Swans

This week is one of the biggest of the Australian sports betting calendar with the AFL and NRL Grand Finals to be held on consecutive days in Melbourne and Sydney.

Research emerged this week that over 600,000 Australians would have a bet on one or both of the two matches, making this week second only behind the Melbourne Cup week in November in terms of the reach of gamblings event in Australia.

And both matches are likely to attract significant amount of sentimental, or emotional money, with the two underdogs both seeking fairytale successes.

The AFL Grand Final, to be played Saturday afternoon at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, features the Sydney Swans, the premiers from 2005 and 2012, against the Western Bulldogs, playing in their first decider since 1961, and looking for their first success in the final since 1954.

The reaction to the Bulldog fairytale - they are the first team ever to won through to a Grand Final from seventh on the ladder at the end of the season - has been incredible. AFL's heartland of Melbourne has been bathed in the blue, white and red of the Western suburban club, who have long held the reputation as everyone's second favourite team.

The market holds Sydney, the minor premiers and a dominant winner of last week's preliminary final, as $1.62 (-162) favourites, while the Bulldogs are $2.35 (+135), having slightly shortened over the past few days.

Such is the weight of public affection for the Bulldogs, who have fought of bankruptcy and mergers to survive and now thrive in the modern AFL competition, it is likely they will start even shorter by match day. The line is currently +10.5 to the Dogs, but will likely close by matchday. 

Interestingly, two of the past four AFL Grand Finals have resulted in an underdog win, while five of the eight finals played in 2016, including all three Bulldogs games, have resulted in an upset. The Bulldogs have won their past two games against the Swans, both by four points.

In the National Rugby League final, to be played a day later in Sydney at the Olympic Stadium, it will be the Cronulla Sharks who will be plotting an upset as they look for their first-ever NRL title when they play the Melbourne Storm.

The Sharks have been renowned as the great underachievers of rugby league since they joined the competition back in 1967. They have made the Grand Final on just three occasions, in 1973, 1978 and 1997, and lost all three deciders.

Even when they embarked on a record-breaking 15-game winning streak mid-season, there were plenty of doubters and when they suffered a late season slump which saw them slip to third on the table, it looked a case of the September Shakes all over again.

But the club, which was shaken to its core by a drugs scandal in 2013, has stood up in the finals, defeating the Canberra Raiders in the qualifying final and the North Queensland Cowboys in the preliminary final to make the GF. Like the Bulldogs in the AFL, they were outsiders in those matches.

And they will be underdogs again on Sunday, albeit, only just, with the Storm at $1.83 (-120) and the Sharks at $2 (-100). The line is at an almost meaningless 1.5 in the Sharks' favour.

Again, sentiment appears to be playing a part, given the Storm comfortably beat the Sharks 26-6 just four weeks ago in the final round of the regular season.

The Melbourne-based club have only been in the competition 20 years, and have won four Grand Finals, but two of those titles, 2007 and 2009, were subsequently stripped from the club for salary cap breaches.

With the respective club histories in mind, it is little wonder that every rugby league fan in the heartlands of New South Wales and Queensland is likely cheering for a Cronulla win. And with so many Aussies betting on these matches, then that is likely to translate into a betting market shaped by emotion and sentiment.

Special to OddsShark from AustralianGambling.com.au