Jake Lever ahead of Melbourne's game against West Coast in R10, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover the Dees are missing Jake Lever more than we thought, the Hawks can make a Blues-like surge and much, much more.

Check out what we learned from round 12 of the 2024 season.


1) Harley's mates can't let the taggers win 

West Coast was aware before Saturday's loss to St Kilda that run-with opponents were coming for Harley Reid, but not enough was done from teammates once Marcus Windhager gave the No.1 pick his first taste of a hard tag at AFL level in his 11th game. Aside from one example from sidekick Elliot Yeo, there appeared to be little physicality on Windhager at stoppages and not enough blocking to create space for a frustrated Reid, who also went forward at times to try and break the tag, finishing with three disposals in the second half after a brilliant second quarter. As always tends to happen, opposition taggers will now follow Windhager's lead for a period and the Eagles' midfielders will clearly be better prepared. And with Tim Kelly, Yeo and stoppages coach Luke Shuey, there is no shortage of resources at West Coast to help Reid deal with the attention. – Nathan Schmook

Harley Reid with Luke Shuey after the R12 match between West Coast and St Kilda at Optus Stadium on June 1, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

2) The Dees are missing Jake Lever more than expected

Melbourne's nightmare showing against Fremantle left viewers with a clear message – the impact of injured intercept defender Jake Lever is greater than first thought. The Demons' backline, normally a model of consistency, discipline and composure, was at sixes and sevens as the Dockers found holes everywhere. The 92-point loss was Melbourne's biggest losing margin ever in Simon Goodwin's 172 games in charge, and Fremantle's total of 141 the highest the Dees have conceded under their coach. Given the Dockers aren't exactly known for high-scoring, free-flowing games, the result laid Melbourne's issues bare, with Lever not due back for another 2-3 weeks and games against Collingwood, North Melbourne and Brisbane to come. Lever is undoubtedly a star of the competition, but his absence has underlined just how important a player he is. – Sarah Black

Max Gawn after Melbourne's loss to Fremantle in R12, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

3) This Sun has been rejuvenated as a forward

Following a so-so first season at Carrara in 2023, Ben Long has sprung to life with his move from defence to Gold Coast's forward line this year. After training there during the pre-season, Damien Hardwick unleashed the former Saint in a permanent role inside 50 in round 10 against North Melbourne and the Northern Territorian has not looked back. With his combination of aerial prowess and chaotic attack at ground level, Long has complemented Ben King, Jed Walter and Jack Lukosius nicely, kicking a career-high four goals against Essendon to follow hauls of two goals in each of his previous three outings, making it 10 from just four games. - Michael Whiting

Ben Long celebrates a goal for Gold Coast against Essendon in R12, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

4) The Bulldogs love a late surge

The Western Bulldogs have put the competition on notice in the past month. When you have the ascendancy against them, make sure you create a gap on the scoreboard, because all the Dogs need is to be within arm's reach come the fourth quarter. Across their past four games, they have kicked more than 30 per cent of their score in last quarters, finding a new gear to run out games. On Friday night, the Dogs kicked five goals in the last term to run over the top of a seemingly in-control Collingwood outfit to claim a third win from their past four games. That desperate late effort is even more impressive given the injuries the club has suffered in the past two weeks early in games, leaving it down rotations for both second halves. Clubs need to make the most of their early chances to stop the Bulldogs from finding that late momentum. – Gemma Bastiani

Western Bulldogs players celebrate their win over Collingwood in R12, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

5) Carlton's success hinges on Charlie Curnow

While Carlton ran away with a six-goal win over Port Adelaide, it was Charlie Curnow's efforts early in the game when it was up for grabs that set his side up for the victory. The Blues' attacking ball movement was scrappy for three quarters, not necessarily setting up its forwards for success, but Curnow's power and creativity made it look far better than it was. His three goals came in the first three quarters when the game was an arm wrestle, while he also pressed up the field when needed and expertly brought his teammates into the game. As the Blues look to challenge come the pointy end of the season, Curnow will be the key to any success they achieve. - Gemma Bastiani


6) The Hawks can be the Blues, Giants of 2024

After starting 0-5, Hawthorn's win over Adelaide on Saturday marked its fourth victory in five games, and fifth in seven, with one of those defeats the late capitulation away at Port Adelaide. The Hawks are just two wins outside the top eight and with gun Will Day back and their recruits in Massimo D'Ambrosio, Jack Ginnivan and Mabior Chol settling in as Calsher Dear emerges, Hawthorn could be ready to make a charge. And they got the job done against the Crows without in-form ruckman Lloyd Meek. Greater Western Sydney and Carlton came from the bottom five after round 13 last year to reach preliminary finals and while those lofty goals may be a little beyond this young side, the Hawks can go on a dangerous run in the second half of 2024. – Dejan Kalinic

Hawthorn players celebrate their win over Adelaide in R12, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

7) Richmond's nightmare is getting worse

With the game slipping away late in the last quarter, it seemed Richmond was at least going to leave Saturday night's loss to Geelong without any new injuries to add to its overcrowded medical room. However, the footy gods have no mercy. Mykelti Lefau has been the brightest story in a dark year for the Tigers and he once again impressed with two early goals and a strong presence in the forward line. But as the game was nearing its conclusion, the 25-year-old flew for a mark and landed awkwardly, jarring his knee and leaving the ground immediately. The worst was confirmed on Sunday, with Lefau the fifth Tiger to have done an ACL this year, an unprecedented number sidelined by the game's most feared injury. Sometimes things don't go your way, but the powers that be at Richmond must be thinking the latest Punt Road development is being built on an ancient burial ground. – Howard Kimber