CARLTON, simply, had to find a way to win in Launceston on Sunday. 

It should have, too, after surging six goals clear, and will get widely criticised for not.

BLUES FALL SHORT Hawks complete stunning comeback

But this loss, its fifth from six of 2019, and 34th of its past 38, was sort-of OK, kind-of acceptable.

Key players Kade Simpson and Nic Newman, and then late in the game Matthew Kreuzer, were unavailable in the last quarter, and Charlie Curnow was for a second consecutive week a late withdrawal.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS Bolton on heartbreaking loss

Outside the actual result, there was plenty to like. Young guns Sam Petrevski-Seton, Harry McKay, Sam Walsh and Zac Fisher franked their reputations, and established players Ed Curnow, Patrick Cripps and Dale Thomas stood up again.

For Hawthorn, it found a way, which it so often has done in Alastair Clarkson's 15 seasons.

THINGS WE LEARNED Rising Star a race in two

Liam Shiels was outstanding, Jaeger O'Meara equally effective. A 3-3 scoreline keeps it in the hunt in an open season.

Double Gary proving more than a handful

There aren't many Garys around these days.

There's only two in the AFL – and on Sunday they combined to establish an early and ultimately unbreakable dominance for their team against the reigning premier West Coast.

WATCH Double Gary combo proves priceless again

The way in which the two-time Brownlow medallist Gary Ablett twice surged through the midfield of GMHBA Stadium in the first quarter to provide the still-unfulfilled-yet-forever-watchable Gary Rohan with two goals was blistering.

Rohan finished with four, and now has 15 for the season. He's become a key player to the Cats' now-established premiership credentials.

DEMOLITION JOB Top Cats hammer reigning champs

Ablett is comfortable again in Geelong colours. He wasn't last year, his return season with his beloved Cats after seven with Gold Coast. His past two games have been fully team focused, and genuinely exciting.

Patrick Dangerfield is well on track to, by the end of 2019, join him as a dual Brownlow medallist, after another dominant 30-disposal game.

The Eagles have looked ordinary the past two weeks, Sunday's bad loss to the Cats following a lethargic loss to Port Adelaide at home.

But they've got a three-game sequence – Gold Coast, St Kilda, Melbourne – which should leave them reasonably placed after round nine.

Plenty to like about Freo

For the first time since 2015, the Dockers have genuine hope about a season's outcome.

There is substance to their operations, Michael Walters and Nat Fyfe are at the peak of their awesome powers, and the near-34-year-old David Mundy was best afield in their win against the Bulldogs on the weekend.

But the real reason for this season's buoyancy is Jesse Hogan, the man they'd wanted for years, then didn't want for 72 hours in last year's NAB AFL Trade Period, then wanted again, then disciplined on the eve of the season after discovering he'd had a boozy night.

Hogan wasn't among the best on Saturday night, but he's averaging eight marks, is guaranteed to kick bags of goals once he fully settles in and understands Ross Lyon's style, and has the type of footy brain that will very soon connect with Fyfe in ways that will frighten opponents.

ON TRACK FOR FINALS? Dockers notch another victory

Fremantle has a massive three weeks – the Crows in Adelaide, Richmond at home and Essendon away. It will determine its 2019 fortunes.

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Ex-cricketer could hold the key to Crows' chances

He's 27, played 18 matches.

And in 2019, he might just be as crucial to the Crows' premiership chances as Rory Sloane, Tex Walker, Brodie Smith, Matt Crouch and Rory Laird.

Alex Keath played six games in his debut 2017 season, six more in 2018 and all six this year, where he has become the side's best key defender. He's quick, reads the incoming ball well, and is not merely sound with his disposal but also creative.

Keath was fantastic against St Kilda on Saturday night. It was the best game of his career.

BACK IN FORM Crows post important win

Could have been at Gold Coast  in its inaugural AFL year (2011), as he was drafted by that club as a 17-year-old, but pursued his first sporting love, cricket, where he was good enough to play seven first-class matches before the Crows rookie-listed him in 2016.

FROM THE TWOS Veteran Pie, young Tiger put hands up

The Crows keep losing gun key defenders. Phil Davis and Jake Lever to other clubs, Tom Doedee to injury.

But they keep finding them, too.

Where to now for the 1-5 disasters? 

Melbourne, North Melbourne and Sydney all sit 1-5, their seasons seemingly shot before the calendar ticks into May.

Bad losses in round six respectively to Richmond, Port Adelaide and GWS highlighted how far the three teams had fallen below their own finals expectations upon entering 2019.

While all three clubs spoke positively post their matches, there is no guarantee any of the three will turn around its form.

The Roos' round seven fixture against Carlton looms as one of those matches that has coaches and players feeling sick at the mere thought of another loss, as a win won't be cause for celebration.

And the Swans' amazing era is finished. Coach John Longmire all but said so without actually saying so after the loss to the Giants. "As long as our supporters understand this is a different team."

Young Giant a certified star

We need to stop referring to Tim Taranto as a future star, because he's already there.

He's every bit as good as the established midfield guns of the Giants, and just as he did last year – his second in the AFL – when asked to step up in the midfield and cover for the injured Tom Scully, in 2019 he has brilliantly filled the void created by the departed Dylan Shiel and injured Callan Ward.

Taranto and his midfield mate Stephen Coniglio destroyed the Swans at the SCG on Saturday night.

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How do we cope after the festival of footy?

What are we meant to do for the next four days, with no footy until Friday?

When the siren sounded at the Cattery, it ended the weirdest two rounds of scheduling ever seen in the AFL. The 18 matches of rounds five and six were played over 11 days, with just one day among those 11 being footy-free, to work around Easter and Anzac Day.

Certainly liked it, and almost got used to it.

Twitter: @barrettdamian