1. Finals hope is alive, but the fighting Kangaroos need a Giant victory
For three quarters of Saturday night's 16-point loss to the Sydney Swans, the Kangas played the brand of tough and daring football which propelled them to a preliminary final last year. At 5-6, achieving a similar result might seem beyond them in 2015, but hope remains. North's draw opens up favourably after the bye, with six matches it should start strong favourite and four winnable games at Etihad Stadium against Geelong, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle and Richmond. The Roos won 14 matches last home-and-away season, and matching that isn't impossible. But there's little wiggle room left with the season on a knife edge, so beating Greater Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium this Saturday is nearly a non-negotiable. – Travis King

2. The Demons still don't know how to win
Melbourne's lack of composure when the game was on the line against St Kilda cost the club any chance of ending its 20-game losing streak at Etihad Stadium. It was on display when Jack Viney gave away a needless free kick against Leigh Montagna on the wing; when the players collectively failed to push back hard enough at the last centre bounce; when Jack Steven was allowed to hit the centre square to win the decisive clearance; and when Montagna found himself free to run into an open goal and seal the game.

It was a heartbreaking loss for everyone involved at the club - players, official and fans alike. Still, there were positives. Jesse Hogan enjoyed a breakout game with five goals, and it could easily have been six or seven. Viney was back to his bull-at-a-gate best for much of the contest, racking up 24 touches and largely nullifying the dangerous Steven. There will be more big moments for the young Demons, and they must be better for this bitter experience. Michael Rogers

3. The Bombers need to find an answer to their ruck and key forward issues
James Hird said he had no choice but to drop Tom Bellchambers against West Coast, although the coach conceded his side did struggle without a recognised ruckman. Eagles coach Adam Simpson said he didn't know how successful it was for teams to play without a reliable tall for the long term. But the Bombers can't kick a score either. They failed to kick 10 goals for the sixth time this year. Brendan Goddard was the tallest of the Bombers' five goalkickers on Sunday at 192cm. The Bombers need to find an answer to these conundrums quickly. - Alex Malcolm

4. Gold Coast is turning the corner
In fairness, they couldn't go any further backwards, but the Suns' performance against Freo would give their players, coaching staff and supporters reason for optimism for the second half of the season. The crippling injury list is well documented, but Rodney Eade's collection of youngsters, upgraded rookies and a couple of older heads showed discipline, determination and an ability to follow a gameplan that has improved markedly over the past month. With Gary Ablett and Steven May expected to return after the bye, and David Swallow, Rory Thompson and Harley Bennell not far behind, they could turn into finals spoilers late in the season with a similar attitude to compete. - Michael Whiting

5. Stan's got the gifts to be great
Rhys Stanley's step forward in his development has been obvious this season; he's increased his average number of disposals to just over 12 a game and has doubled his average number of hit-outs to almost 16 a game. But his performance on Friday night against Port Adelaide offered a taste of his full potential. The mobile ruckman was dominant around the ground, collecting 14 first-half possessions and booting two goals. By the time he was forced from the field in the third term with a foot injury he had 17 possessions and six clearances. Cats fans will be crossing their fingers scans on Stanley's injured foot don't reveal significant damage. - Harry Thring

6. Depth in defence is no issue for the hobbled Giants
The Giants' decision to invest so heavily in key defenders could save them after yet more injuries to their tall backmen. With Phil Davis (ankle) and Joel Patfull (ribs) taken down against Collingwood on Sunday – and Lachie Plowman (elbow) and Tim Mohr (knee) also on the sidelines – GWS will be reaching further into their key defensive depth next week against North Melbourne. Coach Leon Cameron will likely turn to first-round draft pick Aidan Corr (pick No.14 in 2012) as an immediate replacement. He may then choose to use Nick Haynes (192cm) and Matt Buntine (189cm) in tall roles. The wildcard is Caleb Marchbank (pick No.6 in last year's NAB AFL Draft), who produced a strong performance in the NEAFL on Sunday but is unlikely to be thrown to the wolves. Losing such experienced defenders will hurt the Giants, but at least they can call on more talented young talls to fill the breach. Few clubs would have the same luxury. – Nathan Schmook