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Six things we learned from round 13

Staff writers  June 18, 2017 9:09 PM

AFL 2017 Round 13 - North Melbourne v St Kilda

Veterans Leigh Montagna (left) and Nick Riewoldt are still firing for the Saints

1. Saints not ready for a future without veterans  
If Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt were both left out of St Kilda's team right now, what would the result be? That's a question the Saints have to answer as both players come out of contract. The Saints have only gone in without both players three times in the past five years (rounds three to five in 2015) and the result was three losses for the 14th-placed team. St Kilda has come a long way in its past two seasons under Alan Richardson, but Friday night's underwhelming win against North Melbourne showed they are not ready for a future without two of their champs. Montagna (28 possessions, four inside 50s and five rebound 50s) was instrumental in the win, while Riewoldt (21 possessions and 11 marks) was a steadying influence. With the competition as even as it has been, and the Saints still relying heavily on the veteran duo, a future without them is too uncertain to let them go. - Nathan Schmook

After the siren: Blues jump the queue in rebuilding race

2. Sam Mitchell should go on next season if his mind is willing
The ex-Hawthorn champion's future was back in the spotlight this week after he revealed he was only 50-50 to play on next season, with the prospect of moving into an assistant coach's role at West Coast looking increasingly appealing. How the Eagles finish the season and whether they might be flag contenders next year could weigh on Mitchell's mind, however the 34-year-old's form is certainly good enough for him to go around for a 17th season. Critics have pointed to the slowness of the Eagles' midfield with a combination of Mitchell and Matt Priddis, who has already signed for next season, but the ex-Hawk's football brain, elite skills and game-sense is as good as ever. He just needs those around him to step up in areas like pressure and chasing, as West Coast's midfield did in beating Geelong's on-ball division on Thursday night. It was a glimpse into what many thought the Eagles could become this season with Mitchell on board, and perhaps a sign Adam Simpson's side is turning the corner. - Travis King

Coach Adam Simpson provides a shoulder to lean on for Sam Mitchell. Picture: AFL Photos

3. Bryce Gibbs was worth fighting for
It was just last year Carlton midfielder Bryce Gibbs wanted a trade to Adelaide with three years still to run on his contract. The Blues stood firm, said no, and kept their star in-house. It was a great decision then and an even better one now. Gibbs played arguably one of the best games of his 220-game career against Gold Coast on Saturday night, leading the Blues team to a crucial win over the Suns.

WATCH: Gibbs provides game for the ages

His stat line was phenomenal - 43 disposals (14 contested), eight marks, seven clearances, 10 tackles, two goals and two assists. Even more impressive was his leadership and composure. In the final term Gibbs kicked two clutch goals – the second regained a lead Carlton had relinquished – to steer the Blues home. Gibbs is having a terrific 2017 and proving why clubs should drive a hard bargain and stick with their stars. - Michael Whiting

Fantasy form watch: The Bryce is right

Bryce Gibbs (right) dominated in the Blues' second straight win. Picture: AFL Photos

4. The Swans are coming fast
Sydney will need to be like Winx in the back half of the season to string enough wins together to be a premiership contender but if any team can do that it is the Swans. Their midfield, led by Josh Kennedy, has its mojo back with Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker returning to their best. Most importantly its young core, Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, Zak Jones, Jake Lloyd and Nic Newman are rapidly improving their work through the middle and it is making the Swans extremely dangerous as their whole game is based around winning the ball at the coalface. - Peter Ryan

Around the state leagues: Who starred in your club's twos?

5. 'JJ' most visible symptom of Dogs' malaise
If the loss to Melbourne is a reliable guide, the Western Bulldogs' premiership defence has hit the serious staggers. And Sunday's game again cast the spotlight on a key Bulldog whose 2017 struggles have symbolised the reigning premiers' wider battle. Jason Johannisen enjoyed an outstanding 2016 finals series and his ability to cut opposition defensive systems to shreds with his run from half-back earned him last year's Norm Smith Medal and, more importantly, gave the Dogs an explosive counter-attacking edge, something that was vital for such a low-scoring team. However, after making a strong start to 2017, Johannisen has been horribly out of form in recent weeks. Held to nine possessions by a niggly Sydney outfit last round, the defender was only marginally more influential against the Demons, finishing with 15 disposals, three rebound 50s and three inside 50s. But in a game where they were made to look slow and stagnant by the Demons, Johannisen's inability to spark the Dogs stood out like … well, you know what. If the Bulldogs are going to find the offensive spark to trouble this year's better sides, they'll need Johannisen to rise above the attention he's currently copping – and will continue to cop – and return to his best. - Nick Bowen

Talking points: Bugg's pre-game Instagram barb hits home

6. Injured or not, Robbie Gray is the Power's most dangerous forward
Questions about the fitness of Port Adelaide star Robbie Gray have been a weekly ritual this season. But despite a well-publicised groin complaint, and a dodgy calf, Gray has continued to make an impact with his outstanding football nous. Only a wayward radar in front of goal stopped him from kicking a big bag in the Power's 40-point win against the Brisbane Lions at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. Gray finished with 21 possessions, six marks inside 50, six tackles and kicked 2.4 on a night when key forward Charlie Dixon was held to a solitary goal by impressive Lions defender Harris Andrews. Gray doesn't need to be the midfield star he has been on his way to winning the Power's club champion award for the past three years. The emergence of Sam Powell-Pepper along with Ollie Wines, Brad Ebert and Chad Wingard gives the Power a well-balanced midfield unit. Gray's bodywork on Darcy Gardiner to kick an important goal just before quarter-time was the stuff only clever footballers can do. - Lee Gaskin

WATCH: Gray shares the love in strong response

Robbie Gray (left) celebrates a goal with young gun Sam Powell-Pepper. Picture: AFL Photos