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Seven things we learned from round 12

The 10: round 12's best moments A big weekend in football with some fantastic highlights

1. Saints aren't returning to the finals anytime soon

After narrowly missing the finals the past two seasons, St Kilda looked to have the talent and list demographic to return to September action this year for the first time since 2011. But we've seen enough over the first 12 rounds to say this St Kilda group is not good enough to take the club back to the finals without some major additions via trades, free agency or, over the longer term, the draft. Saturday night's demoralising loss to Sydney was the sixth time this year the Saints have failed to score more than 60 points in a game, while it left them stranded at 16th on the ladder with just one win and a draw, above just Brisbane and Carlton. St Kilda has undoubtedly had its fair share of injuries in 2018. Blake Acres, Jarryn Geary, Sam Gilbert, Dylan Roberton and Jake Carlisle (suspended) were all missing from the Saints' side on Saturday night. But 2014's No.1 pick Paddy McCartin and 2013's No.3 pick Jack Billings were meant to be the cream on St Kilda's considerable draft investment following the Ross Lyon years and the jury remains out on whether either will deliver to expectations. The Swans underlined just how far off the pace the Saints were with a brutal nine-goal-to-one opening quarter. It will take a considerable injection of talent to get them back up to speed. - Nick Bowen

 

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2. Forget the forward line, the Chad has found his Power surge on the ball

Enigmatic Port Adelaide star Chad Wingard needs to play permanently in the midfield this season if his performance in Friday night's 14-point win against reigning premier Richmond is anything to go by. Having openly admitted his form was down this year, Wingard turned it around with 31 disposals, eight tackles and seven clearances. It was an inspired move from Power coach Ken Hinkley to throw Wingard on the ball. Keeping him there will be a juggling act, with captain Travis Boak, star recruit Tom Rockliff, young gun Sam Powell-Pepper and Robbie Gray all capable of switching between attack and the midfield. Playing Gray as a permanent forward is the preference as he's so dangerous one-on-one. Wingard was a dual All Australian as a forward, but having struggled there this year, playing him on the ball is the way to get the best out of him. - Lee Gaskin

SHOWREEL Wines and Wingard turn it on

3. This isn't all doom and gloom for North

Consider these facts: North Melbourne was without one of its best players in Jarrad Waite (calf), Ben Brown was goalless for the first time since round one and the Roos were playing at a ground (GMHBA Stadium) that has proven very difficult for opposition teams. The margin might have stretched out to 37 points by the final siren but there was no shame in this loss. A 1.6 first quarter, and more missed shots early in the final term when a comeback looked on the cards, proved costly. It's worth remembering that late last season, Richmond travelled down to Geelong and lost by 14 points. That's not to say the Roos will win the flag, but the point is not many sides beat the Cats at their home ground. At 7-5, North will go into the bye setting itself for a red-hot crack at finals. – Dinny Navaratnam

4. Harris Andrews can make the All Australian squad – at least

Despite his team losing by 22 points, Harris Andrews significantly enhanced his reputation against the Bombers. He was simply magnificent. With his team conceding a whopping 65 inside 50s, Andrews amassed 24 disposals, and six of his 12 marks were contested. Throw in a match-high 13 intercept possessions and 20 one percenters – mostly spoils with his trusty left fist – and you've got almost the perfect full-back's game. While Alex Rance and Jeremy McGovern would rightly be the frontrunners for key defenders in a Virgin Australia AFL All Australian team at the moment, if Andrews continues his blossoming season, he will rightly be a huge chance to make the 40-man squad, and after that, who knows. - Michael Whiting

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5. Hungry Giants are scary Giants

Greater Western Sydney showed on Saturday night that anyone dismissing its premiership credentials in 2018 is off the mark. Forget the sub-standard quality of the opposition, the record winning margin, the return of the 'Orange Tsunami' and some big individual numbers; it's the changed mindset of the Giants that should have other teams worried. They backed up a dominant tackling performance against Adelaide with another 85 against Gold Coast, 23 of those inside their own forward 50. That's not easy to do when the opposition can hardly get their hands on the footy and you're winning by three figures. Coach Leon Cameron spoke about his side's hunger and appetite to resurrect their season after their four-game losing run, and if they can maintain that focus on their defensive actions, to complement their obvious talents, they will trouble anyone after next week's bye. - Adam Curley

6. The Dockers need to build their forward line around Brennan Cox

Ross Lyon made a statement at the selection table for Sunday's clash with the Crows, axing underperforming spearhead Cam McCarthy and leaving Cox as the main man in attack. The strong-marking 19-year-old had teased in his 15-game career but this was a chance for him to stamp his claim, which he did with a career-best four majors. Goalkicking has been Cox's major weakness – the star junior defender booted 4.11 in his debut season – but he has been working tirelessly in front of the big sticks and his first set shot on Sunday, a gun-barrel straight kick from a 45-degree angle, set the tone. While McCarthy seems to shrink when asked to be the No.1 target, Cox appears to enjoy the responsibility and it is time for Freo to realise that, at the moment, he is their best answer to filling the Matthew Pavlich-sized hole in attack. - Travis King

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7. Litmus test passed, now the top four beckons

The statistics told us Collingwood was good, but they did the same for Melbourne. Which of them is for real? They might both be, but on Monday only one team emerged with its recent body of work unquestioned – and that was Nathan Buckley's Magpies. They tore the Demons apart early and mostly only let them back in with some silly mistakes that Melbourne punished in the second quarter. One thing that never changed was Collingwood's clearance dominance (45-26), while its ballistic pressure in the opening term set the tone for arguably its best win in 2018. The Pies sharked Max Gawn's hit-outs in the first half and it became even harder for the Demons once Brodie Grundy took over in that department. It was a performance that demanded Collingwood's talent-rich midfield be considered among the best in the game. The Pies' run home isn't as easy as some pundits suggest. However, they are nicely placed to not only return to finals for the first time since 2013, but potentially be in the top half of the eight. - Marc McGowan

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