Harvey Gallagher evades Charlie Ballard during the Western Bulldogs' win over Gold Coast in round two, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover the Dockers have a dilemma, the Dees need some urgent reinforcements plus much, much more.

Check out what we learned from round two of the 2024 season.


1) 'Tomahawk' isn't slowing down just yet

At 35 years of age, in season No.18 and with game No.350 coming this weekend, you'd think Tom Hawkins might be showing signs of slowing down. Unfortunately for the competition's key defenders, it's simply not the case. Against Adelaide on Friday night, Hawkins turned the game with three goals in a 10-minute burst during the third quarter, showing all the skill and nous he's built over his 349-game career. He again showed why his set shot goalkicking is among the most reliable in the League, kicking a crucial bomb from 50m, and added some flair with right and left foot snaps. Hawkins doesn't need many opportunities to punish the opposition and still looks like he has plenty of good football ahead as the Cats look to return to finals. – Michael Whiting


2) Jackson's form has created a Docker dilemma

It's hard to look past the impact Luke Jackson has had as the Dockers' sole ruckman across the opening two rounds in the absence of the injured Sean Darcy. But it begs the question – what is Freo's best ruck setup once Darcy is available? The Dockers have long seen Darcy as their No.1 ruck option while Jackson has established himself as a forward target and a back-up option in the middle, but after a 2-0 start and two commanding midfield performances, Jackson's role may need to be re-assessed. The 22-year-old was key to sparking the dramatic turnaround against North Melbourne on Saturday, kicking two goals from 24 disposals and seven clearances in a clear best-afield performance. That was on the back of an equally damaging 24-disposal, 21-hitout and two-goal performance in round one. His work in the air and at ground level is unmatched, and while he would no doubt be as damaging as a forward, his presence in the middle of the ground to start this season has been profound. It's sure to provide a few selection headaches once Darcy is ready to return. – Alison O'Connor


3) The young Dogs justified Bevo's brave call

The Bulldogs' decision to leave three-time All-Australian Jack Macrae out of their squad for Sunday's win over the Suns was a bold one, but their young guns rewarded coach Luke Beveridge's faith. Macrae's absence gave Ryley Sanders (22 disposals, five tackles and six clearances) and Harvey Gallagher (11 disposals and three tackles) greater midfield opportunities, and they helped the Dogs to their first win of the season. Beveridge says Macrae, who hurt his hamstring during the pre-season, is a "good chance" of returning against West Coast in round three after a dominant VFL performance, and the Dogs will have other magnets to shuffle with James Harmes available after his suspension and Nick Coffield (shoulder) and Ed Richards (concussion) sidelined. But exposing their young guns in the important support roles should remain a high priority after they showed they can more than hold their own. – Dejan Kalinic

Ryley Sanders during the Western Bulldogs' match against Gold Coast in R2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

4) The basics are haunting Collingwood

Amid Collingwood's glorious run last year was a style of play that was just so fun to watch (unless you were on the receiving end of it). The Pies would run in waves, rebound with pace and find players loose on the wing and at half-forward, who would wheel into a vacant forward line. But there are two vital ingredients to make that style functional – sure hands and cohesion among teammates. The backline – including senior players Darcy Moore, Brayden Maynard and winger Steele Sidebottom – came down with a serious case of the fumbles against St Kilda, and coach Craig McRae conceded there were too many players waiting for a teammate to swoop on the ball. Without their timing, rhythm and clean disposal, the Pies have crashed back to earth with a thud. – Sarah Black

Josh Daicos and his teammates walk off the ground after the R2 match between Collingwood and St Kilda at the MCG on March 21, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

5) Kieren Briggs personifies the ruthless Giants

Greater Western Sydney wants to be a ruthless team every week, and although the Eagles were allowed competitive periods against them on Sunday, Kieren Briggs didn't give his young ruck opponents an inch. Briggs finished with 34 hit-outs and a game-high 12 clearances against second-gamer Harry Barnett and forward/ruck Bailey Williams, with his 15 contested disposals the equal of rival midfielder Elliot Yeo. The Eagles have availability issues in the ruck, but Briggs' physical performance and ruthlessness to take advantage on Sunday showed why he has become a top-level AFL big man in his sixth season. – Nathan Schmook

Kieren Briggs competes with Harry Barnett during the round two match between West Coast and Greater Western Sydney at Optus Stadium, March 24, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

6) Sydney's spread of attacking weapons is unmatched

Sydney is averaging more than 100 points per game in its undefeated start to the season and its scoring has been spread across a variety of weapons. The Swans had 10 goalkickers while piling on 19 majors in their 30-point victory over the Bombers as a fired-up Tom Papley booted four and half-forward Will Hayward added three. Goalsneak Papley is among their leading goalkickers this season with six, alongside key forward Logan McDonald and midfielder Chad Warner, while ruck/forward Hayden McLean and Hayward each have five as the Swans loom as a premiership threat with their firepower coming in all shapes and sizes. - Martin Pegan


7) The Dees need to fill hole before it becomes a canyon

For all the class in Melbourne's midfield, the defensive pillars of Steven May and Jake Lever are arguably the Demons' most important component. With Lever nursing a knee and May in hospital at the end of Saturday's win against Hawthorn, there are real concerns over the Demons' structure as they face Port Adelaide, Adelaide and Brisbane in the next three rounds. The long-awaited return of Harrison Petty to the forward line may prove short-lived as he seems the best defensive option, thus restricting Melbourne's scoring avenues against quality opposition. And that's just one hole filled. Simon Goodwin's work with the magnets over the next few weeks may prove crucial to the Demons' 2024 campaign. - Howard Kimber


8) Travis Boak finally got his moment

Travis Boak deserved to reach this milestone in front of a packed crowd at the Adelaide Oval, but these things don't always align. The more important thing was the 35-year-old being carried off the MCG after a win and getting to celebrate game No.350 in front of family and friends. He didn't get that opportunity when he reached 300 games in 2021 and then broke Kane Cornes' record the next week, with the pandemic denying him the celebration he deserved. The milestone has been achieved and Boak will take some beating when it comes to the Power's games record. He still has some petrol left in the tank and will be pushing to play a role in the club's pursuit of an elusive second AFL premiership this year. - Josh Gabelich