In this week's Nine things we learned, brought to you by Haier, the world's No.1 appliance maker, we discover that Collingwood's midfield needs a boost, Greater Western Sydney's hard work might only just be starting, and a couple of flag contenders are warming up for their charge.

05:59 Mins
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The 10: Round 18's best moments

Watch the best highlights from the final round of the home and away season

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1. The Pies' midfield fix might be in their forward line

Collingwood has the difficult task of travelling to Perth to play West Coast in an elimination final and will need to fix two glaring weaknesses to challenge the Eagles. Firstly, their ball movement was stagnant and predictable against Port Adelaide, and secondly, they were smashed at the stoppages. Again, Brodie Grundy dominated hitouts, but Collingwood was trounced 40-28 in the clearances and an ugly 14-4 at centre clearances, giving Port field advantage they did not relinquish. Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams and Adam Treloar all had nice nights with big numbers, but the other players spending time on-ball need to lift. After two full games back from hand surgery, is it time to throw Jordan De Goey into the fray for five minutes a quarter to see what he can do? - Michael Whiting

2. The hard work doesn't stop for the Giants

Greater Western Sydney's season came to a shuddering halt on Friday night. But immediately after the sobering 52-point loss to St Kilda would have come the realisation that the battle has only just begun. With a line officially drawn through their finals chances, the Giants' attention will now be focused solely on a summer where retaining star talent is a must. Lockdown defender Aidan Corr has already informed the club of his desire to seek a move elsewhere, rival clubs are circling the 2019 Coleman Medal winner Jeremy Cameron, there is significant Victorian interest in star free agent Zac Williams, tough utility Harry Perryman remains without a deal, while the club's trio of first-round picks from the 2018 NAB AFL Draft – Jye Caldwell, Jackson Hately and Xavier O'Halloran – are also uncontracted and being eyed off. Think the hard work ended when the club's season did? Think again. - Riley Beveridge

3. We might be sleeping on West Coast

The reaction to the Eagles' crushing defeat of Collingwood way back in round eight was over the top, but equally we may not be appreciating what they've achieved in recent weeks. West Coast's been without a stack of talent through injury and personal reasons and lost a player mid-game in each of the past five contests. Jeremy McGovern (hamstring), Elliot Yeo (groin), Luke Shuey (hamstrings), Jack Redden (thumb), Jamie Cripps (personal), Lewis Jetta (calf) and Mark Hutchings (hamstring) were all sidelined against North Melbourne on Thursday night. Then Josh Kennedy (ankle) was out from late in the second quarter. All of those players, bar probably Yeo and maybe McGovern, are set to return for West Coast's first final. There's the potential for some match conditioning issues. However, the Eagles' ability to grind out victories with lesser squads the past two weeks, and in three of their past four games, illustrates their winning culture. Underestimate them at your peril. - Marc McGowan

4. Truck's headaches run deeper than Saad, Joe and Orazio

Just minutes after Saturday's loss to Melbourne, new coach Ben Rutten said he was chasing a quick answer from restricted free agent Joe Daniher on his future. The Bombers will also need to spend the coming weeks working through Adam Saad and Orazio Fantasia's desire to be at the club. But on-field, Rutten has plenty to ponder entering the 2021 pre-season. Two full years into implementing his new defensive system, Rutten was left exasperated at the Bombers' willingness to work in defence at half-time against the Demons. Four of Melbourne's first six majors started out of their back half and few sides have conceded more 'coast-to-coast' goals this season than Essendon. Rutten has officially taken hold of the entire backline in the past month with James Kelly moving to stoppages in preparation of replacing assistant Mark Harvey. And the new boss will have had a closer look at a set-up that resembles something more of Swiss cheese approaching a crucial off-season at Tullamarine. - Mitch Cleary

5. It might make sense for Hawthorn to cash out on a star forward

Jack Gunston finishes 2020 with 31 goals and could be in line for a spot in the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian side for the second time in three seasons. Tim O'Brien, Jonathon Patton and Mitch Lewis combined for just 20 goals between them this season and do not look ready to take the reins in the forward line. But if the Hawks are going to fully commit to this rebuild there's no doubt Gunston's value in the trade market is at its highest. With no clear replacement it would be a tough call to move the star Hawk on, but it's the type of aggressive move to grab another potential first-round pick that Hawthorn needs to rapidly improve its long-term hopes. - Jourdan Canil

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Gunston pulls yet another Jack out of the box

Jack Gunston continues his hot form with another major to his name, this time a soccer special on his left

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6. The pieces are coming together for the Tigers

Any of Richmond's numerous and varied distractions this year could have derailed its premiership defence. It all started with several Tigers being reluctant to go into an interstate quarantine hub early in the season. Shane Edwards and Bachar Houli justifiably remained in Melbourne for the birth of their children, but the first COVID-19 breach involving captain Trent Cotchin's wife Brooke was where things ramped up. There was close scrutiny on spearhead Tom Lynch's on-field discipline, then some locker room antics involving Mabior Chol and Nick Vlastuin. The biggest of all was the second breach, where Callum Coleman-Jones and Sydney Stack were involved in an incident outside a strip club that cost them 10-match bans and the club a $100,000 fine. Throughout it, Richmond kept winning games – and Saturday's victory over Adelaide ensured a fourth-straight top-four berth. With the drama hopefully behind the Tigers, they're also getting key members back. Houli returned a few weeks back, and Edwards and David Astbury slotted in against the Crows. Lynch, Dion Prestia and Shai Bolton are on track to come in for Richmond's first final. Watch out. - Marc McGowan

7. Harry McKay could take off in 2021

After battling for so long to nail down a permanent spot in Carlton's forward line, Harry McKay finished the season with a bang. The hulking 22-year-old kicked nine goals from the final three games of his season, including an impressive haul of three from limited chances against Brisbane. He was a commanding presence in packs, taking three contested marks against a well-organised defence. With Charlie Curnow as a sidekick in 2021, McKay could well become a nightmare match up for opponents if he continues his current trajectory. - Michael Whiting

8. Geelong needs to sharpen up

The Cats need to quickly get back to their best or else they face an early exit from this year's finals series. Geelong's past two performances – last week's loss to Richmond and then their hard-fought win over Sydney on Sunday – showed the Cats are off the boil. Chris Scott's men have been one of the most consistent teams of the season but need to get back to their in-sync best if they're chance to take out this year's flag. A rest might help next weekend before their qualifying final, but Cats fans may be nervous given their recent form heading into the finals given they have won four of their past 15 finals. - Callum Twomey

9. The Dockers have left their past behind

This is a Fremantle side that is barely recognisable from the team of 12 months ago. While the Dockers might not have celebrated the end of their campaign with victory on Sunday night, and they might ultimately finish the year in a similar ladder position to last season, there's no doubting the significance of the steps this side has taken in 2020. Under the tutelage of Justin Longmuir, the future of Fremantle looks brighter than ever before. There were positives on every line this year. Young trio Caleb Serong, Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra were fantastic in midfield, Matt Taberner enjoyed a breakout season in attack, and Luke Ryan was superb in a defensive system that strangled opposition teams all season. And there's genuine star quality in Nat Fyfe and Michael Walters, who were ever-present once again throughout the year. With continued improvement and more talent to be injected into the side next season, finals football is a realistic possibility. Who'd have thought that would be the case when they ended 2019 with eight losses from their last 10? - Riley Beveridge