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Nine things we learned from round 17

Staff writers  July 16, 2017 7:10 PM

The 10: round 17's best moments We turned the clock back this weekend with some speccies and a huge torpedo

1. The Saints' scattergun kicking has become a matter of urgency 
If St Kilda can't fix its accuracy in front of goal it won't have an impact on the 2017 season. That is how much is at stake for an exciting and much-improved club that could still make a run for the top four if it gets it kicking boots on. The Saints have kicked more behinds than points in six of their past seven games, and were at their worst in Friday night's clash against Essendon. That 61-point loss was not solely down to poor kicking in front of goal. But the team's 7.15 (57) score confirmed that their kicking has not improved with just six rounds to play before finals. Across the season St Kilda has kicked 29 more behinds than goals (the second highest differential of any club). It has dominated periods of games without the reward, and if that trend continues it will battle to beat fellow top-eight teams. - Nathan Schmook

The run home: How the race for the finals is shaping up

2. Champions win matches
In a game where so much emphasis is placed on systems, individuals still make a huge difference. Patrick Dangerfield showed that when he kicked 5.6 and took eight marks inside 50 to turn the game Geelong's way. He has single-handedly won Geelong more than one game this season showing that even the best transition plans – and the Cats have done it very well – rely on superstars to flourish. The Cats are on track for another top-four finish under Chris Scott, who has coached the team to 113 wins in 158 games since he took over in 2011, harnessing the brilliance under him in the best possible fashion. - Peter Ryan

WATCH: Danger goes from hobbled to hero

3. Sloane's tagging woes are hurting his reputation
There was a time this season when Rory Sloane, an All Australian last year, was the Brownlow Medal favourite. That status is a long way in the rearview mirror as he continues to struggle with being tagged. Demon Bernie Vince lowered Sloane's colours for the second time this season, extending a patch where the Crow has failed to reach 20 disposals five times in 10 matches. To be fair, his night ended in the third quarter after his head hit the ground in a Dean Kent tackle, but Sloane had just four first-half possessions. Coach Don Pyke tells us Sloane is contributing in other ways and Adelaide is not a one-man band, which is all well and good. But there is only one conclusion to come to: Sloane cannot be considered elite until he consistently proves he can perform to his usual high standards in spite of a tag. - Marc McGowan

After the siren: Is this Danger's 'senior' moment?

4. Dion Prestia has found his fit
High-profile recruit Dion Prestia was criticised for his 18-possession game against St Kilda in round 16, and the Tigers midfielder only had 19 against the Brisbane Lions on Sunday. But there was a significant difference between the two matches and it was enough for Damien Hardwick to declare the latter the best of Prestia's 13 games for the club. Prestia was given an accountable role on gun midfielder Dayne Zorko against the Lions and the role worked a treat. He kept Zorko to 11 possessions and looked a different, more purposeful player around stoppages all day. Getting high-quality football out of Prestia will make a significant difference to the Tigers in the final six rounds. If it takes run-with roles to bring out his best, the Tigers will consider that a nice bonus. - Nathan Schmook 

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

5. Despite a rough stretch there's no reason for Leon Cameron to panic
That might seem strange given Greater Western Sydney have won just one of their past five games, but the hard work Cameron's men did in the first half of the season still has them well placed. They're slowly starting to get on top of a crippling injury toll, and over the next month players like Stephen Coniglio and Jacob Hopper will add the strength and depth they need to the midfield group. Rory Lobb took six contested marks against the Swans in his third game back after missing four weeks with a groin, he just needs to clunk them closer to goal to make his impact more significant, while Nick Haynes and Devon Smith are others finding form after long layoffs. Toby Greene, Steve Johnson and Zac Williams will be better for the run against Sydney, and Jeremy Cameron shouldn't miss more than one more game at the most with his tight hammy. GWS aren't in premiership-winning form by any means, but flags aren't won in round 17, just ask last year's premiers. The Giants should still earn themselves a top-two position in the run home and if they can snag some luck on the injury front, most of their best 22 should be there by finals time, a scary prospect for the rest of the contenders. - Adam Curley

6. 'JJ' takes first step in form reversal
It was a good first step rather than an unequivocal return to form, but Jason Johannisen showed some encouraging signs against Carlton. In the week he signed a lucrative new five-year deal with the Western Bulldogs, Johannisen finished with 23 possessions, four rebound 50s, one running bounce and a last-quarter goal. More importantly, the speedster showed glimpses of the blistering run and clever ball use that made him one of the biggest heroes of the Bulldogs' 2016 premiership run. The West Australian's performance came after a difficult five-week period when he averaged 14 possessions a game – down from 25 in the first 10 rounds – and had just two running bounces and no goals. Carlton did not send a defensive forward to Johannisen as teams such as Sydney and Melbourne did so effectively, and the 24-year-old will likely have to overcome similar attention in the coming weeks as the Dogs bid to secure a spot in the finals. But, with his post-2017 football future now clear, Johannisen could be ready to rise to that challenge and help the Bulldogs avoid becoming the first premiers since Hawthorn in 2009 to miss the following year's finals. - Nick Bowen 

7. He's not the saviour but Cam McCarthy can't get back quick enough
Prized recruit Cam McCarthy openly declared he wasn't Fremantle's forward line saviour in the post-Matthew Pavlich era but the misfiring Dockers will welcome the 22-year-old back from suspension with open arms next round. Freo endured a horror day in front of goal in Sunday's Western Derby – booting a woefully inaccurate 5.14 – and could barely apply any scoreboard pressure despite dominating the inside-50 count (57-46). Talls Shane Kersten and Brennan Cox were totally outpointed in the air and with Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters well held the Dockers didn't have a dangerous forward. It raised more questions why Matt Taberner – coming off a career-high six-goal haul in the WAFL – wasn't picked. Taberner bagged five more in the wet on Saturday to push his case. Perhaps his card has already been marked after an inconsistent career. Regardless, the Dockers desperately need more firepower and McCarthy's return can't come soon enough. - Travis King

WATCH: Dockers' disastrous forward-half disposal

8. Port's other Gray finds the on-switch in 50th game
When we're talking about Port Adelaide's dangerous small forward, we're often referring to Robbie Gray. But it was Sam Gray (no relation) who showed he can be just as damaging in the Power's 70-point thumping of North Melbourne at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. In his 50th career game, Gray enjoyed his best outing of the season, booting an accurate 4.1 to go with 25 possessions. Gray was predominantly a midfielder early in his career, but has played as a pressure forward this year as the Power throw big bodies into their onball brigade. His finishing has been lacking this season – kicking a wasteful 13.21 before his breakout game. Something we didn't learn was Robbie Gray's brilliant finishing. He was kept to just two goals by impressive second-gamer Daniel Nielson, but boy, oh, boy, they were special goals. Gray's right-footed checkside from the left pocket was all class. - Lee Gaskin

WATCH: Gray turns up the Power

9. Fasolo has still got it
In a season that has included a missed match through depression, Alex Fasolo proved against the Suns he still has the goods to impact at the top level. His first quarter was explosive, kicking 2.1 and pinpointing a pass to Jamie Elliott for another goal that helped the Pies to a big early lead. Fasolo finished with 19 touches and eight marks to go with the two goals, and also showed courage that put a smile on coach Nathan Buckley's face. Late in the first term Fasolo was crunched in the ribs by a stray Brodie Grundy knee that left him in serious pain, but returned to start the second quarter to play out a fine game. "He was huge in the last quarter," Buckley said. "He's actually really developing as a footballer again. We're seeing some really consistent footy from him. He's not going to beat himself any more." - Michael Whiting