James Rowbottom celebrates with his Sydney teammates during their win over GWS in round 15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover the Blues may have found what they've been looking for, Port needs more from its gun on-ballers and much, much more.

Check out what we learned from round 15 of the 2024 season.


1) Port's star-studded midfield needs to lift

Following Saturday's hammering from Brisbane, Ken Hinkley rightly said none of Port's three lines could hold their head high. But for the third straight match, it was their star-studded midfield that was badly outplayed when the game was on the line. Zak Butters and Connor Rozee finished with nice stat lines, but collectively Brisbane won the clearance battle 42-27, scoring heavily from that source. Jordon Sweet struggled in the ruck, while Jason Horne-Francis and Brownlow medallist Ollie Wines could not impact consistently, which followed similar trends against Greater Western Sydney and Carlton in the previous two losses. Conversely, Lachie Neale, Oscar McInerney and Josh Dunkley were arguably the three best players on the ground. If Port is to get its season back on track, it must start with the engine room, or 2024 will slip away in a hurry. – Michael Whiting

Jason Horne-Francis reacts during Port Adelaide's match against Brisbane in R15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

2) This under-the-radar Swan deserves more recognition

James Rowbottom has been a critical part of Sydney's midfield and one of the top tacklers in the competition for several seasons, but he still flies under the radar alongside eye-catching jets like Isaac Heeney, Chad Warner and Errol Gulden. The 23-year-old has finished third in each of the Swans' past two club champion awards, but he is yet to poll a single Brownlow Medal vote in a career that his now 107 games old. If that doesn't change when the votes for Sydney's first 13 games of this season are read out in September, it almost certainly will for his performance in the 27-point victory over the Giants on Saturday, when he had a career-best 32 disposals, as well as game highs for clearances (11) and score involvements (10). Rowbottom impacted the result as much as anyone, successfully surging the ball forward in wet conditions and limiting the influence of the Giants' onball brigade. - Martin Pegan

James Rowbottom during Sydney's game against Greater Western Sydney in R15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

3) Matt Owies could be what Carlton has been looking for

Carlton has chased plenty of high profile small forwards in recent years (think Tom Papley in 2019 and Will Hayward this year), but they may have unearthed a reliable option from within in the form of Matt Owies. The former College basketballer kicked three first-half goals on Friday night to put the Blues on a path to a victory that has them entrenched in the top four. Owies is now up to 20 goals for 2024 to sit not far behind Tyson Stengle (28 goals), Jack Higgins (23), Tom Papley (23), Izak Rankine (22), Dylan Moore (22) and Charlie Cameron (21) and level with Bobby Hill, all of whom get more headlines than the Blues small. Owies has now kicked four bags of three goals for the season, electrifying the Carlton faithful each week to show it's not just about the tall timber up forward at the Blues. - Josh Gabelich

Matt Owies celebrates a goal for Carlton against Geelong in R15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

4) There's light at the end of the tunnel for North

Post-bye, the Kangaroos have looked a different side to the one that went winless in the first 11 games of the season. They've knocked off West Coast in Perth, come agonisingly close to holding off the king of the fast finishes - reigning premier Collingwood - and charged home to give Melbourne an almighty scare on Saturday night. The Demons game showed how the Roos need to go about it; less of the slow, stagnant first half and more of the electric run-and-gun in the fourth quarter, which created plenty of space inside forward 50 for Cam Zurhaar and Eddie Ford, who is a fascinating player. Charlie Comben is growing by the week as the centrepiece of the backline, mid-season recruit Brynn Teakle has provided some structure in attack, Jackson Archer had the best game of his short career, blanketing Bayley Fritsch, while newly christened tagger Will Phillips now has Nick Daicos (for three quarters) and Clayton Oliver as major scalps. – Sarah Black


5) This Docker's polish matches his brutality

Young Fremantle forward Josh Treacy was playing his 50th game on Sunday, but the big-bodied Docker is looking every bit like a hardened AFL star as he takes charge of the Freo forward line. The underrated weapon of Treacy, however, is his kicking inside 50, which can be as precise as any Dockers players and was on display against Gold Coast when he pinpointed Sam Sturt on the lead in the third quarter. It wasn't a big stats day for Treacy, but everything he did, including two big contested marks and set shot goals, had an impact. When Jye Amiss rediscovers his form and Treacy is able to use his skill more to set up his sidekick, look out. - Nathan Schmook

Josh Treacy celebrates a goal for Fremantle against Gold Coast in R15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

6) Lapses in concentration are hurting the Eagles

At their best, the Eagles can compete with great sides, but it is their inability to remain focused and relentless across four quarters that hurts them more than anything. Against Essendon on Sunday afternoon, West Coast looked devastating when moving the ball quickly. The Eagles effortlessly went end-to-end and hit up dangerous targets like Jake Waterman and the returning Oscar Allen inside 50, which was aided by some serious centre clearance power from Elliot Yeo and Liam Ryan. But that vigilant mindset faded in and out of the game and they were seriously punished when their concentration lapsed. Essendon was able to punish on the scoreboard in short bursts as its midfielders and wingers slid forward without an accountable opponent to contend with, including Jake Stringer (five goals) - who split his time between the midfield and forward line - Sam Durham, Zach Merrett, Jye Caldwell and Xavier Duursma. Focusing on consistent accountability will be the biggest step in West Coast's climb back up the ladder after a few dark years. - Gemma Bastiani

West Coast players after their loss to Essendon in R15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos