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Nine things we learned from round nine

The 10: round nine's best moments Brilliant goals, some hangers, and a couple of incredible results this weekend

1. Hodge isn't done, and the Lions are just getting started

There might have been some doubters in the first eight rounds, but Luke Hodge showed against his former club there's a bit of fight left in the old champion yet. The former Hawks skipper made an error on his right boot early in the first quarter, but after that he was magnificent – as was his new team against his old mates at Hawthorn. Finishing with 19 disposals and seven marks, the 33-year-old marshalled the Lions backline and kept Hawthorn to just six goals after quarter-time as Brisbane rampaged to a drought-breaking 56-point victory. Who knows how many games Hodge will play in his two-year contract, but one thing's for sure, don't think he's past it yet. - Michael Whiting

KEEPING IT REAL Hodge on preparing to face the Hawks

2. West Coast can start daring to dream

The Eagles withstood everything Richmond could throw at them at Optus Stadium on Sunday in a top-of-the-table contest that some believed might be the Grand Final preview. Any doubts that Adam Simpson's outfit is a genuine premiership threat have been emphatically answered over the past three weeks, with comfortable victories over finals contenders Port Adelaide, the Giants and now reigning premiers. The rebooted Eagles are now a win clear on top of the ladder, have six more games to come at their new fortress and are playing with belief. West Coast must be eyeing not just a top-four finish, but the right to two home finals that a top-two spot would grant them. There is a long way to go yet, but unless something disastrous happens from here, the Eagles are going to be there when the whips are cracking deep into September. - Travis King

WATCH: Yeo says no, Kennedy goals
 

 

3. Ziebell is giving his coach more tricks 

Brad Scott showed guts on Saturday. When Zac Langdon put the Giants in front midway through the second term, there was cause for concern. They had piled on four goals in less than 10 minutes as Callan Ward and Stephen Coniglio started to assert themselves. But where was Jack Ziebell? Scott backed in Jed Anderson, Jy Simpkin and Ben Cunnington under Todd Goldstein for the next centre bounce, with the skipper anchored to the forward 50. Scott resisted the urge to throw his bull into the midfield and when questioned after the game, said it was giving his side more flexibility and gives competitiveness in the front half. Ziebell finished with one clearance for the game, watching others like Ben Jacobs, Shaun Higgins and Trent Dumont do the work inside. Ben Brown, Jarrad Waite, Mason Wood and Ziebell as permanent forwards is proving dividends. - Mitch Cleary

FANTASY FORM WATCH Who gets rage-traded this week?

4. Weeks from hell can have a silver lining

There's no doubt a wounded Essendon came out breathing fire on Saturday because it had something extra to prove. Never again will we let a coach or player tell us off-field events don't have a flow-on effect. The Bombers' loss to lowly Carlton a week earlier, accompanied by the attention a slanging match between Mark Baguley and Jed Lamb received, made for a tough week at Tullamarine. The timing of game performance coach Mark Neeld's redundancy – some suggested the ex-Demons coach was made a scapegoat for Essendon's underwhelming form – triggered further criticism. It all became lethal ammunition as John Worsfold's men turned in their best performance of the year against a shell-shocked Geelong. Questions are justifiably being asked as to why it took all this for the Bombers to take off, but they might not look back now. - Marc McGowan

FROM THE TWOS Dropped Don among state-league stars

5. Dees' real test awaits after soft month

Melbourne's last month reads impressively on paper but the questions its comprehensive losses to Hawthorn and Richmond raised about its legitimacy as a finals contender remain. Since being thrashed by the Hawks by 67 points in round four and – in a more commendable effort – going down to Richmond by 46 points the following week, the Demons' draw has been softer than Kleenex. In that time, they played teams that all sit in the bottom five after round nine: Essendon, St Kilda, Gold Coast and Carlton. They made short work of all of them, it's true, with their average winning margin in that stretch 63 points. However, their real test comes next Sunday against last year's runner-up Adelaide. Win that one and we'll start believing Melbourne is finally the real deal. - Nick Bowen

WATCH: Oliver helps Dees crack the ton
 

6. Resilient Crows continue to defy the odds

The Crows are banking valuable premiership points while having lots of their stars on the sideline. Friday night's 37-point win against the Western Bulldogs in the driving rain was as gritty and as gutsy as it gets. Cam Ellis-Yolmen's remarkable comeback from the football scrapheap gets better and better, racking up 21 contested possessions. Hugh Greenwood was massive, Bryce Gibbs was all class and Eddie Betts controlled the slippery ball like it was a perfect day, booting four goals in his 100th game for the club. The Crows are now 6-3 and have set themselves up perfectly for when the reinforcements arrive in the second half of the year. - Lee Gaskin

WATCH: Betts up to his old tricks again
 

7. Suns surprise in Shanghai

After an embarrassing loss in China last year, there weren't high hopes for Gold Coast in the second annual Shanghai clash against Port Adelaide. No Jack Martin, no Tom Lynch and with Sam Day sidelined it looked like slim pickings. But the Suns surprised most with a competitive performance for three quarters of the game before fizzling out in the end. It was a better spectacle for the crowd of just over 10,500 people. The rain may have dampened the Shanghai spirit slightly but the AFL has declared it another success. The question now is, will the Suns be back again? It seems unlikely with a Victorian-based team on the cards to take on the undefeated Power in China. - Nat Edwards

WATCH: Rosa from the pocket
 

8. Poor finishing isn't the biggest issue with Freo's forward line

Failing to convert their early opportunities hurt the Dockers against Sydney, but it was their non-existent pressure inside 50 that was most alarming. Swans defenders Jake Lloyd, Jarrad McVeigh and Dane Rampe shared 29 possessions in the first term, with 22 of those uncontested, and also had seven rebound 50s between them. By the end of the night Lloyd had racked up 35 uncontested disposals and McVeigh chimed in with 26. This, while Fremantle small forwards Hayden Ballantyne (zero tackles), Adam Cerra (one), Mitch Crowden (two), Brandon Matera (two) and Michael Walters (two) basically allowed the home side's two best rebounders to waltz around the SCG like they were on a training run. You could argue that coach Ross Lyon should have sent his stopper Bailey Banfield to Lloyd or McVeigh from the opening bounce, but when his forwards are turning up with that sort of attitude to team defence, it's a lost cause no matter what the coach does. - Adam Curley

WATCH: Walters finally nails one
 

9. Time for a mercy rule?

Steven Hocking's brand spanking new Competition Committee is open for business and looking for ideas. How about bringing forward merciful ends to uninspiring games? On Saturday night at Etihad Stadium, the so-called 'premiership quarter' did the job for Collingwood, with seven goals to two helping the Pies to a match-winning 28-point lead at the final change. But we were then treated to 27 minutes of dross in the final quarter, with both sides kicking 1.3 and the first goal not coming until well into time-on. The experimenting Saints threw players around, while the Pies, mindful of their deep injury list, and having lost Alex Fasolo to injury once more, were in self-preservation mode. It was 27 minutes that none of the 33,000 fans in attendance will ever get back, but gee, wouldn’t it have been great if, like the last session of a meandering Test match, the captains could have shook hands after a few minutes and called the rest of the game off? In this instance, grateful fans of both clubs would have stood and applauded and then bolted to the early train home. - Ashley Browne

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs