1. Bryce Gibbs is nowhere

It's harsh, but it's the brutal reality. Traded in after Adelaide made a Grand Final, the former Blue looked to be the ideal piece to complement the Crows' ferocious midfield unit. Instead, in just his second year at the club, Gibbs has been dropped three times, and after just 13 disposals in an underwhelming display against Geelong, he could be headed for another stint in the SANFL. It's borderline staggering to see how far he's fallen. Gibbs, 30, has always been durable, having lined up in at least 21 games in every season since being drafted with the first overall selection in 2006, save for 2015, and that trait would have given Adelaide confidence in handing the classy ball user a four-year deal. Instead, his career is on the brink midway through the second season of that contract. There have been others to turn their career around (look at what Travis Boak has done at Port Adelaide) so Gibbs will aim to do that, but whether he can is another question. - Dinny Navaratnam

THE RUN HOME Is Port too unreliable to play finals?

2. The Saints' search for another ruckman is confusing

St Kilda is interested in signing Essendon rookie Sam Draper on a four-year deal reportedly worth $1.8 million. That's a lot of money (let alone faith) for a player who hasn't yet run out for an AFL game and is on the sidelines with an ACL injury to his knee, despite his talent. They have also been linked to North Melbourne free agent Todd Goldstein and out-of-favour Port big man Paddy Ryder. But why? Rowan Marshall proved again on Sunday the Saints ruckman is more than comfortable leading that division. The 23-year-old has established himself as one of the most exciting young talls in the competition and recently signed a new three-year deal with the club. He picked up 19 disposals and a goal against Richmond in the Saints' loss, and also had 33 hit-outs in a strong display. He might need another sidekick or back-up, but he looks ready to take the No.1 ruck mantle for many years to come at the club. - Callum Twomey

CONTRACT CALLS Who's out, latest whispers, priority deals

Rowan Marshall celebrates his goal against the Tigers. Picture: AFL Photos

3. North's midfield revolution is happening before our eyes

Rhyce Shaw's willingness to hand young duo Jy Simpkin and Luke Davies-Uniacke far more responsibility through the midfield has paid dividends already. And on Saturday night, the pair arguably delivered the most promising signs of their development yet. Against one of the best midfield groups in the competition, Simpkin was electric. He finished with 30 disposals and 11 clearances, with his neat sidestep and his exciting change of pace providing the Kangaroos engine room a valuable point of difference. Davies-Uniacke was less prolific, but just as damaging. He found space in tight areas and pushed forward to provide a dangerous scoreboard threat, kicking two crucial goals. Both first-round picks are starting to look like the future of North Melbourne. - Riley Beveridge

4. It's time for Cam McCarthy to repay Fremantle's faith

He is one of the AFL's great enigmas, capable of producing match-turning quarters and bags of goals with his gun-barrel straight kicking from long-range, however McCarthy is also one of the most frustratingly inconsistent players in the game. But nearing the end of his third season at the Dockers, it's time for McCarthy to be 'the man' in an undermanned attack. Rory Lobb (foot) should be back for next Saturday night's Western Derby but with Brennan Cox struggling, the Dockers need McCarthy to become a reliable contributor on the scoreboard and around the ground. After drilling five goals in round one, the former Giant looked primed for a big year, but by round eight he was back out of the side and only returned after Jesse Hogan (foot) went down against Melbourne. On Sunday, McCarthy provided a strong target with four goals against Carlton and now has 14 for the season after returning 25 and 19 in the past two years. If the Dockers are going to reach finals - and that's no certainty after the loss to Carlton - they will need someone to take the goal-scoring burden off Michael Walters and McCarthy is the man to do it. - Travis King

BARRETT The 'Any Given Sunday' era has finally arrived

Can Cam McCarthy become the key forward target Freo desperately needs? Picture: AFL Photos

5. Brisbane is good enough to do some damage in September

The Lions will get a huge test when they travel to play GWS next Sunday, but the question now shouldn't be whether they can make the top eight, but can they do some damage once there? Brisbane has versatility and match-winners on every line that should scare most opponents. Against Melbourne it was Eric Hipwood who took the game by the scruff of the neck, kicking five goals in a scintillating 15-minute burst. Eight days earlier against St Kilda it was Charlie Cameron kicking five in just over a half. The midfield is stacked with talent, led by captain Dayne Zorko, prolific Lachie Neale and the gifted Hugh McCluggage, while Daniel Rich is having his best season ever at half-back. Whether it's beating Melbourne at contested footy, Hawthorn at the patience game, Sydney in the wet or West Coast after giving them a five-goal headstart, Brisbane has shown it can overcome just about anything this year. Four more wins and they'll get a chance to do even more in September. - Michael Whiting

AROUND THE STATE LEAGUES Veteran Dog returns, Port stars dominate

6. This Eagle is one of the AFL's best onballers

Luke Shuey's raw numbers typically don't pop off the page the same way they do for some of the competition's other elite midfielders. With statistics often a key reference point for separating the wheat from the chaff, the West Coast star is often an afterthought when mentioning the best prime movers. Maybe he suffers from being outside the Victorian bubble, too. His coach, Adam Simpson, knows exactly how good Shuey is, and his Norm Smith Medal-winning display in last year's Grand Final was a none-too-subtle reminder of his big-game ability. Shuey's extraordinary performance against Hawthorn was arguably his greatest since the last Saturday in September. With the match on the line, he amassed a blistering 15 disposals and six clearances in the last quarter alone. Shuey finished with 39 possessions (20 contested), 11 clearances, 11 inside 50s, nine tackles, 758 metres gained and a goal. How are those numbers for you? - Marc McGowan

FANTASY FORM WATCH Lion king reigns with bye rounds over

Luke Shuey kicks a goal during the Eagles' thrilling win at the MCG. Picture: AFL Photos

7. Showdown 47 should be under the Friday night lights

Adelaide Oval will be rocking on Saturday with Adelaide and Port Adelaide desperate to get back in the winner's circle with a spot in the top eight up for grabs. This has all the elements of a barnstorming encounter, which deserves top billing across the country. Instead, it will be buried in the Saturday twilight timeslot on pay television, while struggling Hawthorn – 15th on the ladder and out of finals contention – takes on Collingwood at the MCG on Friday night. The sooner the Showdown gets the recognition it deserves as one of the premier encounters on the football calendar, the better. - Lee Gaskin

8. Sydney must embrace Aliir Aliir's abilities in the ruck

With Callum Sinclair joining the Swans' list of injured big men, Aliir is the man to lead the ruck going forward. His athleticism is his biggest asset and while he might get monstered in ruck duels, around the ground he can exploit any opponent in the competition, especially when pushing forward. The Swans can call on Jackson Thurlow from the NEAFL to cover him in defence, allowing Tom McCartin to stay forward, or if they like McCartin's competitiveness in the back half, they can go small inside 50. Mid-season recruit Michael Knoll seems some way off being ready for senior footy and it would be unfair to call on him just weeks after arriving at the club. Back in the exciting Aliir and let him use his flair and confidence to make things happen around the ground. - Adam Curley

9. We can't trust GWS in Melbourne yet

It's the 15 minutes Leon Cameron's men could look back on as the difference between hosting a qualifying final and finding themselves on the road in week one. Leading Essendon by 19 points in the final term with Bombers ruckman Tom Bellchambers watching from the sidelines, the Giants blew a golden chance to move into second spot. They've now lost to the Bombers, Hawthorn, Adelaide, West Coast and Fremantle away from Giants Stadium this year. Yes, the Cats were a big scalp in Geelong, but doubts remain in Melbourne, with a round 10 win over the Demons at the MCG hardly a strong formline. They'll get one more chance to bury their worries in Melbourne when they travel to the 'G to face a bolstered Richmond outfit in a fortnight. - Mitch Cleary