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View from Down Under: Tigers tipped to open AFL defence with win over Carlton

Daniel Rioli Tigers Jake Lever Crows AFL

The Richmond Tigers are tipped to open their AFL title defence on a high when they face Carlton in their traditional first round on Friday.

After signing coach Damien Hardwick to a long-term contract during the off-season, the Tigers will be hoping the culture of hard work and team dynamic that helped them to the 2017 flag will be retained through the 2018 campaign.

Richmond has access to its entire 22-man premiership-winning squad – including Brownlow and Norm Smith medalist Dustin Martin, captain Trent Cochin, mercurial Daniel Rioli and the talismanic Jack Riewoldt.

Carlton, meanwhile, finished third from last in 2017 and will have a big hole to fill after the departure of Sam Docherty and Bryce Gibbs. Sportsbet is paying just $1.18 (-556) for Richmond to open with a win, with $5 (+400) for Carlton.

The Adelaide Crows dominated the regular season last year and will look to finish the job this year, starting with a trip to Melbourne to take on Essendon on Saturday.

While the Crows look to have the goods to beat the Bombers, they’ll have to do so without skipper Taylor Walker, midfielder Brad Crouch and forward Riley Knight, who have all been ruled out of Round 1 through injury.  The Crows are on $1.74 (-135) to beat Essendon, with $2.10 (+110) for the Bombers.

Greater Western Sydney looked better than their fourth-place finish last year and have plenty to prove in their opener against 2016 flag-winner the Western Bulldogs.

While the Bulldogs have been unable to recapture the magic of 2016, they remained a potent force in 2017 and will be finals-bound if their forwards can improve their efficiency. GWS are $1.42 (-238) to win at home on Sunday, with $2.90 (+190) for the Bulldogs.

High hopes for Ablett’s return to Cats

The Geelong Cats are riding high after securing the return of star midfielder Gary Ablett in the off-season as they prepare for Sunday’s game against the Melbourne Demons.

The Cats and Melbourne are on level pegging to take out their opening encounter at $1.90 (-111) each.

Looking ahead, Adelaide and the Sydney Swans are favorites to take the flag come September at $6 (+500), with $7 (+600) for Richmond, $8 (+700) for GWS, and Geelong and Port Adelaide on $9 (+800) each.

Rabada appeal makes Proteas favorites

In South Africa, paceman Kagiso Rabada will unleash his potent pace on Australia in the third Test at Cape Town starting Friday after successfully appealing his two-match ban for bumping Steve Smith.

South Africa leveled the four-Test series at 1-1 in Port Elizabeth and is the $2.20 (+120) favorite to make it 2-1, with $2.35 (+135) for the Aussies.

In the NRL, the Melbourne Storm are tipped to win again when they face fellow finals favorites the North Queensland Cowboys in a replay of the 2017 grand final. The Storm, who lost to the Wests Tigers last week, are on $1.60 (-166) to win at home against $2.40 (+140) for the loss.

The Melbourne Rebels are expected to retain their lead in the Super 15 Australian conference when they host South African side The Sharks. The Rebels lead the Queensland Reds by three points and are paying $1.50 (-200) for a win and $2.60 (+160) for a loss.

Lewis Hamilton is the overwhelming favorite to not only win this Sunday’s Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne, but also the drivers championship. The Brit is at $1.67 (-149) for back-to-back titles and slightly longer at $2 (+100) to win for the third time at the Albert Park track.

In the A-League, Newcastle could lose ground on its second-place chase, with Adelaide United the $2.25 (+125) favorite to win at home on Friday and $2.80 (+180) for the Jets.