Jack Ginnivan in action during Collingwood's win over Geelong in round 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Nine Things We Learned, we discover Jack Ginnivan is back, Tom Papley can help solve a big Sydney problem plus much, much more.

Check out what we learned from round 22 of the 2023 season.


1) The Bombers must re-sign Darcy Parish

With captain Zach Merrett heavily tagged by Curtis Taylor on Saturday, the Bombers' midfield was set a huge challenge by North Melbourne. It was unsigned free agent Darcy Parish who led the way again with 33 disposals (including an equal game-high 16 contested possessions), nine clearances and 10 inside 50s. The Bombers' midfield depth, including the growth of Ben Hobbs and Archie Perkins, is building nicely, but 2021 All-Australian Parish is still a star and becomes especially important when teams target Merrett. For some of the question marks over his kicking, Parish finished the day with a better kicking efficiency than Nic Martin, who himself was outstanding in a key Bombers win. – Dejan Kalinic

Darcy Parish tackles Ben Cunnington during the R22 match between Essendon and North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on August 12, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

2) Jack's back and looks set to stay

Jack Ginnivan is back in the Collingwood team and back in business. After spending 10 weeks out of the senior set-up, the 20-year-old made a statement on Friday night to show he has a role to play on the road to the last Saturday in September. Ginnivan entered the game earlier than expected when Darcy Moore suffered a hamstring injury, and instantly injected energy and class inside 50. It wasn't about goals, like 2022, it was about the pressure he applied and the three goal assists. Craig McRae revealed post-game that he has been inundated for months with pleas from Collingwood supporters to pick Ginnivan. No need for those pleas this week, and potentially the rest of the season, if he maintains this form. – Josh Gabelich

Jack Ginnivan shares an embrace with Darcy Moore during the match between Collingwood and Geelong at the MCG in round 22, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

3) Darcy Wilmot should be a Rising Star bolter

For much of the second half of the season, the Rising Star conversation has rightfully centred around Will Ashcroft, Harry Sheezel and Mitch Owens. And if you fancy a young tall forward, Jye Amiss. But Ashcroft's Brisbane teammate Darcy Wilmot should make his way onto some of the five-player ballots and possibly push his way towards the top. After making his debut during last year's Finals series, Wilmot has been a regular in the top-two Lions in 2023, locking down a half-back spot with occasional stints on the wing. Against Adelaide on Saturday, he again excelled, gathering 17 disposals (including five intercepts) and kicking a brilliant running goal in the match-defining third quarter. Wilmot is not only exciting, but incredibly reliable for a 19-year-old defender. – Michael Whiting


4) Freo has another sharpshooter with a big future 

Since returning to the team in round 18, versatile Fremantle forward Sam Sturt has booted 11.3 and put together a compelling run of form that cements him as a long-term prospect. In the process of hitting a contract trigger for 2024, Sturt's accuracy has been his standout feature, adding another 4.0 against West Coast on Saturday night. The 23-year-old highlighted his versatility against the Eagles, kicking his first from a crumb at ground level and left-foot snap across his body before threading three more from set shots, including long-range efforts and others on difficult angles. Having addressed the defensive side of his game, Sturt's offensive weapons are shining and the first-round draft pick from 2018 looks a long-term third tall option alongside Jye Amiss and Josh Treacy in attack. – Nathan Schmook

Sam Sturt takes a shot on goal in Fremantle's match against West Coast in R22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

5) Carlton may have left its run a week too late

It's hard to fault a side that notched its eighth win in a row when it downed Melbourne on Saturday night, but if Carlton had kicked straight against Essendon in round 13 it might be nine on the trot and a top-four spot would be on the cards. The Blues are the form team of the competition and, with games to come against Gold Coast away and GWS at Marvel, they could well enter September on a 10-win streak. But there's scant finals experience in the Blues line-up and the double chance would have proven priceless given history tells us teams that finish outside the top four find it tough to win the flag. A top-four spot would arguably have Carlton as flag favourites right now, but it'll be a big mountain to climb from the bottom half of the eight. – Howard Kimber


6) Tom Papley can help solve Sydney's clearance issue

Despite its winning form, in four of Sydney's five games prior to Saturday's 24-point win over Gold Coast, it had lost both clearances and contested possessions, putting it on the back foot and relying on its defensive strength and forward efficiency. Gold Coast's trademark is winning it at the coalface, so it was impressive that Sydney won both counts on Saturday, with 147-143 contested possessions and 47-43 clearances. Luke Parker and Chad Warner were important, but it was Tom Papley who had a rise in centre bounce attendances up to 73 per cent, with five clearances, nine contested possessions and a game-high four goal assists, helping the Swans pull away in the second half including a burst out of the middle to set up Logan McDonald's goal. The tough forward-midfielder could be the ace in Sydney's sleeve at clearances in September. - Ben Somerford

Tom Papley celebrates a goal during the R22 match between Sydney and Gold Coast at the SCG on August 12, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

7) Max King is key to a Saints surge

With the Saints on the cusp of a breakthrough finals appearance, Max King's importance to his side cannot be understated. The 23-year-old had a day out up forward as the Saints outclassed the Tigers in a 36-point win, booting an equal career-best six goals in what was just his second game back from injury. King's season appeared over back in round 17 when he hurt his shoulder for the second time this year before making a miraculous return last week. His ability to break a game open with his goal scoring and high marking talents could be the difference as the Saints aim for a return to September action. - Alison O'Connor


8) Port Adelaide has its mojo back

After four consecutive losses, Sunday's win over Greater Western Sydney has righted Port Adelaide's listing premiership campaign. A top-four finish is locked in, and should Port beat Fremantle next week and Brisbane go down to Collingwood, Ken Hinkley's side will be back in the top-two spot it held for much of the year. With a home game against the disappointing Richmond in round 24, the Power's destiny could well and truly be back in their own hands, and if they enter finals in winning form and playing at Adelaide Oval, a long-awaited second flag becomes a lot more tangible. - Howard Kimber


9) The most consistent thing about the Dogs is their inconsistency

With a chance to cement their spot in the top eight, the Bulldogs wilted against Hawthorn in Launceston on Sunday. After making a bright start with a four-goal opening quarter, the Bulldogs allowed the Hawks to dictate play for more than two terms before leaving their charge home too late. The Bulldogs have gone 4-7 after being 7-3 and have fallen from being in top-four contention to just fighting to make the finals. Some unfortunate injuries have played a part, most recently Tom Liberatore's concussion against the Hawks, but the Bulldogs' inconsistency is quickly making this a season of what could have been. – Dejan Kalinic