James Worpel celebrates a goal during the match between Hawthorn and Geelong at the MCG in round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover the Tigers can match it with the very best, an under-the-radar recruit should please Blues fans plus much, much more.

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


1) This Hawk is flying as high as ever in 2024

James Worpel returned to his best last year. He didn't win the Peter Crimmins Medal like he did in 2019 – he finished fourth – but he rediscovered his mojo. Now the Geelong Falcons product is playing even better to start 2024. After collecting 28 disposals and 10 clearances against Essendon in round one and 27 disposals and nine inside 50s against Melbourne in round two, Worpel finished with a game-high 35 disposals, 14 contested possessions, nine inside 50s, eight tackles, six clearances and 843m gained in a monster Easter Monday showing against Geelong. No one is having a bigger impact for Hawthorn than Worpel in 2024. – Josh Gabelich


2) Essendon might be able to cover Peter Wright after all

Peter Wright will miss the next three games – against Port Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide – as he sees out his suspension for the incident with Swan Harry Cunningham. It took the Bombers a little while to adjust to his absence against St Kilda, but they looked their most dangerous when they lowered their eyes in the second half. Inclusion Harry Jones was lively and a strong lead-up target, Kyle Langford just keeps on producing good footy, and the addition of Todd Goldstein means Essendon have the luxury of playing Sam Draper out of the goal-square. The deep midfield also allows matchwinner Jake Stringer to spend more time in attack and he showed against the Saints just how dangerous he can be. Wright is undoubtedly a key part of Essendon's planned return to finals this year, but the early signs are the Bombers can cover his absence. – Sarah Black


3) Freo's backline is flourishing despite injuries

When Brennan Cox, Oscar McDonald and Karl Worner joined Heath Chapman on the sidelines after round one, there were concerns for the Dockers' backline and suggestions that Hayden Young might at least be required to cut his midfield move short. But the form of Alex Pearce, Luke Ryan and Jordan Clarke, plus the inclusion of composed youngster Josh Draper, has meant a potential weakness has become a significant strength for the 3-0 Dockers. Pearce and Ryan are in All-Australian form, Clark is providing constant drive and speed from the back half, and Draper looks like being a Next Generation Academy find after just two games. The value of keeping Young in the midfield was on full display against Adelaide on Friday night as well, with the former defender clearly the best onballer on the ground. – Nathan Schmook


4) The Pies made a key move in the Nick of time

While coach Craig McRae was right to focus on his team's suffocating pressure as the primary reason for getting Collingwood off the mark with a win against Brisbane on Thursday night, one of his own strategic moves paid meaty dividends. Shifting Nick Daicos from the midfield back to his former home on a half-back flank was just the catalyst to get the Magpies' run-and-gun game back up again, after looking dormant through three winless games to start their premiership defence. Daicos gathered 30 disposals, had seven score involvements and was Collingwood's architect behind the ball that challenged the Lions' defence all night. It's just one win, but with a Gather Round match against Hawthorn followed by a bye and five successive matches in Melbourne, suddenly things don't look so bad for the premier. – Michael Whiting

Nick Daicos in action during the R3 match between Collingwood and Brisbane at the Gabba on March 28, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

5) The Tigers are a threat when they hunt as a pack

It hadn't been the ideal start to the season for the Tigers, with player availability hurting them and their pressure dropping to a nine-year low against Port Adelaide last week. Against the Swans on Sunday, however, the Tigers proved that at their pressure-focused best, they can seriously challenge good sides. Working incredibly hard across the ground, their willingness to use speed to close down space and ability to swarm the ball carrier made it near impossible for the Swans to move the ball and led to the Tigers winning seven holding the ball free kicks across the opening three quarters alone. Importantly, it was a full team mindset, with everyone from Liam Baker to Tom Lynch buying in. It is a style of play that requires even application across four quarters and produced an emotional first win for coach Adem Yze, a result that will make all teams wary of their upcoming Tiger showdowns. - Gemma Bastiani

Will Hayward is tackled by Jack Ross during the match between Richmond and Sydney in R3, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

6) Double Dutch will have Blues fans jumping

Every top-10 draft pick has hype around them, but the sheer weight of numbers has seen many early selections taken by Gold Coast go under the radar. Elijah Hollands was in that category three years after hearing his name called at No.7 in 2020. The exciting talent managed just 14 games in his time at the Suns and looked for opportunity elsewhere, with brother Ollie's home at Princes Park an obvious choice. Carlton got the 21-year-old for a song, and if his debut in blue against North Melbourne on Good Friday is anything to go by, it could be one of the smartest deals done of last year's trade period. In arguably his best career game to date, Hollands had 22 disposals, five tackles and a goal, and with Ollie becoming a fan favourite too, it looks like the new Blues brothers could deliver their fair share of hits. – Howard Kimber


7) Libba's club record proves he's the Dogs' contested king

It's no secret that Tom Liberatore is one of the game's most prolific contested beasts and he's now got the numbers to prove it after smashing the Bulldogs' club record for most career contested possessions. After going head-to-head with fellow bull Matt Rowell against Gold Coast last week where he clocked up nine for the day, 'Libba' upped the ante against the Eagles on Sunday to surpass the Dogs' record, with his seventh hard-ball get in the opening term taking him to 2660 career contested possessions, moving past Matthew Boyd's club record. Despite being subbed out at three-quarter time, he clocked up 11 in total in only 59 per cent game time. He still has a long way to go, however, to catch Patrick Dangerfield's all-time mark, with the Cats skipper sitting on an eye-watering 4263 contested possessions in his career. - Alison O'Connor

Tom Liberatore escapes a tackle from Harley Reid during the Western Bulldogs' game against West Coast in R3, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

8) Hinkley needs a fit and firing Dixon if it wants flag glory

If Port Adelaide is going to go all the way this year, it is going to need the best version of Charlie Dixon, and it's going to need him all year. Injuries have cruelled Dixon's, and consequently Port's, last two seasons, but in Saturday night's loss to Melbourne the big forward reminded us of what he brings. Dixon clunked marks and broke packs, but unfortunately didn't finish the job on the scoreboard. If he can get his kicking boots on - and keep them on until the end of the Power's campaign - Ken Hinkley just may finally have the complete package at his command. – Howard Kimber

Charlie Dixon marks the ball during the R3 match between Port Adelaide and Melbourne at Adelaide Oval on March 30, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos