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Nine things we learned: The 45-goal Tiger who's made for finals

The 10: round 19's best moments Milestone men and a Rioli special feature in this week's top shelf
1. Tom Lynch is ready for September

Lynch has yet to play a final at AFL level, having been at the Suns for the first eight years of his career. But the important Richmond acquisition is looming as a key player in the Tigers' pursuit of silverware this finals series. Lynch played one of the best games of his career on Friday night, kicking 5.1 from 16 disposals and six marks against Collingwood on Friday night. Although he was up against an undermanned Magpies defence, it was Lynch's movement in the forward half, ability to find space, mark strongly in the wet conditions and work in tandem with fellow Tigers' tall Jack Riewoldt that would have been most concerning for other premiership aspirants watching on. The Tigers are roaring towards a top-four berth and their big-name and high-priced recruit is leading the charge. - Callum Twomey

 
2. Melbourne has hit the lowest ebb of a disastrous season

"We're a long way off a really good basic football team that gets the basics right. Our fundamentals are deplorable at times." That's a quote from Demons ruckman Max Gawn, after his side's 19-point loss to St Kilda. It could have been uttered several times over the past decade or so, considering where the club has been. That those words were spoken 10 months after a preliminary final appearance is damning. The club has pointed to injuries as a reason for the losses, but that doesn't cut it against a Saints side missing its four-time club champion Jack Steven, captain Jarryn Geary, triple All Australian Dan Hannebery and gun intercepting defender Dylan Roberton, among others. It's unacceptable that the Dees find themselves in this position, above only Gold Coast on the ladder. - Dinny Navaratnam

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3. Here's to you, Mitch Robinson

Brisbane hard man Mitch Robinson has never been a great kick, but as far as the Lions are concerned his foot skills are perfect because they suit their frenetic style. This was patently evident during the finals-sealing 27-point win over Hawthorn in Launceston on Saturday. In the breezy conditions, Robinson had 21 kicks – the second most in his career and his most prolific effort in eight years – and many of them were hacked, scrubbed or hurried forward under pressure. The beauty was they created chaos balls, which in turn created nightmares for defenders, particularly when the Lions were surging forward in numbers. The Brisbane coaches have kept it simple for Robinson, telling him to play to his strengths (hardball-winning and aggressive application of pressure) and to play within his limitations. The result is a team-first warrior who could prove important under finals heat. - Ben Collins

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4. Jake Stringer is Essendon's 'break glass in case of emergency' option

With the Bombers trailing by 16 points at half-time, and floundering, coach John Worsfold rolled the dice by throwing Jake Stringer into the centre square at the start of the third term – and the enigmatic former Bulldog responded. Essendon was getting flogged around the contest in the first half, but Stringer's physicality completely changed the momentum of the game, and although his numbers weren't huge, his impact was. From one centre clearance, Stringer miraculously found Mitch Brown with his right foot while being slung to ground. It resulted in a goal. Moments later he gave Essendon the lead by expertly pushing off Chris Burgess, gathering and snapping with his right boot. And with the game on the line in the final minute, it was Stringer who ripped the clearance from the middle and kicked the sealer from inside the centre square. - Michael Whiting

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5. There's life left in Josh Kennedy's legs yet

In all honesty it's something the vast majority of us already knew, but the West Coast champion answered the critics in emphatic fashion with a seven-goal bag against North Melbourne. It was the first time since round one, 2017 – also against the Kangaroos - the dual Coleman medallist had nailed seven majors, however the sprightly way he moved around the ground and his strength in marking contests would arguably have been the most pleasing aspect for coach Adam Simpson. Kennedy endured a lean spell of two goals in three games leading into the Kangas clash but had battled a virus and insisted his body was feeling the best it has in years, a promising sign in the lead-up to September. With sidekick Jack Darling in imperious touch, the Eagles are suddenly looking ominous at the right time of year. - Travis King

 
6. Playing three 200cm-plus giants is a risky move

Fremantle was always dicing with danger taking in Aaron Sandilands, Sean Darcy and Rory Lobb, especially against the run-and-gun Bulldogs. The hitout dominance over young Dog Tim English eventuated, but did it matter? The Dockers lost contested possession comfortably and went down in the clearances, rendering the hitout superiority pointless. Sandilands and Darcy took only four marks and won 17 disposals between them, while Lobb took eight grabs and looked ominous on occasion without dominating. It's a dilemma, because the Dockers have to start pumping games into Darcy, knowing Sandilands is almost certain to retire at season's end, while Lobb simply must play. But a hard call needs to be made on this front, if Freo is to salvage something out of this season in the final month. - Marc McGowan

FANTASY FORM WATCH A blast from the past

Aaron Sandilands tries to evade a tackle against the Dogs. Picture: AFL Photos

7. Giant defensive pillars hold the key to premiership push

While a lot of focus around Greater Western Sydney revolves around their star-studded midfield and imposing attack, featuring Coleman Medal frontrunner Jeremy Cameron, it's the defence which will decide how deep the Giants go in September. Co-captain Phil Davis and Nick Haynes were superb in Saturday night's one-point thriller against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. They hauled in 23 marks between them and continually stopped the Power from gaining any traction in the air. When you consider the tall forwards who will decide the premiership – the likes of Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt at Richmond, Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling at West Coast, and Eric Hipwood and Daniel McStay at Brisbane – the key defenders will be the ones who will play a crucial role in the run home. - Lee Gaskin

8. Carlton finds a calm head in Casboult

Eight months ago, Carlton was actively attempting to shop Levi Casboult. Now, it is likely working diligently to ensure he's at Ikon Park in 2020. He started the season out of the side and, in reality, without much chance of cracking a talented tall forward line. But he has been able to reinvent himself in a number of ways to become a surprisingly reliable first-choice target. First, he went back – spending multiple weeks in defence where he was able to impact games with his intercept marking. He's since returned forward, kicking 10 goals in his last five matches and providing the team with a capable back-up ruck option. He won 15 disposals and 10 hitouts from 10 marks against Adelaide, complementing his three goals. His set-shot goal kicking has improved drastically and was evidenced against the Crows, while he also slotted a lovely shot on the run from beyond 50m out. If that wasn't enough, he even sat behind the ball on occasion to take a couple of nice, reassuring marks in defence. - Riley Beveridge

9. The young Swans copped a harsh lesson from the best

Sydney won't play finals this season, but the year will be of great benefit to the majority of the senior team, so you can't call it a waste. The age profile of John Longmire's squad is well known, and his players received some priceless education against Geelong on Sunday. The Cats smashed the home side in contested ball (+31) and clearances (+18), with most of that damage done after quarter-time. Lining up against Patrick Dangerfield, Tim Kelly, Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan would have taught the Swans' emerging players like James Rowbottom, Ryan Clarke and Ryley Stoddart more than they could ever learn on the training track. If they're as switched on as Sydney hopes they are, they'll be fuelled by this week's belting and use it to improve for the future. - Adam Curley

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