Judd McVee during Melbourne's game against Adelaide in R4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover Joe Daniher has to play in the ruck, Carlton has an obvious upside plus much, much more.

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


1) Power's recruiting spree has clearly made them better

Port Adelaide went on a club record 13-game winning streak last season and finished in the top four before its finals fallout. But the Power haven't rested on that and are a better team in 2024. It's only a month into their season but Ken Hinkley's men are 3-1 and that one defeat came at the hands of Melbourne, despite Port dominating the game. Their midfield rout of Essendon on Friday night said enough and all three of their gamebreakers in there – Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Jason Horne-Francis – are only getting better. But they've also been aided by the recruitment of big and strong ruckman Ivan Soldo, while Esava Ratugolea has showed his worth early in the season and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher has had an under-the-radar strong start to life at his second club. All were scouted with job descriptions in mind and all are meeting the requirements. - Callum Twomey


2) The Demons recruiters have done it again

You can firmly mark Judd McVee down as yet another Melbourne recruiting masterstroke. The young West Australian, who enjoyed a breakout campaign last season, continues to take strides across half-back and has now entrenched himself as one of the club's most important players. Recruited with the 16th selection in the 2021 rookie draft, McVee was outstanding in quietening the raucous Adelaide Oval atmosphere in the early stages of Thursday night's win over the Crows. He had 11 disposals in the first quarter alone and finished with 20 touches to go with four marks, 10 intercepts and four score involvements.  – Riley Beveridge

Judd McVee during Melbourne's game against Adelaide in R4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

3) Big Joe must play as the back-up ruck

Brisbane tried two ruckmen against Collingwood's Mason Cox/Darcy Cameron combination a week earlier, but ditched it against North Melbourne on Friday evening. It meant Oscar McInerney did the bulk of the work, but the flow-on effect saw Joe Daniher return as the back-up ruckman, to pitch in for five minutes a quarter. 'Big Joe' loves getting up the ground and while he's not a brute in the ruck contests by any stretch, his follow-up work at stoppages and work around the ground can challenge the opposition. He kicked 5.4 from 20 disposals against the Kangaroos and again showed he's a pivotal cog to Brisbane's success in that role. – Michael Whiting


4) Carlton has the most upside of the undefeated teams

Prevailing when you're not at your best and banking vital early wins is something worth celebrating for Carlton, knowing that the impending return of midfield star Sam Walsh for his first game this season will elevate an on-ball group that struggled for long periods against Fremantle. The Blues lost the clearances 10-3 in the opening quarter and 44-27 for the match, with the groundball battle controlled by Dockers trio of Andrew Brayshaw (11), Caleb Serong (11) and Nat Fyfe (10). Overall, the Blues have slipped from No.5 in 2023 for clearance differential to No.17 this year, but that hasn't stopped them from accumulating wins at the Gabba, MCG, Marvel Stadium and now Adelaide Oval. The upside still there if they get their midfield firing on all cylinders is significant. – Nathan Schmook 


5) Hawk goes back to the future with big bag

Blake Hardwick kicked big bags in the TAC Cup in 2015, with one haul of 12 plus another of ten en route to winning the goalkicking award in his draft year. But since then, the Eastern Ranges product has played predominantly as a defender, only ever kicking more than one goal once in his first 150 games, when he kicked two against Essendon last year. After training all summer as a forward, Hardwick started the season in defence but the loss of Nick Watson and Luke Breust to injury meant Sam Mitchell finally got his wish on Sunday evening - and Hardwick didn't disappoint. The 27-year-old booted three goals – plus one that hit the post – in the third quarter against Collingwood and added a fourth in the last to be the most threatening forward at Adelaide Oval. It was a move out of necessity, but is Hardwick about to play the role he was drafted to play at AFL level? - Josh Gabelich


6) Richmond needs to find paths to goal, and quickly

The double-whammy injury blow of Tom Lynch (hamstring) and Noah Balta (MCL) has brought Richmond's forward stocks into sharp focus. In the Tigers' first game without the pair, 176cm Shai Bolton needed to produce one his best games (an equal-career high four goals) to get them within touching distance of St Kilda. Jacob Koschitzke is better suited to being the second or third forward rather than the main man, Mykelti Lefau has just AFL three games under his belt, while Samson Ryan and Sam Naismith could be considered for West Coast next week. The now-retired Jack Riewoldt held the stuttering forward line together with strapping tape last year, but the compounded absence of all three talls is set to make life very tough for the next five weeks, at least until Balta's return – Sarah Black


7) Not many this year will top Libba's masterclass

Tom Liberatore might not have the All-Australian blazer his career warrants, but the Western Bulldogs veteran has been collecting the credit his form deserves in recent years. On Saturday night, the 31-year-old produced another inside masterclass that not many will be able to rival this season. With the ink still drying on the contract extension he signed earlier in the week, Liberatore dominated around the ball, amassing 19 clearances (equal No.3 all-time), 28 contested possessions (equal No.4 all-time), 35 disposals, nine tackles and a goal against Geelong. The Dogs didn't get the job done, but Liberatore is still getting it done on ageing legs and creaky knees. - Josh Gabelich

Tom Liberatore lays a tackle for the Western Bulldogs against Geelong in R4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

8) Tigers, Eagles have shown how to slow the Swans

After a rollicking start to the season, Sydney will head into the bye on the back of a shock loss to Richmond and an almighty scare against West Coast on Saturday. In both games, the Swans' opponents not only brought impressive heat around the ball but also blocked off the corridor, which brought Sydney's speedy ball movement to a screeching halt. Having carved up Melbourne, Collingwood and Essendon in the opening three games, the Swans have at times looked short of options with ball in hand in the past two weeks and have been far less threatening when forced to move slowly and kick long down the line. With a 4-1 record heading into the bye, the Swans will deservedly be well pleased with their start to the year and the week off gives them time to work on maximising their speed and precision kicking, which can challenge the very best teams in the competition when up and running. - Martin Smith


9) Young Sun looks ready to soar

While all the attention was on the Suns' three debutants, it was third-year defender Mac Andrew who stole the show with an eye-catching display against Greater Western Sydney on Sunday. Andrew had a game-high 10 marks – six of them intercepts – as well as 16 intercept possessions and 24 disposals to be comfortably among the Suns' best. He flew for marks and even tussled with Toby Greene in a memorable altercation, although he'll no doubt regret giving away a free kick to the Giants skipper. A No.5 pick, Andrew became a semi-regular feature in the Suns best 22 last year but this was well and truly his breakout game. With other Suns youngsters also showing some good signs on Sunday, albeit in another loss, Damien Hardwick may just have the nucleus of a team that can finally bring the club some success. - Sophie Welsh