1. Veteran could play an unlikely role in Pies' flag push

We would be forgiven for thinking Ben Reid, an All Australian centre half-back eight years ago, was nothing more than depth at Collingwood these days. Admit it – we weren't alone. Reid started the season in the VFL and kicked eight goals in four games, but his AFL chance came only because of Mason Cox's ankle setback. Cox's absence has stretched to three games, and Reid sent a none-too-subtle reminder in the first and third of those that he's still got something to offer. The 30-year-old was especially good on Saturday, kicking three goals, amassing 10 score involvements and hauling in seven marks (five contested and three inside 50). Reid's fitness will be a major factor as always, but if he can maintain his strong form he may force coach Nathan Buckley to find an ongoing role for him. - Marc McGowan

BARRETT Big guns make flag chase a race in five

2. Dylan Shiel hasn't forgotten where the goals are

The boom Essendon recruit copped a barrage of criticism over his glaring turnovers and woeful conversion rate after starting the season 0.7 but Shiel's class shone through when it counted against a dogged Fremantle. Early in the final term, with the margin eight points and the match very much still up for grabs, he slotted a crucial goal. As if that wasn't enough, the 26-year-old followed it up with a quick snap to further extend the lead. Wayward disposal is probably the only knock on his game but if Shiel keeps stepping up when it counts, he will further endear himself to the Bombers faithful. - Dinny Navaratnam

3. Melbourne's season is all but over

For the second-straight year, the Demons suffered a catastrophic loss to West Coast in Perth, and while they still have 13 games left it is almost impossible to see Simon Goodwin's outfit mounting a finals charge from 3-6. Jumping on Max Gawn's back, the undermanned Dees were brave, played with flair and took the game up to West Coast on Friday night, but when the whips were cracking the visitors couldn't stay with the Eagles in a six-goal-to-one final term. After the 66-point demolition in last year's preliminary final, it was another shattering defeat in the west for Melbourne, which must now defy history (only four of 43 teams have reached September from 3-6 since 2000) to feature in finals. The next three weeks will sort the Demons out as a contender or pretender. They host the Giants at the MCG next Sunday, before taking on Adelaide in Darwin and fronting up to Collingwood before the bye. You'd think they need to win at least two of those games, and improve their dismal percentage (76.2) or a season which started full of so much hope will be beyond salvaging. - Travis King

AROUND THE STATE LEAGUES King's big day, Crow bags six

4. The Cats have a not-so-secret weapon

Underestimate Mitch Duncan at your peril. In a midfield stacked to the rafters with talent and Brownlows, Duncan often floats under the radar of opposition teams too busy trying to manage Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Ablett and Tim Kelly. But the hard runner can often be the most dangerous of the quartet, as he demonstrated against the Western Bulldogs. Duncan finished the match with 25 disposals, a whopping 11 marks and three goals in a best on ground performance, showing up some of his more well-credentialed teammates - Sarah Black

WATCH Duncan puts on a show against the Bulldogs

5. Brisbane's midfield is deep, and hard to contain

Among all the improvements of the Lions in 2019, the biggest is their enhanced depth in the midfield. Lachie Neale's acquisition has not only added 35 touches a game, but also freed up his teammates and aided the development of the younger brigade. Against Adelaide, Neale was unquestionably the best player afield with his 39 disposals, including 12 clearances, and the trickle-down effect was evident. Dayne Zorko – the primary target of taggers for so many years – had 20 touches, including 10 inside-50s and a goal, illustrating he can now do most of his work in the forward half. Hugh McCluggage (26) and Jarrod Berry (20) were influential, while Mitch Robinson (22), Jarryd Lyons (21) and Rhys Mathieson (17) also contributed strongly. The depth and versatility of Brisbane's midfield is quickly becoming a headache for opposition coaches. - Michael Whiting

FANTASY FORM WATCH Big boys come out to play

6. Ellis has staged a stunning turnaround

Two months ago, it was hard to see Brandon Ellis' long-term future being at Punt Road. One of just three restricted free agents in the AFL, Ellis was out of Richmond's best team – and looked on his way to being out the door at season's end. Tigers coach Damien Hardwick has since revealed that might have been his fault. He concedes he focused more on what Ellis couldn't do, rather than what he could. Since giving him a reprieve, he's allowed the premiership Tiger to show what he's good at. On Sunday, he did just that. He ran, he carried, he won his own footy and he delivered it precisely. His 35 disposals were the most he's won all season, complementing 13 marks and five clearances. It was the seventh time from eight matches this year in which he's had more than 20 touches. From being out of favour, Ellis now looks like one of the team's most important and influential players. Retain that consistency and he might also prove one of its most indispensable. - Riley Beveridge

Brandon Ellis has revived his Richmond career in the past month. Picture: AFL Photos

7. Lack of composure costs Kangas

It was slippery under foot and the ball was clearly greasy thanks to a heavy dew in Hobart, but it was an absence of final-quarter composure – not the conditions – that ultimately cost North Melbourne. Where the Swans had piled on 7.2 during their period of dominance in the second term, North Melbourne mustered a wasteful 4.5 when momentum swung heavily in their favour late in the piece. During the final term, North dominated clearances and possession and pounded the ball inside the 50m arc no fewer than 20 times. But the frenzied nature of their effort led to errant kicks, messy entries, intercept marks and desperate spoils from the Swans. Just when their clear advantage in experience should have counted most, the Kangaroos couldn't seal the deal against the fledgling Swans and slid further into the mire at 2-7 for the season. - Stu Warren

8. Power's depth rises to the occasion

With eight of their best dozen players injured and unavailable, the Power needed their next generation to show what they could do. The Power's youngsters, some who arrived at the club with much fanfare and others who have bided their time, stepped up in their 38-point win against Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval on Sunday. After one game as a ruckman at the end of last season, 22-year-old Billy Frampton has reinvented himself as a key forward, kicking three goals. Kane Farrell also booted three, defender Joel Garner was solid on debut, at times playing on dangerous Suns forward Alex Sexton, Joe Atley was busy in the midfield while Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters added plenty of spark. - Lee Gaskin

9. Lachie Whitfield's latest positional change might be the best yet

The former No.1 draft pick was a gun wingman before he was moved into defence last season to cover the injured Zac Williams. That proved a masterstroke when he won the best and fairest award and was selected at half-back in the Virgin Australia All Australian team. Most coaches would have chosen to keep that formula, but Leon Cameron opted to swing the gifted runner to the other end of the ground, and he might be an even better player in 2019. Whitfield's tank allows him to cover enormous territory, and while he was dangerous for opposition teams in 2018, being closer to goal this season means he's even more lethal with his delivery forward of centre, an area the Giants have struggled with in recent times. Whitfield is also tougher to clamp playing as a high half-forward where he's free to roam, and as an added bonus, his move has also allowed the Giants to get Toby Greene back into the midfield. - Adam Curley