Josh Rachele and Izak Rankine celebrate during Adelaide's clash against Carlton in round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover the Dockers must improve their forward line, the Lions have a surprise weapon in the middle plus much, much more.

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

1) 'Bont or bust' won't get the Bulldogs to the finals

We all love Marcus Bontempelli, but he had a down game against Essendon, and was well beaten by the relatively unheralded Sam Durham. He's too good to be down for long, but the Bulldogs' biggest issue – that of depth – was seriously exposed by the Bombers. The Dogs had six fewer clearances, with veteran Todd Goldstein running rings around Tim English in the ruck. The individual disposal counts look OK, but there were a number of players who struggled with clean disposal, either coughing up the footy under Essendon pressure, or more egregiously, when attempting to enter 50 while in clear space. Without Bontempelli's class and authority to paper over the cracks, the margin jumped out to 43 points before a few junktime goals. The bottom half of the team needs to lift if the Dogs are to finish in the top eight. – Sarah Black

Marcus Bontempelli handballs whilst being tackled by Sam Durham during the match between the Western Bulldogs and Essendon at Marvel Stadium in round five, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

2) Crows' season still has life as midfield mix changes

After plenty of questions over their midfield following a 0-4 start to the season, the Crows made some changes for their stunning win over Carlton on Saturday. Jordan Dawson, Matt Crouch and Rory Laird were used the most at centre bounces to begin the campaign, but that changed against the Blues. Jake Soligo and Izak Rankine got their opportunity and impressed, while Dawson and Laird played lesser roles. The Crows looked more dynamic in the middle as a result. Adelaide had won just nine of its previous 40 games outside South Australia since Matthew Nicks took over as coach at the start of 2020, making the win over the previously unbeaten Blues even more impressive. While finals will still be an uphill battle, the Crows looked more like the exciting side of 2023. – Dejan Kalinic

Jake Soligo and Patrick Cripps in action during the R5 match between Adelaide and Carlton at Marvel Stadium on April 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

3) Fremantle needs to energise its forward mix 

In the second quarter of Saturday night's loss to Port Adelaide, Fremantle won every centre clearance (4-0), dominated inside 50s (21-10), doubled Port's overall clearances (12-6) and was better in the contest (40-32). The result on the scoreboard, however, didn't reflect that dominance, with Josh Treacy kicking the team's only three goals for the term. The Dockers need to find a way to get more bang for buck when their midfield and backline have control of the game, or they won't make the big leap they look so capable otherwise of making. Luke Jackson's pending return to attack will be a good start, and his presence will help Treacy, who was terrific, and Jye Amiss (two goals and three marks). Goals and more pressure from the small forwards are also critical. – Nathan Schmook

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 13: Josh Treacy and Bailey Banfield of the Dockers celebrate a goal during the 2024 AFL Round 05 match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Fremantle Dockers at Adelaide Oval on April 13, 2024 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos)

4) Rayner thrives in the middle

In Brisbane's important win over Melbourne on Thursday night, it was Cam Rayner setting the tone through the middle of the ground. In the first quarter alone, Rayner gathered 12 disposals, six clearances and seven inside 50s, and proved crucial in giving his side confidence early in the game. As the game wore on, the balance between he and his fellow midfielders in Josh Dunkley and Lachie Neale became more evident, but that early dominance from Rayner was key in taking away Melbourne's main asset – its onball brigade of Christian Petracca, Jack Viney, and Clayton Oliver. Rayner finished the game with 10 inside 50s from 25 disposals, and proved his value roaming higher up the ground for longer periods of time. – Gemma Bastiani

Cam Rayner in action during Brisbane's win over Melbourne in round five, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

5) Eagles veteran still has much to give 

Much has been made of Richmond's injury list and its effect on the Tigers' competitiveness this year, but many forget the extent to which West Coast was hobbled through recent seasons, and one of the most important losses was dual best-and-fairest winner Elliot Yeo. The two-time All-Australian played just 15 games across 2022-23, but his performance on Sunday against the Tigers, finishing with 27 disposals, 15 clearances and two goals, showed just what an influence he can have on the team's potency. At 30, Yeo has arguably been robbed of the best years of his career, but if he can stay fit his influence on the Eagles' youngsters could be immeasurable for the future. – Howard Kimber


6) The Saints have found another beauty

We only got to see him for a quarter and a bit, but Hugo Garcia - the No.50 pick in the 2023 draft - showed plenty on AFL debut to suggest he can make an impact at the highest level. Despite minimal game time after he was subbed on in the third quarter, Garcia had seven tackles - the equal second-most of any player on the ground - to go with 11 disposals (eight contested), three clearances and 14 pressure acts. Much has been made of young Saints like Mitch Owens, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and Marcus Windhager, who look set to be the future of this football club. Based on what we saw on Saturday, and it was only a very brief look, you can add the name Hugo Garcia to the list. - Martin Smith

Lachie Whitfield is tackled by Hugo Garcia during the match between GWS and St Kilda in round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

7) Hawthorn's midfield needs to lift – in a hurry

You could point the finger of responsibility at every line following Saturday night's lacklustre 53-point loss to Gold Coast, but the Hawks midfield needs to have a hard look at itself. Lloyd Meek battled strongly against Jarrod Witts in the ruck, but none of the starting midfield of James Worpel (14 disposals), Conor Nash (10 or Jai Newcomb (10) could be happy with their outings. Noah Anderson (36) gathered more disposals on his own than the trio collectively. Although the Hawks have a lengthy injury list and have put good patches together against Geelong and Collingwood, they need a spark in the middle of the ground to ignite their winless team. Whether that means coach Sam Mitchell makes changes to face North Melbourne or the players themselves lift their output, something needs to change in a hurry. – Michael Whiting

James Worpel in action during the match between Gold Coast and Hawthorn at People First Stadium in round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

8) Jezza is so much more than just a key forward

Jeremy Cameron was a clear best afield in Geelong's thumping win over North Melbourne, but it wasn't just his six goals that set him apart from the pack. With his partner up forward Tom Hawkins out of action, Cameron could have stayed put in attack and owned the forward 50 but he opted to play his usual game, pushing up the ground and running his opponent ragged with his elite workrate. The North defenders had no answers as Cameron got to work high up the ground before leaving them in his wake as he powered back towards goal. He's the No.1 key forward in the competition for disposals, and he collected another 21 touches on Sunday to go with his eight marks, 11 score involvements and bag of six goals. – Alison O'Connor