In this week's Eight things we learned, brought to you by Haier, the world's No.1 appliance maker, we discover that a big Demon should consider his options, the Roos have their next young star and the Crows' critics should be eating humble pie.

1. It's time for Tom McDonald to look for a fresh start

With its season seemingly on the line against Fremantle on Monday night, Melbourne left Tom McDonald out for the third consecutive game. Instead, the Demons turned to Braydon Preuss as a key target in attack in slippery conditions with the 206cm big man lacking any impact in his three disposals. If McDonald can't get in for a game the Demons simply had to win, it's time for him to see what else is out there. He will turn 28 later this month and has two years left on his contract. Would he provide an option as a forward target for a club like Essendon who is bracing to lose Joe Daniher or could Collingwood smooth his contract out over three of four years in order to fit him their tight cap? In his second year as a key forward – after moving from defence – McDonald bagged 53 majors in 2018. And he kicked four goals in a semi-final just 25 games ago. - Mitch Cleary

2. Essendon is a mile off the pace

Following the Bombers' 66-point loss to Geelong, coach John Worsfold understatedly said there was a gap between them and the top four teams. 'Woosha' surmised that another pre-season under incoming coach Ben Rutten would help the Dons' continuity enormously and they could close that gap. But Essendon is nowhere near it. With its season on the line against Geelong, the first-quarter performance was as far below par as you could imagine – poor execution, poor around stoppages and even worse, poor intensity and pressure. A fit Andy McGrath, Joe Daniher and Dyson Heppell would clearly make a difference, but it's going to take more than one more pre-season on Sunday's evidence. - Michael Whiting

3. The Roos might have found their next star

There were murmurs, until recently, across the AFL industry about the underwhelming performances of the 2017 draft class, particularly at the top. There's still more to prove, but there's been encouraging signs from Andrew Brayshaw, Adam Cerra, Hunter Clark, Nick Coffield and Aaron Naughton this year. No.1 pick Cam Rayner and 2018 NAB AFL Rising Star Jaidyn Stephenson have also had their moments. You can add emerging Roo Luke Davies-Uniacke, the fourth overall pick that year, into that conversation. The man known as 'LDU' was primed for a breakout campaign before 'pubic overload' put him on the shelf for months, even once the season resumed. However, Davies-Uniacke has warmed to the task since returning and enjoyed arguably his best performance yet against Port Adelaide on Saturday night. The 21-year-old midfielder had one exciting moment where he cut off a Zak Butters handball and burst through the centre to create a shot at goal. He finished with 23 disposals (16 contested), six intercept possessions, six score involvements and five clearances. In a team crying out for a new star, Davies-Uniacke is shaping as that man. - Marc McGowan

4. Hill could be St Kilda's most important player

It was only a month ago when St Kilda coach Brett Ratten was forced to defend star recruit Bradley Hill to the press. At that stage, Hill – a valuable off-season trade from Fremantle who cost the club a top-10 draft pick – had only amassed one 20-disposal game in his first 13 matches for the club. However, over the last fortnight, Hill has displayed exactly why he's so important to this St Kilda team. A 27-disposal outing against Melbourne was followed by another important 22-disposal performance against Hawthorn on Sunday, with his run, carry and class forward of centre proving pivotal. That added to seven score involvements and a game-high 323m gained. There's another area where Hill is influential, though. Maybe it's an intangible, but as a three-time premiership player with Hawthorn he could be relied upon to guide St Kilda through its first finals campaign since 2011. Expect Hill to play an important leadership role in a young Saints side over the next fortnight. - Riley Beveridge

5. The Crows' critics should be eating humble pie

Consecutive victories after 13 straight losses is nothing to, ahem, 'crow' about, but the new Adelaide is blossoming before our eyes. Restricted free agent Brad Crouch still seems likely to depart, but many of the Crows' future pieces are coming together. Take the forward line, for instance, where Elliott Himmelberg, Darcy Fogarty, Shane McAdam and Tyson Stengle are now regulars and showing plenty of promise. One of highly rated draft prospects Logan McDonald or Riley Thilthorpe will be a nice addition, too. Letting Hugh Greenwood and Cam Ellis-Yolmen go has enabled more midfield variety and greater opportunity for the likes of Harry Schoenberg, in particular, and Chayce Jones. Lachie Sholl's also made six straight appearances since Rory Atkins – who will exercise his free agency rights – last played in round nine. Adelaide's nine debutants this year are three more than any other club, with lots to like from others not already mentioned, such as Fischer McAsey, Will Hamill, Andrew McPherson and Ned McHenry. And what a bargain Ben Keays, still only 23, is proving to be. - Marc McGowan

6. English the difference between finals or bust

Marcus Bontempelli will likely get the plaudits for his crucial late goal, but it was young ruckman Tim English who rose to the occasion when the Bulldogs needed a hero. Pulling down several contested marks late in the game and throwing his body at every pack he could, English asserted himself as a beast in the air. After spending more time up forward in recent weeks, English looked far more comfortable in an intercepting role when he drifted back against the Eagles. West Coast might have been undermanned without Nic Naitanui, Luke Shuey and Elliot Yeo around the ball, but it was the top-six scalp the Dogs needed to keep themselves in the finals hunt. Don't take the shine off this performance, it may end up being the coming-of-age game Bulldogs fans had been waiting for.  - Jourdan Canil

7. Brisbane can get by without Harris – for now

All the talk this week was how Brisbane would cope without injured Virgin Australia AFL All Australian defender Harris Andrews. The man charged with filling his boots against Gold Coast was second-gamer Jack Payne, and the Lions Academy product started like a house on fire. Payne took four intercept marks in the opening eight minutes, playing assertively against young Suns gun Ben King. The 20-year-old was outmarked once or twice, but generally did a good job, while veterans Darcy Gardiner, Ryan Lester and Daniel Rich all looked to help out. The Lions may well need Andrews to win the biggest games of the season, but Payne looks more than capable of filling in in the meantime. - Michael Whiting

8. Walsh every bit the matchwinner the Blues needed

Despite winning the 2019 NAB AFL Rising Star award and emerging as one of Carlton's best players right from the word go, Kane Cornes doubled-down on his belief that Connor Rozee was the more damaging player from the 2018 draft class. After Carlton's loss to St Kilda earlier in the year Cornes raised concerns over Walsh's efficiency and diminishing metres gained stats, but the young Carlton gun put all those queries to bed against the Swans. Walsh racked up an astonishing 600 metres gained, 10 score involvements and ran at 84 per cent disposal efficiency in a best-on-ground performance. That's a matchwinner in every sense. - Jourdan Canil 

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Walsh goes whack with a pure strike of the Sherrin

Sam Walsh hits his kick sweetly and the Blues have two goals in quick succession

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