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Nine things we learned from round three

The 10: round three All the thrilling highlights from a big weekend of football
Jake Carlisle takes a one-handed mark in Essendon's comeback win over Freo on Friday night - ${keywords}
Jake Carlisle takes a one-handed mark in Essendon's comeback win over Freo on Friday night
1) Jake Carlisle is a big game hunter
They don't hand out All Australian jumpers after just three weeks of football, but if they did, Essendon's Jake Carlisle would be a walk-up certainty. The 21-year-old started the season unsure whether he was a member of Essendon's best 22, but after three stand-out performances so far this year on Taylor Walker, Mitch Clark and Matthew Pavlich, the Bombers appear to have found a player who can take the opposition's best forward for the next few years. Pavlich is key for Fremantle, but on Friday night at Patersons Stadium, he had just 10 touches and was repeatedly outpointed by Carlisle. - Ashley Browne

2) Talk of the Swans' demise has been premature
Much was made of the Sydney Swans' so-so start to their premiership defence in the first two rounds, when they did little more than was necessary against Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast. But the Swans' imposing 11-goal third term against North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena signalled any premiership hangover has cleared. The Roos had been impressive in building a 14-point half-time lead on Saturday, but the Swans danced around them like witches hats in the third quarter, winning the ball at will around stoppages and running the Roos ragged in open play. Now 3-0, the Swans look set to be a contender again in 2013. - Nick Bowen

3) Hawthorn's Luke is still a force
Some in football were lining up to pension off Luke Hodge after the injury problems that plagued him last season and for much of this pre-season. But the Hawks skipper underlined he is far from a spent football force against Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday. With his team down by 22 points midway through the second quarter, Hodge was instrumental in helping the Hawks seize control of the game and eventually canter away to a 55-point win. His stats – 31 possessions, 17 contested, six inside 50s and two goals – were impressive enough, but it was the return of Hodge's trademark presence and leadership that would have most pleased Hawks fans. - Nick Bowen

4) The Essendon game is huge for St Kilda
There has been a healthy degree of commentary over St Kilda's current standing and, more specifically, its 2013 finals hopes. It's fair to say few of it has been positive and bookmakers have the Saints as rank outsiders to reach the finals. But none of that holds any interest for coach Scott Watters. "There was a lot made of us being a club that's gone into development mode," Watters said after Saturday's 72-point win over GWS. "(But) we want to compete and we relish the challenge that will come our way next week." That challenge is none other than undefeated ladder leader Essendon. If the Saints want to prove they're not a spent force, and to avoid missing consecutive finals series for the first time since 2002-03, knocking off the Bombers would force the footballing world to take notice. - James Dampney

5) Captaincy sits well with Travis Boak
The best captains can carry a side over the line and, while Port Adelaide had plenty of contributors in Sunday's Showdown, their new skipper was electric. Boak, 24, endured an eventful 2012, including drawn-out contract talks and the death of a teammate, but he has emerged in the form of his life. His 30 disposals and three valuable goals earned him the Showdown Medal. He is fast becoming one of the AFL's elite captains. - Harry Thring

6) Richmond's midfield is scarily good
Three of the best players in the Tigers' 67-point win over the Western Bulldogs were Brett Deledio, Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin, while Shaun Grigg and Daniel Jackson won plaudits from the coach. Deledio and Martin had 20 disposals between them at quarter time and went on for 27 and 35 respectively while Cotchin broke the tag of Nick Lower – a player who had his measure in the NAB Cup – for 36. Grigg kept stoppage specialist Tom Liberatore quiet and Jackson was labelled by Damien Hardwick as the Tigers' best player over three games. Dogs' midfielder Daniel Cross said the evenly balanced engine could match it with any team. "It's not just [Martin and Cotchin]; they've developed their side really well, all of their midfield. When those guys get a run on … they're as good as anyone." - Jennifer Phelan

7) West Coast's forward line is the best in the business
The Eagles forwards feasted on a lacklustre Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday afternoon. Josh Kennedy kicked five goals, marking everything in reach and backing up with superb second efforts on the ground. Jack Darling's energy and enthusiasm was also rewarded with five goals, and Dean Cox (three goals) proved he's the best big man in the game. Add the returning Mark LeCras, who kicked three, and you have a forward line that is both unpredictable and extremely damaging. - Ben Guthrie

8) The Cats always give you a sniff
Having won their third straight scrap, is Geelong still a great side, or just lucky? It's too early to tell. What we do know is that the Cats continue to have lapses of five or so minutes in each quarter, allowing their opposition to get into the game. Carlton could have snatched victory in the last, with four quick goals, before the Cats steadied. Their best footy seems to come out only when challenged. - Jacqui Reed

9) You have to take the Suns seriously now 
After just six wins in their first two seasons, a match against the Suns meant almost an automatic four points for their opposition. Not any more. For the third match in succession, the plucky Suns would not go away and almost pinched an unlikely win in Saturday night's QClash against the Lions. While skill may still be an issue, hard work, endeavour and fitness isn't. Winning against the Suns is becoming more difficult by the week. - Michael Whiting