In this week's Nine things we learned, brought to you by Haier, the world's No.1 appliance maker, we look at the need for more coaches like Ken, discuss why the Dees aren't a lost cause and identify one of the finds of the season.
1. The Saints are still pretenders
Playing to consolidate a spot in the top four, the Saints' collapse on Saturday left them barely clinging to a spot in the top eight. Leading a bottom-six side by 37 points at quarter-time, the Saints completely stopped in their tracks and reverted to being controlled by their opposition – reminiscent of 2017-2019. It was the second time this year they've given up a 30-plus point lead. While coach Brett Ratten applied the blowtorch on several passengers, top-end players Bradley Hill and Dan Butler had just five and three disposals, respectively, after the first break. Since the start of last year, they're 10-5 at Marvel Stadium and 2-11 elsewhere. With at least four matches away from home to come – and potentially many more – it's time to prove that things have changed. - Mitch Cleary
2. We need more coaches like Ken
There are plenty of coaches that are media-trained robots, but Ken Hinkley is as refreshing as it gets. The Power coach made a statement at the selection table by dropping veteran ball-magnet Tom Rockliff and he didn't hold back in his honest assessment of the midfielder's form. Hinkley also isn't someone that shies away from showing off his emotions in the coaches' box. With the game in the balance midway through the fourth quarter, Todd Marshall's snap put the Power 16 points clear of the Giants and Hinkley let off some fist pumps to celebrate. After earning AFL Life Membership due to his 300th game as a player and coach, Hinkley then rightfully joined his troops in the middle of their theme song and let the vocal cords rip. After a pretty grim 2020 so far, we need to see more scenes just like this. - Chris Correia
3. Melbourne isn't a lost cause in 2020
Gold Coast is young, didn't have Matt Rowell and remains a work in progress but the Demons were pretty good on Saturday night after a hellish week. Coach Simon Goodwin can be a tad too sensitive on occasion but there was certainly a pile on in the days leading up to the Suns game. Would it have happened if Melbourne found a way a fortnight ago to beat Geelong, which just gave Brisbane a lesson, instead of losing by three points? The significant issue of their kicking inside 50 must be solved but the Dees have been far more consistent and competitive this year than last. Sam Weideman's return may prove a turning point in that regard but let's reserve judgment until Sunday's clash with Hawthorn, which could be season defining for both clubs. - Marc McGowan
4. Jordan Ridley is one of the finds of the season
Essendon has a new breed that is helping lift it up the ladder and Ridley's emergence across half-back has been central to that. The 21-year-old had a slow start to his career, with injuries impacting his entry into the AFL system and managing only nine games in his first three seasons. But he has played every game so far this season and has become a crucial player for the Bombers with his classy ball use, versatility and height. He was again important in Essendon's win over North Melbourne on Saturday night with 18 disposals and seven marks, offering a polished and calming foil to the Bombers' back half. - Callum Twomey
5. There's only one man you want delivering inside 50
You can have your Josh Kelly, Hugh McCluggage or Marcus Bontempelli options. But Geelong champion Gary Ablett is the one player in the competition you want with the last kick inside 50. With potentially only 11 games left, Ablett was at his champagne best against Brisbane on Thursday night. Backing up off a five-day break in game 351, the 36-year-old kicked the opening goal from 50m then provided two direct goal assists to keep Geelong in the game in the second term. He then finished off an important goal on the run from 48m as part of Geelong's unanswered seven-goal third quarter. Very few have the poise across half-forward of Ablett, buying time and space when collecting disposal and giving his fellow forwards predictability in their leading channels. - Mitch Cleary
6. Are Aliir Aliir's days at Sydney numbered?
The Swans had 10 players on their injury list coming into Sunday's game against Richmond with nine of those players either ruckmen, key forwards or key defenders. Aliir Aliir seemed like a no-brainer to line up on Tom Lynch when the sides were named on Thursday night, but the Swans pulled him out an hour before the game due to poor form. Aliir must be questioning where he's at when coach John Longmire chooses 186cm Robbie Fox to take on the 199cm Lynch in a game where the Swans went in with no true key defenders. With a year to run on his contract, perhaps Sydney could look to move Aliir before he hits restricted free agency in 2021. - Jourdan Canil
7. The Bulldogs' No.7 pick could be the new No.1
It could just prove that Bailey Smith is the best of an incredibly talented crop from the 2018 NAB AFL Draft class. The Western Bulldogs midfielder, who finished fourth behind Sam Walsh, Connor Rozee and Sydney Stack in last year's NAB AFL Rising Star award, has been the pick of the bunch among that collection of young stars this year and was arguably the best player on the field on Sunday evening. Despite the Bulldogs being bullied out of the middle in the early stages against the Blues, Smith towered above his more experienced teammates like Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter in another stellar performance. His tough nature at stoppages, and his class on the outside, was on full display as the teenager finished with 26 disposals, four clearances and a goal. The No.7 draft pick could well be the No.1 player from that cohort.
8. Collingwood is in a list sweet spot
Not only are Nathan Buckley's Magpies among this year's leading premiership contenders but there's little reason to believe that won't be the case for some time. Scott Pendlebury, Dayne Beams (who hasn't played this year) and Jeremy Howe are the only Collingwood stars on the wrong side of 30, while Steele Sidebottom is 29. The rest of the Pies' key contributors are in their mid-20s or thereabouts. Equally as pleasing for list boss Ned Guy is there's a strong crop of kids already playing or emerging. Jaidyn Stephenson, Josh Daicos and Callum and Tyler Brown immediately spring to mind, and there was plenty to like about Isaac Quaynor and debutants Will Kelly and Atu Bosenavulagi on Friday night. Throw in Nathan Murphy, Mark Keane, Tom Wilson, Jay Rantall and Trent Bianco and the impending arrival of Daicos' hugely promising younger brother Nick next year, and the black and white army must be excited. - Marc McGowan
9. The Eagles are heating up
West Coast looked anything but a premiership contender after the season returned following the COVID-19 shutdown period. Heavy losses to Gold Coast, Brisbane and Port Adelaide seemingly put a line through the Eagles' flag prospects as they struggled to adapt to life in the Queensland hub. But they backed up last week's win over Sydney with another comfortable victory over the winless Crows on Saturday. While neither performance set the world on fire, they are crucial wins nonetheless. West Coast has now squared its season at 3-3 and with the next handful of matches likely to be at Optus Stadium, the Eagles are a strong position to catapult up the ladder. High-profile recruit Tim Kelly has also found form with his domination of the Crows easily the best performance at his new club. - Ben Sutton