Patrick Cripps celebrates Carlton's win over Richmond in R16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover Rory Lobb still has a role to play at the Dogs, Sam Flanders needs to stay in midfield and much, much more.

Check out what we learned from round 16 of the 2024 season.


1) This Cat is in pole position to win the Telstra Rising Star

Yet another uncovered gem in Geelong's rich recruiting history, former basketballer Ollie Dempsey has taken a couple of years to find his feet at the top level, but has burst onto the scene in his third season. Dempsey was matched up with a relatively inexperienced winger in Essendon forward Harry Jones on Saturday night and ran the Bomber off his feet, playing a key role in keeping the Cats in touch in the first half and kicking two goals of his own. Harley Reid and Sam Darcy are ineligible for the Rising Star due to suspension, while George Wardlaw is missing two games with concussion, opening the door for the young Cat to be crowned the best young player in the game. – Sarah Black


2) Hugh McCluggage is worth every cent

Entering this season, Hugh McCluggage was one of the hottest free agents on the market, and he again reminded everyone on Friday night just why. Recently locked away by the Lions for seven years on a hefty annual salary, McCluggage was a prime mover in Brisbane's come-from-behind win over Melbourne. He helped turn the tide in the second half with 19 of his 28 disposals, using the ball superbly to help set up numerous scoring chains. Then, with 75 seconds remaining and scores level, the 26-year-old delivered four premiership points for the Lions with an exquisite set shot from the boundary line. When McCluggage plays well, good things happen for Brisbane and he's well on the way to justifying his price tag. – Michael Whiting


3) Cripps is on track for Charlie No.2

If Patrick Cripps, the 2022 Brownlow winner, had been creeping up on everyone in the race for Charlie this year, he isn't anymore. While the likes of Heeney, Daicos, Bontempelli and Merrett have been the focus of Brownlow chat this season, Cripps had quietly moved to second spot on's Brownlow Predictor - which correctly tipped Lachie Neale last season - at the start of the weekend. And after a best-on-ground display against Richmond on Sunday, he should be equal leader with eight rounds to go. While individual accolades won't mean as much to the Blues skipper as the ultimate success, his game on Sunday - 40 possessions, 13 clearances and a goal - was yet another reminder of just how important he is to Carlton's fortunes this season. The heart and soul of a stunning Blues surge in the third quarter, Cripps will be a man to watch in September in more ways than one. - Martin Smith


4) The Eagles' star pairing remains a work in progress

The return from injury of Oscar Allen promised to be a nightmare for backlines, given the co-captain would now be paired with one of the game's best key forwards in Jake Waterman. It should still be, but right now the Eagles need to work out how they make the best of their tall forwards. West Coast did not take a mark inside 50 on Sunday against Hawthorn for the first three quarters and got just one goal out of Allen and Waterman for the game. The forwards were done no favours by the Eagles' 33 inside 50s, and it was a credit to the Hawks' defensive play, but the Eagles also looked top-heavy in attack with key forward Jack Darling and second ruckman Bailey Williams stationed in the front half. Maybe less is more for the Eagles and Allen and Waterman need more space to both thrive. – Nathan Schmook

Jake Waterman and James Sicily during West Coast's game against Hawthorn in R16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

5) The Dogs can make the four-headed monster work

The Bulldogs surprised many when they opted to play their tall quartet on Saturday for the first time all season, but coach Luke Beveridge was a man with a plan. With the returning Aaron Naughton and Sam Darcy joining Jamarra Ugle-Hagan in the side, the formerly out-of-favour Rory Lobb was widely expected to lose his spot. But the Bulldogs sprung a surprise and instead of going with the four-pronged attack they had tried and discarded last year, 206cm ruck-forward Lobb found himself down the other end of the ground in an unfamiliar defensive position and he certainly didn't look out of place. It was a clever move, with Lobb having a game-high five intercept marks and another game-high 12 intercept possessions. In the absence of regular defenders Alex Keath (hamstring) and Ryan Gardner (wrist), Lobb's defensive switch could be a pivotal move as the Bulldogs hunt a return to September action. - Alison O'Connor


6) This Sun has to stay in the midfield

Damien Hardwick says he would love three of Sam Flanders – one to play at half-back, one to play midfield and one to play forward – but after Saturday night, there's only one spot for him. Flanders has been fantastic in a move to half-back this year, using his quick decision-making, good skills and football smarts to excel. But with Wil Powell back in the side and Joel Jeffrey, Alex Sexton and Bodhi Uwland all good ball users, that part of the ground appears stable. Against Collingwood, Flanders was sublime in a pure midfield role, adding another dimension to the Suns' mix and finishing with 33 disposals, a match-high 15 contested, including eight score involvements. It's going to be hard to move him again! – Michael Whiting

Sam Flanders during Gold Coast's game against Collingwood in R16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

7) Fyfe's new role could be key to Freo's flag tilt

Nat Fyfe had arguably his greatest impact on a result since returning from an injury-ravaged two years as Fremantle hung on in a one-point thriller against Sydney to climb into the top four. The dual Brownlow medallist might have gathered more disposals and booted more goals in the past, but he was pivotal on Saturday in curbing the influence of the red-hot Isaac Heeney as the Dockers' midfield outmuscled the highly fancied Swans. Fyfe has come under fire in recent weeks for no longer having an obvious role, but sacrificed his own game to help limit Heeney to six disposals to half-time and a season-low 20 for the match, while gathering 23 of his own. The 33-year-old even added a defensive balance to the Dockers’ on-ball brigade that allowed the likes of Caleb Serong to dominate the stoppages, and now looms as a huge weapon in an unlikely premiership tilt. - Martin Pegan

Nat Fyfe in action during the R16 match between Fremantle and Sydney at the SCG on June 29, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

8) The Saints look better with two rucks

For the past two games, Ross Lyon has pulled a late change to bring tap ruck Tom Campbell into the starting side. And for the past two games, St Kilda has looked like a much better side. While Campbell by no means dominated on Sunday against Port Adelaide, he freed up Rowan Marshall to play more time forward. St Kilda’s inability to score has been a problem all season, but with Marshall resting forward, the Saints suddenly looked dangerous. Marshall’s athleticism and aerial ability – let alone his ability to convert – gave the Saints some edge in front of goal, especially with Max King not having an impact. Whether it's journeyman Campbell or project player Max Heath, playing a second ruck means Marshall can spend more time forward, which is a solution that can help salvage the Saints' season. It's now up to Lyon to decide whether he'll commit to playing two rucks, or find a forward solution elsewhere. – Sophie Welsh

Rowan Marshall celebrates a goal for St Kilda against Port Adelaide in R16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

9) Is the pressure of expectation making an Orange crush?

With five wins in five games to start the season and coming off a fast finish to 2023, Greater Western Sydney was the premiership favourite and the term 'Orange Tsunami' was being thrown around every time the Giants moved forward, be it with the ball or on the ladder. But like any wave big or small, it rolls right back to where it began. With six losses from its past eight games, GWS is back where it started – middle of the field and with finals a 50-50 chance. Saturday night's loss to Adelaide, another side expected to take big steps this year, has put Adam Kingsley's team on the edge of a wasted season. If the tide doesn't turn soon, the Giants may find themselves washed up on the beach. – Howard Kimber

Harry Perryman after GWS's loss to Adelaide in R16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos