1. Simon Goodwin must fix Melbourne's defence, and fast

For the last 10 weeks of last season, Melbourne's defence was ranked No.1 in the AFL as it went on its memorable preliminary final run. Fast forward to the start of 2019 and coach Simon Goodwin must be scratching his head at what he's seeing from a side that has conceded 256 points to opposition teams in two weeks. The Bombers cut through the Demons' defensive systems with ease on Friday night, totaling 82 uncontested marks, moving the ball with speed and freedom. What we are seeing is a Demons back six all at sea, but Melbourne's defensive issues run deeper than that. Their forwards are not doing a good enough job of containing the ball inside 50, with Melbourne -13 for groundball gets in their attacking half against Essendon. The ease in which the ball is coming out of attacking 50 is having a flow-on effect to the way Melbourne is setting up its team defence behind the ball. Therefore, too many players are getting caught in no-man's land, unsure whether to "smash the ball" (press the ball carrier) or fold back and contain opposition numbers forward of the ball. To play in the manner Melbourne expects, players must have total trust in their teammates to make the right decision in whether to leave their man or not and it's clear over the first three rounds of the season that that understanding and confidence is not there at the moment. - Ben Guthrie

2. Experienced Crows forwards need to lift

The Crows are getting very little production out of co-captain Taylor Walker, veteran goalsneak Eddie Betts and key forward Josh Jenkins to start the season. They've kicked eight goals between them – two for Walker and three each to Betts and Jenkins – in the opening three rounds. Walker, especially, is looking like a shadow of the player who booted 160 goals in 69 games between 2015-17. After a near-perfect pre-season and having Rory Sloane step up and share the captaincy, Walker was expected to make amends for his injury-affected 2018 campaign. However, he had just seven disposals and kicked 1.1 – a goal coming from the goalsquare – in the Crows' 24-point loss to Geelong. The service hasn't been perfect, but the forwards need to put themselves in better positions to give their midfielders something to kick to. - Lee Gaskin

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3. North Melbourne needs to sort out its problems in the middle

The Roos' issues in the centre square were well documented coming into round three. They had conceded 83 points from centre bounce clearances in their opening two games, easily the worst in the competition. Going up against a Hawthorn outfit missing Tom Mitchell, Liam Shiels and Shaun Burgoyne should have provided them with an opportunity to take advantage there, and they put their captain Jack Ziebell in there to add another ball-winner in the guts. But it wasn't enough. The Hawks won the centre clearance count 15-9 and controlled the match after quarter-time. It just wasn't acceptable for a team expected to contend for finals. - Dinny Navaratnam

4. Jeremy Cameron might finally be ready to win a Coleman

When he kicked 60-plus goals in two of his first four years, the footy world expected Cameron to become a superstar of the game, but he's never managed to put everything together for a full season. He can look laconic at times and has some selfish tendencies, but after his best on ground performance against Richmond on Saturday, the 26-year-old looks like an elite forward. He finished an incredible game with 7.5 from nine marks and 30 possessions and took full advantage of the absence of Alex Rance. He's started like this in previous seasons, so it would be unwise to start engraving the medal just yet, but if his demolition of the Tigers is anything to go by, the Giant might now be his team's most important player. A huge test against a red-hot Geelong at the Cattery awaits. - Adam Curley

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5. Eagles have the wood over the 'Woods

West Coast and Collingwood very well might be the best two teams in the competition. But if they meet again on Grand Final day, there's every chance the Eagles will go in with the psychological advantage. West Coast has now beaten Collingwood in four straight matches, with three of those at the MCG. Each time, as Nathan Buckley put it on Saturday night, the Eagles have "out-grunted" the Pies. The three MCG clashes have all followed similar trajectories. In round 17 last year, Collingwood led by 10 points at quarter-time only to lose by 35. In the Grand Final, the Pies led by 17 points at the first change only to lose by five. On Saturday night, they led by 11 points at the first break only to lose by 22. As Buckley said, overcoming that systematic and mental hurdle will be key to finally besting West Coast. - Riley Beveridge

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6. Brisbane is good enough to play finals

The club won't say it yet – and nor should they after just three wins – but Brisbane can make the top eight. Saturday night's win over Port was perhaps its least impressive this season, but that makes its case for September action even more compelling. With a third of their players down on form, the Lions staved off a Port team that dominated it at centre clearances and inside 50s. They trailed by 10 points late in the fourth quarter but still found a way to win. Like any team on the rise Brisbane will need luck with injuries, but with weapons at both ends of the ground and a midfield spearheaded by white-hot recruit Lachie Neale, there's no reason why they can't break a 10-year finals drought. - Michael Whiting

7. Bolton is an improving media performer

Credit where it's due. Carlton coach Brendon Bolton was the butt of jokes – and the source of frustration – for his transformation from grinning Hawthorn assassin to robotic Carlton cliché churner in recent seasons. However, the Bolton who faced the media after Saturday's latest narrow defeat was different. Yes, it's easier to be engaging when your team is showing something rather than copping a triple-digit hiding. But there was genuine effort from Bolton to offer insight instead of hiding behind meaningless catchphrases. He spoke about "basics and fundamentals" but then went on to offer examples of what he meant. The coach also told a great story about how co-captain Patrick Cripps is trying to inspire his teammates to realise they are ready "now". All the media ever wants are a few different things to sell their story – no one expects a coach or player to reveal all. In this regard, Bolton and the Blues' media department are getting the memo. - Marc McGowan

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8. Gold Coast's list management strategy deserves a ton of credit

During the pre-season, a few eyebrows were being raised at Gold Coast's decision to jettison both Jarryd Lyons and Michael Barlow. However, criticism and praise go both ways and Gold Coast's list management team deserves the plaudits for the players they targeted and eventually recruited. The prime example of that is key defender and former Docker Sam Collins, who was outstanding in the Suns' five-point win over the Western Bulldogs. Collins had 11 intercept possessions and consistently thwarted the Bulldogs' charge forward. Chris Burgess is a consistent competitor in the front half, Jordan Murdoch adds speed and hardness in the backline and Jack Hombsch is doing a terrific job of replacing the injured Rory Thompson. Bringing in a bunch of experienced players has clearly complemented the batch of young talent that is being nurtured at Gold Coast and Stuart Dew must be thrilled at what he's seeing from his team after three rounds. - Ben Guthrie

9. St Kilda is one fast finisher away from getting it together 

The Saints did all the grunt work in Sunday's clash against Fremantle before making life difficult for themselves. Their blue-collar midfield battled at the coalface, their defenders were desperate, and their forwards applied pressure. But the missing ingredient was a line-breaking midfielder with the ability to finish. The missing ingredient was Jack Steven. The Saints appear to be working as hard as any team in it right now, but their ability to get clean inside 50s and finish their hard work is lacking. Jade Gresham gave the Saints glimpses of what that could look like when he found space on Sunday, but the team should be excited about how their game will come together with Steven in the mix. - Nathan Schmook