1. The Crows are flying and a match for any side in September
In aceing their pre-finals test against West Coast, the Crows showed they are ready to cause damage in September. They are clicking on every line. Daniel Talia is as solid as ever deep in defence. Brodie Smith has hit his 2014 All Australian form and Rory Laird is in 2015 All Australian form rebounding off half back. Sam Jacobs is feeding Patrick Dangerfield, Scott Thompson and Rory Sloane; and their forward line looks as deadly as any in the competition. They'll fancy themselves against Geelong next week and if North Melbourne defeats Richmond then Adelaide would secure a home final. If the Tigers win, the Western Bulldogs would likely host the Crows in an elimination final at Etihad Stadium. That match-up was disastrous for the Crows in round four; their midfield couldn't get going and was badly out-possessed in the 57-point loss. The Crows are a far more confident side now, playing a fast-paced and high-intensity brand of footy. – Harry Thring

2. It's not the size of the Dog in the fight ...
The Western Bulldogs' ability to negate the influence of North Melbourne star Todd Goldstein without a recognised ruckman augurs well for potential clashes with West Coast's Nic Naitanui and Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands this September. As Will Minson has fallen out of favour this season, the Dogs have been forced to share their ruck duties between defender Jordan Roughead and forwards Tom Campbell and Jack Redpath. Against North, Roughead and Redpath conceded 54 hit-outs to Goldstein, but the Roos ruckman did not give his midfield their usual silver service. The Bulldogs' midfielders deserve a lot of credit for their ability to shark Goldstein's taps and win the clearances 44-35. But the ability of Roughead, Redpath and third-man-up exponents such as Marcus Bontempelli to constantly keep charging in at Goldstein was also a factor. Campbell and Redpath might have been overwhelmed in round 21 by Eagles duo Naitanui and Callum Sinclair, but the undermanned Dogs could rise to this and other tall challenges in the finals. - Nick Bowen

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3. The Sydney Swans are timing their run
After three losses in a month, the Swans have won their past two and seem to be getting their key players in peak form at the right time. Lance Franklin returned in Sunday's thumping win over St Kilda, and while he was understandably rusty, he got through two and a half quarters unscathed before being subbed. Kurt Tippett took hold of Hugh Goddard and was good again after last week's five goals, and Josh Kennedy backed up with another devastating midfield display. They weren't troubled by the Saints, but with just a win over Gold Coast next week standing in their way of a confirmed top-four finish, they loom as a big threat come finals with their only current concern a suspected hamstring injury to Nick Smith. – Jennifer Phelan

4. Daniel Menzel is a big part of Geelong's future
After four knee reconstructions, it wasn't guaranteed that Daniel Menzel would regain his rightful place as a key plank in the Cats' now rebuilding team. His return was a great story, but would he have the same agility, confidence and speed? Thankfully, any doubts were mostly shaken off with his first two goals. By the time he'd kicked his fourth and taken a mark of the year contender, it was clear the 23-year-old would pick up where he left off in 2011. "[You] never lose your footy smarts and never lose your skills either," Menzel said after the game, and that is a great thing for the Cats as they look to the future. - Nathan Schmook 

5. Fremantle's man management is already underway
The Dockers did not even wait to confirm the result against Melbourne on Sunday before they started looking ahead to the first qualifying final. Matthew Pavlich was subbed halfway through the third term, Michael Walters was not risked pre-game due to calf soreness and David Mundy spent some time resting deep forward in the last quarter. Ross Lyon showed in 2013 that he is not afraid to rest players en masse ahead of the finals series and this time the Dockers have earned the right to rest key players ahead of a qualifying final after securing top spot for the first time in the club's history. – Alex Malcolm

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6. The Hawks have options
While facing the bottom two clubs in the last fortnight of the home-and-away season was never going to provide an early sharpener at 'finals-like' intensity, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson will be pleased the draw has given him a chance to test out a few different looks ahead of September. On Saturday he threw James Frawley forward and the former Demon repaid his coach with three goals as one of a dangerous trio of talls alongside Jack Gunston and Jarryd Roughead. And in a midfield missing Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell, Clarkson was well served by the returning Will Langford and ever-reliable Liam Shiels. Throw in a couple of flashes from second-game forward James Sicily, better output from Bradley Hill and workmanlike performances from a host of regular contributors and it seems clear the Hawks are ready to tackle whatever September throws at them. - Stu Warren

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7. The Blues are the Giants' bunnies and Jeremy Cameron loves cashing in
In two meetings this season Greater Western Sydney have wiped the floor with Carlton, with their dominance almost over the once powerful Blues bordering on embarrassing. At Etihad Stadium in round seven, the Giants scored 19 goals from 40 scoring shots in a 78-point win – then an all-time record margin for the Giants. On Saturday, GWS booted 20 goals at Spotless Stadium to break that mark with an 81-point thumping of the hapless visitors. In the pair of games the Giants won the inside 50 count 154-68, so there's little surprise that Jeremy Cameron took 19 marks and kicked 12 goals in the two massive victories.

Cameron's seven goals take his season tally to 61, just one short of his total in 2013, the year he was elected All Australian. Along with Melbourne, Carlton are the only other side in the competition to have a losing record against the Giants. The way they're going, that doesn't look like changing in the near future. - Adam Curley

8. Ben Lennon has added polish to Richmond's forward line
After playing seven games in his debut season, Lennon managed just one game in the first 15 rounds of this year. He was thrown around different positions at VFL level and was made to work on his defensive traits before winning his spot back in the senior team. Lennon hasn't missed a game since round 16, when he kicked three goals against St Kilda, and he has shown there shouldn't be any doubt to what his best role is: as a marking, creative and smart half-forward. Since coming into Richmond's team he has added some real class in attack and in Saturday night's win over Essendon, Lennon was one of the Tigers' best performed. He took nine marks and had 16 disposals in wet and ugly conditions, and made things look pretty easy. He should be right in the frame to be this round's NAB AFL Rising Star nominee. - Callum Twomey

9. Tom Lynch has a hint of Jonathan Brown about him
Before anyone jumps up and down, we're not comparing the young Gold Coast forward to the triple premiership Brisbane Lions hero in every way, but he definitely shows glimpses. Lynch is a relentless runner who works his opponent over – just like a young Brown did – and he is also a commanding presence around the contest. Lynch has 41 goals this year to back up 46 from last year, which is not a bad effort in a struggling team. But against the Power, the 22-year-old showed the physical side to his game. When some push-and-shove broke out before half-time, Lynch barrelled in at high speed to become involved and ended up wrestling on the ground with Cam O'Shea where he dropped a couple of short rights. Sound familiar? Lynch is a leader and his teammates follow. If he ends up anywhere near as good as Brown, the Suns will be happy. - Michael Whiting

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