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Nine things we learned from round 14

The 10: round 14 Screamers, incredible goals and some emotion - this round had it all

1. Carlton just can't win the close ones
Heading into Friday night's clash with the Swans, Carlton had lost six games, but the biggest margin of defeat was just 17 points. Time and again the Blues were right in matches heading into the final term, only to fall short. That was the case again at the SCG, closing to within seven points in the final quarter before the Swans kicked away for a 22-point win. Now sitting 6-7 for the year ahead of a huge Friday night clash with Collingwood, the Blues need to find a way to turn competitive showings into victories right now or Mick Malthouse's stated aim of finals in his first season at the helm will be out of reach. - James Dampney

2. Big Dawson might not be done
The race to carry Geelong's rucking load in the finals seemed to be a competition between Mark Blicavs, Trent West, Nathan Vardy and Hamish McIntosh. But Dawson Simpson has put his hand up with a couple of decent performances in the past two weeks. He was very impressive against Fremantle on Saturday night, finishing with 13 possessions and 34 hit-outs. "I'd very surprised if he didn't play more AFL football in the next six to eight weeks," Cats coach Chris Scott said. "But he's no guarantee to play next week. We were very impressed with the work he did, but (guaranteeing his spot) would be underselling how much we rate Vardy and West." - Adam McNicol

3. Craig has sway, Howe adds swagger
Neil Craig's influence on the Demons is already showing. Averaging just 66 points for a game, the Dees blew that out of the water against the Bulldogs, finishing with 103. And it's not just their forward line that is starting to click. All over the ground the players are taking the game on and seem to be enjoying their footy. Moving Jeremy Howe forward has also proved an instant hit. The fans have been screaming for it, and suddenly, with his high-flying approach to the ball, supporters have a player they will go to the footy just to see. Finally, there's something to get excited about at Melbourne. - Jacqui Reed

4. Prestia is now a terrific two-way player
More than anyone this season, Prestia has exemplified Gold Coast's improvement and taken his game to a new level. His 42 disposals was a career high (by 10) but only told half the story. Not only did he cope with a final quarter tag by Rory Sloane – and win - but until then Prestia had spent much of the match following experienced Scott Thompson and having far the better of the battle. Brenton Sanderson said Prestia's game was "as good a game as I've seen a young kid play in a long, long time". As his own coach Guy McKenna said, a stint in defence early in the season has helped round out a game that has primarily been offence-focused since he was a ball-winning junior for the Calder Cannons in the under-18s. - Michael Whiting

5. Hansen is a more natural defender
Lachlan Hansen has had success playing as a key forward, but against Greater Western Sydney on Sunday he again showed he is more comfortable in defence. Hansen had a game-high 13 marks (four contested) against the Giants and seems to fly for his marks with more and more confidence by the game. His ability to intercept opposition attacks by flying third man up has given North's defence an extra dimension since he was moved to the backline in round seven against the Western Bulldogs. After the Giants match, North coach Brad Scott said Hansen was really starting to have an impact on games in defence. - Nick Bowen

6. The Tigers are winning the ones they're supposed to, the Saints need a key defender
All things pointed to a Richmond victory on Sunday evening at the MCG, which is exactly why Tiger fans would have been worried going in. Despite the Saints getting the quicker starts and kicking early goals in the first three quarters, the Tigers piled on majors in unstoppable streaks and shared around the load with a number of midfielders chipping in around goal. Jack Riewoldt, Ty Vickery and Aaron Edwards were a solid combination, further emphasising the Saints' need for more defensive depth with forward Rhys Stanley forced to help out Sean Dempster and James Gwilt in the second half. Potential ankle injuries to Dylan Roberton and Sean Dempster won't help next week, either. No doubt backmen will be on the Saints' wish list come October.  - Jennifer Phelan

7. Dropping in sees Cloke drop out
Did Port Adelaide show the rest of the League Collingwood superstar Travis Cloke's Achilles heel? He's the king of contested marks and leads the AFL with 28. But for only the second time this year he failed to pull any in against the Power, not only because of the superb job Alipate Carlile did on him, but because Carlile's teammates continually dropped in front to provide physical pressure. The Power's midfielders didn't allow Cloke a moment of freedom on Saturday and it proved ultra successful with the big forward kept to two goals. - Harry Thring

8. Mental resolve is the mark of a champion
Mental resolve in the face of adversity is the mark of a true champion and Jobe Watson showed that on Thursday. His rise from a talented underperforming youngster to an elite player has been well documented. His leadership has also been lauded over the past 12 months. But after the week from hell, with 36,000 people booing his every move, Watson reached even greater heights to block everything out and lift his side to victory with an extraordinary display. No matter the outcome of the ASADA investigation, we've learned that Watson is one of the mentally toughest footballers in the AFL. - Alex Malcolm

9. Gibson has no fear
Hawthorn defender Josh Gibson is recognised as one of the best spoilers in the game, but it was his downright bravery that earned praise from coach Alastair Clarkson on Sunday afternoon. Having seen his key backman limp away from a sickening fall from a marking contest he charged back to disrupt, the Hawks coach marvelled as Gibson composed himself on the bench and then ran headlong into his first contest back on the ground. Whether Gibson’s act of pure courage helped inspire the side is debatable, but the Hawks stormed towards the final break with a string of goals to all but bury the Lions in Launceston. - Stu Warren