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Nine things we learned: Sorry, Eagles, we're not convinced

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1. Major doubts still hang over West Coast's flag defence

For a half against Gold Coast, the out-of-sorts Eagles looked like they were starting to rediscover some of the form which carried them to a stunning premiership last year. But after taking a 39-point buffer into half-time, West Coast watched that lead whittled away by a brave Suns outfit that many expected might not win a game this season. We now know the Suns are much more competitive than most thought, but there are still so many questions to be answered for West Coast, despite the 23-point win lifting the reigning premiers to 4-3 this year. Collectively, the competitive desire hasn't been at the level required, and inconsistencies within games – with good quarters here and there punctuated by total fadeouts – would be incredibly frustrating for coach Adam Simpson. Internally, the Eagles are confident they will get better as the season rolls on, with some key players coming off compromised pre-seasons and others – including Nic Naitanui, Willie Rioli and Tom Barrass – currently in rehab. But in the meantime, they need to keep their campaign on track and win ugly if required. The next five weeks against the Saints, Demons, Crows, Bulldogs and Swans looks inviting on paper, and could set up West Coast's season, but if the Eagles can't win at least three of those games their hopes of a top-four spot and back-to-back flags will be almost shot. - Travis King

 
2. Moore sits comfortably alongside the AFL's top defenders

It took Darcy Moore a couple of years and a few injuries to produce his best football, but the level he is playing at so far in 2019 is a massive tick for the faith Collingwood has shown in the talented father-son recruit. Moore is playing as well as any key defender in the AFL this season, with 12 intercepts and 21 disposals against Port Adelaide underlining his claims for an inaugural All Australian berth at the end of the season. Moore is just as proficient in the air as he is at ground level, with the athletic backman regularly able to come off his man and impact a contest in a positive manner. He's quick off the mark, he reads the game brilliantly and he thrives when he takes the game on. Coach Nathan Buckley said after the game Moore would get better as he played more football, which is an enticing thought to ponder for gleeful Magpies supporters. - Ben Guthrie

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3. Aaron Naughton could become the best key forward in the competition

Or the best key back. Maybe even the best player, period. This bloke has superstar written all over him. Forget that he'd been in the midst of a quiet patch while being asked to lead a sputtering forward line and responded by clunking a mammoth nine contested marks – that's the equal-second highest tally since that stat has been recorded, by the way, behind only Wayne Carey. Forget his haul of 5.3 against powerhouse Richmond, including three in a flurry to start the second quarter to break the match open. Just look at these numbers. Naughton is 19. He's coming off his 25th career game. They say big men take time to develop. Not Naughton. He's fiercely competitive, thrives on a challenge, loves making defenders look silly and is already one of the most magnetic players in the AFL. What a jet. - Dinny Navaratnam

4. Young Crow won't let 'JJ' back in without a fight

There's plenty of talk about key forward Josh Jenkins getting his spot back in Adelaide's best 22, but his young replacement Elliott Himmelberg is doing everything he can to stay in the side. Himmelberg's third straight game – and just the fourth of his career – was arguably his best in Sunday night's clash with Fremantle at Adelaide Oval. The 20-year-old presented strongly down the line, taking contested marks and using his smarts to kick a crucial goal in the third quarter. Himmelberg's ability to get up the ground also allows Taylor Walker and Eddie Betts to have more space inside the 50m arc. - Lee Gaskin

 
5. We need to reserve judgement on Carlton's rebuild

There's been a lot to like about the Blues in 2019 and at the top of the list is that outstanding victory over the Western Bulldogs a fortnight ago. They pushed Richmond after a dismal start in the season opener, ran Port Adelaide close in South Australia and were six goals up on Hawthorn. But while we are often too quick to be harsh, we are also maybe too fast with the praise, too. Carlton's flattering 58-point thumping to North Melbourne on Sunday followed the fadeout against the Hawks, and comes after losses to bottom side Sydney at Marvel Stadium and Gold Coast. There's undoubtedly been progress, as coach Brendon Bolton was at pains to point out post-game on Sunday, but has there been enough? A 1-6 record in Bolton's fourth season at the helm is still pretty poor, regardless of any competitiveness along the way. If the competitiveness is followed by a series of victories later in the year, then the talk will dissipate, but at what point do the mounting losses become impossible to ignore? - Marc McGowan

 

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6. We're constantly guilty of overrating Hawthorn

There is a warranted tendency to always give the Hawks the benefit of the doubt, based on their amazing record under four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson. No one should ever be foolish enough to write this club off, particularly after many were made to look silly when Hawthorn rallied from a 1-5 start to almost make finals in 2017. However, the top-four finish from last year's home and away season always looked deceiving, especially when the Hawks were convincingly bundled out in straight sets. The annual war cry that they are aiming for the top four, "as usual", was notably missing – or at least less vocal – before this season in what should have been a giveaway. There's no shame in coming down off such a huge high, either, like all clubs have, but Clarkson knows he is amid a great challenge. There are major impending decisions to be made on certain veterans, too. As part of Jeff Kennett's grand 2050 vision for Hawthorn, the plan was to win two more flags by 2022. That seems highly improbable at this stage. - Marc McGowan

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7. The Giants should play it safe with their star runners

Saturday's 44-point win over St Kilda was accomplished with Josh Kelly (adductor) and Lachie Whitfield (adductor/corked thigh) watching on, and while there's little doubt the pair are elite players of the competition, Greater Western Sydney shouldn't be in any hurry to rush them back. Kelly battled groin soreness last year and had hip surgery over the off-season, so the Giants must be ultra-careful with the club champion. Whitfield's whole game is built on his run, so another week or two off for him won't hurt either. With Stephen Coniglio, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Adam Tomlinson and Matt de Boer all in outstanding touch, and Sam Reid, Daniel Lloyd, Brent Daniels, Isaac Cumming and Jackson Hately playing important roles, the depth is there to ensure the Giants don't slip down the ladder. Zac Langdon and Harry Perryman are back playing NEAFL as well, with Brett Deledio not far away. - Adam Curley

 
8. Hugh McCluggage is the real deal

His best mate Jarrod Berry signed a four-year contract extension during the week, but on Saturday night it was Hugh McCluggage throwing the party against the Swans. With 24 disposals (13 contested), six tackles and two classy goals, the 21-year-old added another layer to his coming-out season as an emerging star. Taking McCluggage at No.3 in the 2016 AFL Draft, the Lions always had high hopes for the country Victorian, and after two seasons of steady progress, McCluggage is already delivering with a huge leap forward in 2019. Not only is he now strong enough to stand up and deliver the ball in tackles, he is finishing off around goal – kicking 10 through seven games. McCluggage is the perfect complement to the inside grunt provided by Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons and Mitch Robinson. - Michael Whiting

 
9. Geelong no longer relies on its stars to get it over the line

When news came through Joel Selwood was a late withdrawal for the game against the Bombers, Geelong fans began to get nervy. Then Zach Tuohy pulled out of the game before the match. Add the knee injury that kept Patrick Dangerfield to just nine disposals and you would have thought that the Cats were in a bit of trouble. But the Cats are a professional unit and their defence, led by Mark Blicavs and Tom Stewart, was at its suffocating best, not allowing the Bombers to get the game on their terms. Even without Selwood and Dangerfield, Geelong's team is full of class and Tim Kelly and Gary Ablett were the prime examples of that. And while their full-ground team defence is their drawcard as a team, the Cats bat as deep as any team in the AFL with Sam Menegola, Mitch Duncan and Cameron Guthrie all stepping up to deliver a win over Essendon. - Ben Guthrie

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