1. Big decisions are coming at Carlton

The Blues' loss to Essendon on Sunday meant out of their past 43 games, they have won only four of them. The single digits per cent winning rate over nearly two full seasons – and spread over three years – is a damning statistic that will be hard to defend for Carlton's hierarchy. It will also heap further pressure on under-fire coach Brendon Bolton, who has managed just one win at the helm so far this year. Carlton was thrashed by the Bombers on Sunday at the MCG, managing only four goals for the game in a dirty display. There were few signs of progress for the Blues, even against an out-of-form Essendon line-up that was missing a number of key players. Carlton registered its lowest score of the season against Essendon and, although it too was missing some experienced personnel, it was out of the game after quarter-time. It's a third loss out of the Blues' past five games that is hard to defend, with a tipping point growing closer. - Callum Twomey

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2. Brad Scott was right – the Roos needed 'fresh air'

North Melbourne's now-departed coach of almost a decade repeated those two words throughout his farewell media conference. The phrase was open to interpretation, but effectively translated to the Roos needing someone new in charge to effect real change. That was, perhaps, more meant for the long term and what is required to achieve success, but there was an instant club-wide invigoration with Rhyce Shaw's elevation to caretaker coach. As Shaw told us, there were signs in the previous month that North was heading in the right direction, but Friday night's demolition of Richmond had all the hallmarks of a fresh voice. The way the Kangas physically dominated the Tigers was something we haven't seen from this squad in some time. And the younger players spoke of a new freedom. It's easy to make snap judgements off one game, and a truer measure will come in 11 games' time, but Scott making a clean break now was best for everyone. - Marc McGowan

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3. Melbourne in 2019 is the Essendon of last year

The comparison isn't perfect, but the similarities are there. Two teams with great expectations digging themselves a serious hole with a series of disappointing losses to start the season. The Demons lost the unloseable to Adelaide in Darwin on Saturday night, kicking 1.11 from their last 12 scoring shots to cough up a 31-point lead and go down by two points. They fell to a 3-8 record, whereas the Bombers were 4-7 at this time last year. There's even correlation in the coach themes. Melbourne's Simon Goodwin has constantly told everyone, as he did again after the Crows defeat, that his team is improving. His Essendon counterpart John Worsfold argued repeatedly the 2018 campaign wasn't wasted and his side was building towards what it wanted to become. The Bombers rattled home with eight wins from their last 11 games, and the Dees have the potential to do the same. But, as we've seen from Essendon this year, there is no guarantee things will get better the next season. - Marc McGowan

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4. If anyone can get away with not tackling, it's Jeremy Cameron

In an era where so much focus is placed on forward pressure, the star Giant continues to buck the trend. Cameron leads the Coleman Medal race with 38 goals and is likely leading Greater Western Sydney's club champion count, but he's laid just eight tackles and five of those came in one game. It's extraordinary that Cameron has seven duck eggs in his tackle column. Is it an issue for the Giants? No way. The 26-year-old, who is carrying a shoulder complaint, is one of those special players that forces the rules to be voided. He's kicking goals and giving plenty away – he's ranked number one for score involvements – and playing more selfless footy than ever. Cameron went goalless in rounds eight and nine but in those games, he roamed up the ground and helped Jeremy Finlayson and Harry Himmelberg to five-goal hauls. The footy world has been waiting for this kind of season from the prodigious talent. - Adam Curley

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5. Port Adelaide looms as a finals sleeper

Inconsistency has plagued the Power's campaign, and their thumping victory over St Kilda didn't remove any doubts over what they offer on a week-to-week basis. They are dangerous though, and Dougal Howard made sense up forward. That's without mentioning Travis Boak, who has been sublime, while Robbie Gray showed he can still deliver exceptional performances. The scary thing about Port though is who is on the way back. Charlie Dixon (leg), Ollie Wines (leg), Brad Ebert (concussion) and Tom Rockliff (hamstring) could all return within the next six weeks, bolstering a side that has talent, with Riley Bonner, Dan Houston and Karl Amon offering plenty alongside the club's trio of first-round draftees from last year in Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma. This is the same side that defeated West Coast on its home patch in round five. Sure, Ken Hinkley's team can be up and down, but if they qualify for September action, opposition teams would want to avoid them. - Dinny Navaratnam


6. Harris Andrews is making a compelling All Australian case

For the third match in succession, Brisbane's vice-captain absolutely dominated from full-back. After a slow start to his season and a hamstring injury that cost him two matches, Andrews has destroyed Adelaide, Fremantle and Hawthorn in three straight weeks with his intercept marking and control of the defensive 50. Against the Hawks he was sublime, finishing with 20 disposals (10 intercepts) and nine marks. The 22-year-old made the 40-man All Australian squad last season despite missing four matches courtesy of an errant Jeremy Cameron elbow. Andrews is one of the best defenders in the competition and if the man with the Go-Go-Gadget-Arms can maintain anything like his current form, should walk into the final 22 in 2019. - Michael Whiting

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Harris Andrews is putting together a dominant season in defence. Picture: AFL Photos
Harris Andrews is putting together a dominant season in defence

7. Jack Darling is back, and so are the Eagles

Darling always kicks goals, as his career numbers attest, but it is the manner in which he gets them that is so often telling, and against the Bulldogs on Sunday the star West Coast forward was back to his best, hitting marking contests hard and working over his opponent up the ground. Darling has kicked 39 goals or more in six of the seven seasons when he has played at least 21 games, and with 25 this year he is well on the way to achieving that mark again. But when the athletic 191cm big man is criticised, it is because he doesn't impact like we know he can. After going scoreless and taking three marks combined in losses to Port Adelaide and Geelong, there were calls for him to be dropped, but Darling has bounced back in a big way. He was important in a grind against the Crows, booting three goals from 16 touches, and put the Dogs to the sword, finishing with 15 disposals, six marks and six majors. He spoke often about simple focus points of creating a contest and applying pressure when he was arguably the best player in the competition early last season, and looks to be playing with a clear head again. - Travis King

8. Brayden Maynard is one of the most important Magpies

Collingwood has its fair share of stars – and then some – so it's no wonder that a hard-bodied defender can perhaps not get the credit or praise he deserves. But Maynard's season in Collingwood's defence should see the 22-year-old get the attention he warrants. Maynard was again excellent against Fremantle on Saturday in the Magpies' first loss since round three. He picked up 24 disposals and seven rebound-50s and hunted Freo's forward line with an aggressive and combative mindset. Maynard has been a mainstay of the Magpies' defence since 2016, but this has been one of his most consistent campaigns as he's mixed shutting down opponents with quality drive from half-back. He could be banging on the door of the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian squad at this rate. - Callum Twomey

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Brayden Maynard marks against Docker Sam Switkowski on Saturday. Picture: AFL Photos
Brayden Maynard marks against Docker Sam Switkowski on Saturday

9. Variety is good, but the best is better

The secret to long-term success is to continually develop and integrate young players while occupying the upper rungs of the ladder. Geelong is one of the best clubs at doing it, and it was on show against Sydney. Brandan Parfitt, Tom Atkins and James Parsons rotated through the middle throughout the game. But the Cats' two match-winning bursts – one either side of quarter-time, and the second coming at the start of the third – featured one of the strongest centre-square combinations around in Tim Kelly, Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood. It showed the top gear the Cats can move to if required and will be more than handy in September. - Sarah Black

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