Nic Martin celebrates Essendon's win over West Coast in R8, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover a Pie is ready to make his mark, a Bomber's switch is paying off plus much, much more.

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


1) Half-back remains the role for star Bomber for now

The move of Nic Martin forward late in the Anzac Day draw against Collingwood looked a winner, but his brilliant performance on Saturday night was a reminder of why the Bombers have turned the former wingman into a half-back this season. Martin, who finished with 32 disposals, eight marks, and six rebounds, was a game-saver in the final quarter against West Coast, repeatedly repelling the Eagles as they surged forward looking for a crucial late goal. The Eagles had 15 entries in the fourth term, with Martin amassing five of his 10 intercept possessions in that period, among nine disposals. The eventual return of Jordan Ridley could give the Bombers flexibility to move Martin up the ground, but right now he has a mix of attacking and defensive strengths that are highly valuable where he is. - Nathan Schmook 

Nic Martin handballs during the R8 match between Essendon and West Coast at Optus Stadium on May 4, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

2) The Giants need Toby in top form to match the best

Greater Western Sydney is sitting inside the top four with a 6-2 record despite Toby Greene failing to meet his own lofty standards this season. But the Giants were brushed aside by their rivals as Greene went goalless in a Sydney derby for the first time since 2016, while their skipper also finished without a major in the defeat to Carlton. After a career-high 66 goals last year, Greene has now booted only nine in seven matches for an average of 1.29 a game that is his lowest since 2015. While the Giants have set themselves up to chase a double chance even without their superstar forward firing, Greene's return to top form looms as critical to their hopes of matching it with the premiership contenders. - Martin Pegan

Toby Greene in action during Greater Western Sydney's clash against Sydney in round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

3) The heat is going to come on the Dogs again

There was a lot of pressure and attention on the Western Bulldogs and coach Luke Beveridge through the week, putting the football world's eyes on how the club responded in its must-win clash against Hawthorn on Sunday. With a goal in the first 15 seconds and three on the board with just three minutes on the clock it looked like an emphatic response – 'this club is united and the players back the coach wholeheartedly'. Two-and-a-half hours later that message had been erased, and maybe the Dogs' finals chances with it, as the Hawks proved the more committed unit in a battle of wills. In a drama of Shakespearean proportions the heat will be back on Beveridge this week. - Howard Kimber

Luke Beveridge looks on during the Western Bulldogs' clash against St Kilda in round six, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

4) Brisbane's cubs are about to get a big opportunity

With a successful team and very few injuries (relatively) over the past few years, Brisbane have had very little need to expose its younger players. However, when given the chance against Gold Coast on Sunday night, a few cubs showed Chris Fagan they're here to stay. Kai Lohmann was dangerous in the forward line and worked hard defensively, while Harry Sharp accumulated 18 disposals and kicked a wonderful checkside goal in a starring wing role. Then there were debutants Logan Morris (1.3) and Bruce Reville (13 disposals) also showing they belonged. With a growing injury toll, perhaps the likes of James Tunstill and untried Shadeau Brain might get a look-in at some stage. As the coach said post-match: "Sometimes all you need is an opportunity and a few games in a row, and you work out you can do it and your confidence grows." – Michael Whiting


5) This new Pie us ready to make his mark

Lachie Sullivan had to wait until the age of 26 to finally get a shot at the highest level. But it took him only a few minutes to make an impact when he kicked a goal with his first kick in the AFL. The 180cm midfielder started as the sub and was activated into the game when Beau McCreery suffered a concussion in the second quarter. Sullivan finished with 10 touches, eight score involvements – two more than any other player on the ground – five tackles and four clearances from 43 per cent game time, showing he can handle the intensity, pace and occasion in front of 88,362 on the Friday night stage. The former Footscray captain has been one of the best players in the VFL for years and it's not hard to see why. Now he is in Craig McRae's best 23, watch him make the most of his opportunity. - Josh Gabelich


6) Caleb Windsor is overdue for a Rising Star nomination

The young Melbourne winger has been among the most consistent of the new crop of players this year, but has yet to receive the official recognition. His time may come after another strong performance against Geelong, recording 18 disposals, six marks and six tackles in a well-rounded performance. He was flat after missing a relatively straightforward shot in the third term, but showed tremendous composure to convert in the fourth, creating a match-winning lead. Windsor is averaging 14 disposals this season, with his pace and dare a notable feature – Sarah Black

Caleb Windsor handballs during Melbourne's clash against Geelong in round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

7) Wayward Port needs to straighten up to be a serious threat

While its defensive problems have been well documented, Port's forward issues can't go unchecked either with the Power woefully inaccurate in front of goals again against Adelaide on Thursday night. They had 10 more inside 50s than their rivals but fell 30 points short, with their 5.18 scoreline proving costly. It wasn't just a one-off, either, with the Power's last month also returning scores of 11.16, 12.9 and 9.12. While they managed to come up trumps in two of those games, that sort of wayward kicking could see them drop more close matches and put their September ambitions in serious jeopardy. - Alison O'Connor

Port Adelaide players look dejected after their loss to Adelaide in round eight, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

8) Don't forget this Saint in the Rising Star debate

Harley Reid has deservedly been celebrated for the stunning start to his AFL career, but young Saint Darcy Wilson is looming as a genuine threat for the Rising Star award. The speedster, who already earned a nomination in round six, was arguably best on ground against North Melbourne on Saturday, with the 18-year-old leading the way with three goals (and two behinds) from 21 disposals. Wilson's pace and ability to run are among his key attributes, but he's also shown genuine class with the ball and a willingness to get his hands dirty. Perhaps the most impressive part of his season so far has been his ability to get better every week, even though the grind of his first season would be taking a toll. He might not do enough to dethrone the Prince of Perth for the Rising Star crown, but he won't make it easy for him, either. - Martin Smith

Darcy Wilson celebrates a goal during the R8 match between St Kilda and North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on May 4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

9) Fremantle's power midfield is driving success

Despite a couple of blips along the way for Fremantle this season, its young midfield trio of Caleb Serong, Andrew Brayshaw, and Hayden Young has been seriously impressive. In the club's 54-point win over Richmond on Sunday afternoon, they combined for 99 disposals, 18 clearances, and 20 inside 50s, running rings around an inexperienced Tigers group. In the process, Fremantle was simply dominant at stoppages, winning 20 more clearances than its opposition, and keeping Richmond's defensive unit under immense pressure all day. Post-match, Dockers coach Justin Longmuir praised Young in particular, who moved into the midfield from half back this year and also managed to kick two late goals to stretch the final margin. It is a challenge that an equally young and exciting Sydney midfield must rise to on Friday, in what is now a top-eight battle. - Gemma Bastiani