Steele Sidebottom during Collingwood's game against West Coast in R9, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover how to stop the Giants, a young Sun has ended any talk about his place in the side and much, much more.

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


1) Key to beating the Dees? Lock up Lever

Jake Lever was arguably best afield in Melbourne's breakthrough win against Geelong in round eight, but faced with a much taller forward line on Thursday night, he was forced to focus on trying to nullify the 204cm Tom De Koning. Given the aerial threat De Koning posed, particularly as a linking player on the wing, Lever seemed reluctant to peel off and give him much latitude, meaning his marking game wasn't at full force. While the Dees interceptor was able to work his way back into the game late on, it was the early jump of Carlton that sewed up the win for the Blues, a time when Lever was being out-pointed by De Koning. Other teams would have taken note. - Sarah Black


2) Sidebottom switch may have sparked his season

The difference between a wing and a half-back flank is twenty metres, at least as a starting point. But the shift might prove to be the move Steele Sidebottom has needed to ignite his 16th season. The 33-year-old told Craig McRae before Sunday's game against West Coast that he has never played across half-back in his 317-game career, or before that in junior football. The veteran wingman finished with 21 disposals, 17 kicks, four rebound 50s, four inside 50s and maximum impact per touch, especially when it mattered most in the first half. Sidebottom has a new lease on life, showing that class doesn't disappear with age. - Josh Gabelich

Steele Sidebottom during Collingwood's game against West Coast in R9, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

3) Bombers, Swans have shown how to stop the 'Orange Tsunami'

After starting 2024 with five straight wins, Saturday's loss to Essendon marked the Giants' third defeat in four games. And for the second straight week, a defensive forward stifled the impact of the Giants' gun playmaker, Lachie Whitfield, slowing the 'Orange Tsunami' and leaving GWS with no answers. James Jordon held Whitfield to 19 disposals (and kicked a goal himself) in the Swans' Sydney derby win last week, before Matt Guelfi helped keep the Giant to 18 disposals (six of which came from kick ins) while kicking three majors himself in the Bombers' massive win at Marvel Stadium on Saturday. Whitfield's drive and creativity from defence is vital for the Giants, and they must find a solution – or different outlet – if they are to challenge the best in 2024. – Dejan Kalinic


4) This Sun is in Gold Coast's best 22

He's been made to earn his spot by coach Damien Hardwick, but once given a chance on Saturday night, Joel Jeffrey grabbed it with both hands. Hardwick has tried plenty of different faces in his search for quality ball users in the back half, and Jeffrey showed it in spades against the Kangaroos. Playing in front of his home crowd in Darwin, the smooth-moving 22-year-old finished with 20 disposals, gained 598m and most impressively delivered the ball at a match-high 95 per cent efficiency, playing with a poise most others lacked in the slippery conditions. There's rough edges to Jeffrey's game, but with just 17 appearances in his career, they will hopefully be ironed out over time. There is little doubt he fits somewhere in Gold Coast's best 22. – Michael Whiting

Joel Jeffrey during Gold Coast's game against North Melbourne in R9, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

5) Forgotten Crow is back in top form

Elliott Himmelberg's AFL journey has been one played in fits and starts. Form, selection squeeze and injury kept him to 41 games across his first seven seasons at Adelaide, but three games into his 2024 campaign and he seems a player refreshed. Working back from hamstring surgery, Himmelberg - who is out of contract at the end of this season after a failed attempt to move to Greater Western Sydney to join brother Harry last year - has been given his chance in the absence of the injured Riley Thilthorpe. Against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon, he was handed a role on star Lion Harris Andrews and while not able to totally shut Andrews out of the game, the Crow was seriously damaging in his own right. Himmelberg was able to not only hit the scoreboard himself, but he offered a vital link between Adelaide's midfield and forward line and finished the game with two goals, three marks and seven score involvements. - Gemma Bastiani

Elliott Himmelberg celebrates a goal for Adelaide against Brisbane in R9, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

6) Sam Darcy is showing signs of being an elite footballer

He may be in the infancy of his career, but Sam Darcy is starting to carve an imposing figure inside the Bulldogs' already stacked forward line. In the air or on the ground, the 15-gamer can do it all and seems to be getting better and better each week now he's finally having an injury-free run. Saturday night's showing against Richmond was arguably the son of a gun's best yet, with a career-high four goals, seven marks (four contested), 10 score involvements and 14 disposals (eight contested) at 100 per cent efficiency. Darcy earned a deserved Rising Star nomination in round four and will be right up there in the conversation for the award come season's end. - Alison O'Connor


7) Sydney is formidable, but emotional Dockers deserve understanding

The heartbreaking scenes before and after Fremantle's 48-point loss to Sydney hammered home how difficult Friday night's task would have been for some players in the hours after they learned of former teammate Cam McCarthy's tragic death. There were 11 Dockers in action who played with McCarthy, who clearly left a mark on his former clubs. The Dockers' performance lacked polish but not effort against a near flawless Sydney team that needs no invitation to punish errors. Conclusions could be drawn on the Dockers' own prospects based on their front-half errors and how they handled the Swans' pressure at times, but the pain on players' faces and their emotions post-match made it clear there was more at play. – Nathan Schmook


8) This forward can take Port to the next level

With Sam Powell-Pepper to miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury, the Power will need a huge campaign from Willie Rioli. The small forward showed what he is capable of in a classic win over Geelong on Friday night, kicking an equal career-high four goals (he also managed three behinds), although a double 50m penalty he gave away in the third quarter almost proved costly. Rioli is up to 14 goals this year, the most for Port, and has set up what could be a career-best year. Rioli's 31 goals last year is the most he has ever kicked in a campaign, but the Power will be hoping he can top that in 2024. – Dejan Kalinic


9) St Kilda needs to get creative

Ross Lyon said it himself after St Kilda's five-point loss to Hawthorn on Saturday – the Saints are in desperate need of a spark. They looked flat-footed and predictable against the Hawks, moving the ball conservatively and with none of the pace and flair that got them to a final last year. The problem is the spark will have to come from within as the team is at near full-strength, with just Jack Higgins (suspension) and Brad Crouch (injury) missing from their best 23. Defender Josh Battle's two goals playing forward against the Hawks showed there are levers the Saints can pull - if they are bold enough. Sitting 14th on the ladder with just one win from their past four games, the Saints will need to be brave if they are to have any chance of saving their season. – Sophie Welsh

St Kilda players are their loss to Hawthorn in R9, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos