Bayley Fritsch celebrates a goal for Melbourne against Sydney in R24, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Nine Things We Learned, we discover just how important Bayley Fritsch is, the Tigers may have given Port's finals opponents a clue plus much, much more.

Check out what we learned from round 24 of the 2023 season.

1) Once again, Jordan De Goey is primed for finals

Jordan De Goey has big game form in the month that matters most and he looks primed for another big September. In 2018, De Goey kicked 12 goals across four finals, including four in a prelim win over Richmond and three in the Grand Final loss to West Coast. Last year, De Goey was massive against Geelong in the qualifying final loss and after a patchy past month, the 27-year-old produced a best on ground showing on Friday night to show he is ready to play another key role in finals. De Goey finished with 27 disposals, eight inside 50s, seven score involvements, 524 metres gained and a goal in the 70-point win over Essendon. If Craig McRae's side is going to go all the way, De Goey will need to have a big say. - Josh Gabelich


2) Bayley Fritsch could decide Melbourne's premiership fate

Bayley Fritsch marked his return from a foot injury on Sunday with a magnificent five-goal haul against Sydney at the SCG to send a reminder of his class. There were more than a few anxious moments when he appeared to hurt his foot again in the third quarter only for him to play on and star in a gutsy win. The Dees also saw Jake Melksham suffer a knee injury in a huge blow to their premiership chances, meaning there will now be an even bigger reliance on Fritsch in September. And he knows how to stand up when it matters, having kicked 12 goals in three finals during the Dees' run to the 2021 premiership. – Dejan Kalinic


3) Dayne Zorko has a big role to play in September

Now 34 and having stood aside as captain prior to the season, Dayne Zorko's role in Brisbane's push towards a premiership has never been more important. With players like Lachie Neale, Charlie Cameron and Harris Andrews to flank him, Zorko might not be the prime five-time best and fairest winner he once was, but his influence on the field is still just as strong. The final two rounds against Collingwood and St Kilda have shown this' playing primarily as a high half-forward and occasionally running through the midfield, Zorko's quick decision-making and elite kicking can fuel Brisbane's attack and help to pick through tight finals defences. With his body now seemingly over the troubles that dogged him early in the season, Zorko is set for a big say in September. – Michael Whiting

Dayne Zorko celebrates a goal during round 24, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

4) Charlie is box office

For the first time since Josh Kennedy in 2015-2016, someone has gone back-to-back in the Coleman Medal race. Coming into Sunday's game just one goal behind Adelaide's Taylor Walker, it took Curnow all of 15 minutes to claim the prize against GWS on Sunday evening, taking him to 78 for the season. In a game where aerial balls were hard-won and goals were hard to come by, Curnow stood tall. Able to take two impressive contested marks and neatly convert, the cheers nearly blew the roof off Marvel Stadium. Curnow has kicked goals in every game this year, including a high of 10 in round 19 against West Coast, and he has eclipsed last year's tally of 64, which was enough to earn the medal in 2022. The last time Curnow failed to goal was in round one last year, a run of form that is a far cry from the Charlie of 2021, who played just four games and kicked two goals due to repeated knee injuries. - Gemma Bastiani


5) Tigers may have shown the way to stop Aliir

While it was only successful for a half, Noah Balta's shutdown job on Aliir Aliir could provide a blueprint for how to overcome Port Adelaide during finals. Balta swung forward to play a defensive role on Aliir in the first half of Sunday's clash and kept the intercept-marking machine uncharacteristically quiet early on. Without Aliir cutting off the Tigers' forward 50 entries, the Tigers were able to match it with Port, with just two points separating the two at half time. While Balta's influence over Aliir waned in the second half – the 2021 All-Australian finished with four marks, including two intercepts – other finalists, most notably the Power's first finals opponent Brisbane and its very tall forward line, should take note. – Sophie Welsh


6) The Cats won't be down for long

It's not just history saying it – with Geelong having never finished lower than 12th(!) on the ladder since the introduction of 16 teams in 1995 – but Saturday night's performance against the Western Bulldogs showed there's enough young talent in key roles to ensure a smooth transition when the time comes for the premiership heroes to bow out. Ruck Toby Conway (24 hitouts from just 68 per cent game time) showed a few glimpses of just why Cats fans are so excited about the local boy, while key forward Shannon Neale - still just 21 - threw his weight around. Key ball-winner Cam Guthrie played only six games this year and will instantly boost the side in 2024, while defender Jack Henry barely got a run at it. Brandan Parfitt showed he is capable of running against the premier Bulldogs mids on Saturday, but now needs to produce that much more consistently next season – Sarah Black

Toby Conway during Geelong's match against the Western Bulldogs in R24, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

7) Experienced Crow has a future in the right system

The past month of football from 2017 All-Australian Matt Crouch should have piqued the interest of rivals in need of an inside midfielder. While Crouch has been restricted to seven games in 2023 as the Crows looked for more dynamic movement in their midfield, his strengths were on show again against West Coast on Saturday night in his fourth game in five weeks with more than 30 disposals. The 28-year-old had 26 handballs among his 31 touches, but teammates didn't have to break stride when the unrestricted free agent swung around and shot out fast, attacking handballs into their path. The Crows' system in 2024 may prove to be right one for Crouch, whom Adelaide believes is keen to sign on. But if it is not, there should be a midfield out there looking at his strengths and knowing he would complement a group of runners and burst players. – Nathan Schmook

Taylor Walker and Matt Crouch celebrate a goal during Adelaide's clash against Port Adelaide in round 20, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

8) It would be Amiss not to give Jye credit

An AFL Rising Star contender, Jye Amiss deserves plenty of credit for his 2023 season. The 20-year-old kicked three goals against Hawthorn on Saturday to take his tally to 41 for the year. Taken with pick No.8 in the 2021 draft, Amiss only played three games last year but has featured 22 times in 2023. His 41-goal season was hugely impressive in a disappointing year for the Dockers, particularly given he kicked a major in 19 of 22 matches. – Dejan Kalinic


9) That winning feeling is just as good as any No.1 pick

There was plenty of talk this week about North Melbourne's motivation to bank a win in its final game, but Saturday's gutsy 35-point victory over Gold Coast certainly put paid to any tanking talk. The Roos showed a competitive edge rarely seen in recent years to claim their third win of the season and in doing so, gave up their chance to snare Harley Reid, one of the most hyped No.1 draft picks in history. But the morale boost gained from a win like this will be a significant step forward for this bruised and battered club. Learning to win and experiencing success will do wonders for the club's culture as it looks to pick itself up off the canvas, even if they'll do so without Harley. – Alison O'Connor

Nick Larkey celebrates a goal during the match between North Melbourne and Gold Coast at Blundstone Arena in round 24, 2023. Picture: Getty Images