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Nine things we learned: No excuses for Dockers' collapse

The 10: round 17's best moments Incredible cliffhangers and a bit of bravado headlines the action from the weekend
1. Fremantle will have no one to blame if it misses finals

After four consecutive losses, it's pretty unlikely the Dockers make the top eight. Injuries to their tall stocks have been brutal, no doubt. Look at some of the names who have been sidelined: Alex Pearce, Jesse Hogan, Rory Lobb, Aaron Sandilands, Matt Taberner. They're hard to replace. However, they were poised for a September berth at 7-5, but two losses in particular were hard to swallow. They led cellar-dweller Carlton by 30 points in round 15 and should have run away with it, but inexplicably coughed up a golden chance to consolidate their ladder position on their home deck. Then on Saturday, terrible ball use, particularly at inopportune times, meant they didn't overcome Hawthorn. They're two bad defeats, for different reasons, but both will sting, particularly after losses to struggling Melbourne and Gold Coast, too. - Dinny Navaratnam

 
2. If you nullify Cunnington, you nullify Shaw's Roos

North Melbourne caretaker coach Rhyce Shaw has lost just twice in six games in charge, but there's a common theme. All Australian contender Ben Cunnington won only 16 and 15 disposals, respectively, in defeats to Greater Western Sydney and now Essendon. Giant Matt de Boer and young Bomber Dylan Clarke were chiefly responsible, and the Roos were handsomely beaten in the midfield each time. What must also be highlighted is that Shaun Higgins was out injured in both matches. It emphasises the reliance on the star pair, and any suggestion that Higgins might be used as a trade chip at season's end should be shelved. Jack Ziebell, Jy Simpkin and Jed Anderson have generally performed well this year, but Paul Ahern was disappointing again on Saturday and Luke Davies-Uniacke played in the VFL. There's still work to be done in the Roo-build. - Marc McGowan

AROUND THE STATE LEAGUES Star Pie returns, slick Eagle sizzles

 
2. The star-studded Pies can get down and dirty

When Collingwood regained Dayne Beams from Brisbane over the off-season, Collingwood's midfield appeared as stacked as any in recent memory, with comparisons to some of the all-time great engine rooms abounding before they had even played a game. It's fair to say what looked incredible on paper hasn't always translated to on-field performance in 2019, and some questioned whether the Pies had too many onballers willing to run forward and get on the highlight reel who weren't as keen to work the other way or get stuck in at the coalface. Friday night's stunning last quarter against West Coast should put that talk to bed. Beams and Taylor Adams (groin) were missing, but the quartet of Brodie Grundy, Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar and Steele Sidebottom are as good as any and led a midfield that outhunted the Eagles. Not only did Collingwood smash West Coast at the contest (+22) and inside 50s (+15), they laid 30 of their 63 tackles for the game when it really counted. If they bring that same workrate and intensity in September and lead the Magpies to a flag, then this engine room might really rank among the best we've seen. - Travis King

THE RUN HOME Where will your club finish?

 
4. A long-term injury for Stephen Coniglio could break the Giants' back

Let's start by saying that we share the Giants' hope that scans on Monday will clear Coniglio of any serious knee injury and that he is back to be a big part of the club's finals campaign. But if things go the other way – and coach Leon Cameron admitted some people will be fearing the worst – then the Giants are going to find it very hard to contend in 2019. They are in a rut (having lost four of their past five games), are without Josh Kelly (calf) for another couple of weeks and won't get Callan Ward (knee) back this year. Those three would be the starting midfield for nearly every other club. The Giants have some strong back-up and depth in that area, but Coniglio is irreplaceable. They are also without tagger Matt de Boer for another long stretch, and have now fallen a game behind the top-four with six weeks to go. Youngsters Jye Caldwell and Jackson Hately could come in, but Coniglio is the Giants' best and most consistent midfielder, a goalkicker, a leader in the absence of Ward, a team-lifter and a gamechanger. They're hard to find. - Callum Twomey

BARRETT Finals, free agency up in the air as four clubs sweat on Coniglio's knee

 
5. Flyin' Gryan is crucial for Cats

Don't sleep on Gryan Miers and his chances in the NAB AFL Rising Star. The second-year youngster has become a 'mini-Gaz' in Geelong's forward line, replicating Gary Ablett's ability to hit the scoreboard as a deep threat and then push through the midfield and rack up important numbers. With Ablett hobbled by a hip complaint on Saturday night, Miers was played much further up the ground and finished with 23 disposals and seven inside 50s to go with a goal. It was the third time in five weeks Miers has had more than 20 touches in a game, a stat he has notched seven times now this season. His kicking action is unusual, but that doesn't limit his ability to deliver the footy precisely into leading forwards from dangerous areas of the field. The 20-year-old is compiling quite the year and might soon be joining the likes of Sam Walsh, Sydney Stack and Connor Rozee as Rising Star contenders. - Riley Beveridge

 
6. Some teams are suited to tagging. Port isn't one of them

The idea was sound – tag Brisbane star Lachie Neale after he had 43 disposals in their round three encounter – but the Power took their aggression too far and paid the price. Power players bumped Neale at every opportunity and gave away consecutive 50m penalties early in Sunday's loss to the Lions that cost them a goal. The Lions booted seven unanswered goals in the first 22 minutes to effectively kill off the contest. Neale didn't have a major impact, but Jarryd Lyons and Dayne Zorko picked up the slack, and the Power's midfield mix was all off with former Fremantle utility Cam Sutcliffe tagging Neale. The tag was dropped in the second half, but by then, it was too late. - Lee Gaskin

 
7. The Suns are at rock bottom

Whether Adelaide's coaching staff was laughing at Gold Coast or not is almost irrelevant – it's what the rest of the competition is doing after the Suns' past fortnight. So much hard work to become more competitive in the first three months of the season has been eroded by home ground floggings from Richmond and Adelaide. Gold Coast looked devoid of confidence and at times devoid of spirit against the Crows, and the road back has never seemed longer. Post-match Stuart Dew conceded "there's not a lot knocking the door down" in the NEAFL, and with an all-too-familiar lengthy injury list, changing personnel is not a quick fix. What recently shaped as a match to avoid the wooden spoon next Saturday against Carlton has now turned into an almost certain four points for the Blues. Gold Coast are the worst team in the competition, and it's not even close. - Michael Whiting

FANTASY FORM WATCH Pig, Piglet, rage trades and your questions

8. Hitouts need to be ditched as a mainstream statistic

Melbourne's dual All Australian ruckman Max Gawn dined out on the Western Bulldogs for the umpteenth time on Sunday, but it was the Dogs who won the day. It's a familiar problem for Luke Beveridge and his team, with promising big man Tim English still some way from being a force in the centre. English consistently loses the hitouts by a big margin – just ask Brodie Grundy – but the Bulldogs have found a way to defy that disadvantage. Beveridge calls it being "reactively proactive", with his midfielders conditioned to having to shark the opposition's taps. The Demons won the clearances, but certainly didn't fully capitalise on the armchair ride Gawn gave them. In fact, only 12 of the 208cm ruckman's 34 hitouts were to advantage, whereas he famously had seven to advantage in one quarter against the Dogs last year. That's where hitout numbers can be deceiving, and everyone would be better off including only those to advantage. - Marc McGowan

Max Gawn and Tim English contest the ruck on Sunday. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

9. Nic Newman had a sweet homecoming

The former Swan struggled to cement himself in his four seasons under John Longmire, but given an extended opportunity at senior level, is producing some quality footy. Newman started the game against Sydney matched up on the taller Tom McCartin but found himself solo for much of the day in general play, where he continually hurt the Swans. Playing as a sweeper, Newman had 32 possessions, 13 marks and nine rebound 50s to be an integral part of the Blues' first win at the SCG since 2011. - Adam Curley

Newman opposed to Swan Nick Blakey. Picture: AFL Photos

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