In this week's Nine things we learned, we discover that St Kilda's stirring win over West Coast in round four was the exception, not the rule, and Brodie Grundy could earn a big chunk of his seven-year contract with his work up forward. 

04:18 Mins
Published on

The 10: Round five's best moments

Watch all the best highlights from a thrilling round of football

Published on

1. Forget the comeback against West Coast. St Kilda is in strife

How do you recover from defeats of 75 and 86 points in the space of just three weeks? For the second time in quick succession, St Kilda was completely bullied in Thursday night's humbling defeat to Richmond. For all of the heart, effort and endeavour of captain Jack Steele, the Saints still lost the clearance count (10-27) in a truly lacklustre second-half performance and were smashed in contested ball (50-81). It culminated in just 11 inside 50s for the entire half, in what was a damning defeat on a devastating night. Most worryingly, it was the same pattern that cost the club dearly at the hands of Essendon in round three. Now 2-3 on the season, St Kilda has a remarkable fightback against West Coast to thank for its campaign still having a pulse. But if the evidence produced against the Bombers and the Tigers is anything to go by, it won't take much for that flicker of hope to be emphatically snuffed out. And soon. - Riley Beveridge

2. Brodie Grundy is a big part of the Pies' forward solution 

They were outplayed after quarter-time, but the Magpies should focus in on the first 30 minutes of their Friday night loss to West Coast and use it as a blueprint for the coming weeks. Nathan Buckley's men looked as dangerous as they have this season, with Brodie Grundy's attacking mindset a big part of that. The big man's two goals marked the first time he has kicked multiple goals since round 14, 2019, taking every opportunity to drift forward at Optus Stadium and taking two contested marks for the quarter. All-Australian defender Darcy Moore also booted his first major since round seven, 2018, in the opening quarter as the Magpies built a 15-point lead. It unravelled from there, but the Magpies should reinforce the benefits of Grundy's attacking mindset and aerial threat and stick with Moore forward, as Buckley has suggested they will. - Nathan Schmook

3. Port's backline recruit has All-Australian potential

Ken Hinkley couldn't help but smile as he pondered Aliir Aliir's performance against Carlton on Saturday night. "I'm really happy he's with us," the Port Adelaide coach laughed. No wonder. Just five games into his Power career, Aliir is already demonstrating his vital importance to the side's backline group both in a defensive and an offensive sense. Not only did Aliir dutifully mark dangerous Carlton forward Harry McKay out of this weekend's game, holding the 204cm goalkicker to just five disposals and only one major, but he also played an important role going the other way. Aliir had 17 disposals and six marks himself, with his 10 intercepts the most of anyone in his team. Already one of the side's most important members, Aliir has the quality to become one of the game's best intercept players and could have an All-Australian blazer to show for it at season's end. - Riley Beveridge

Aliir Aliir celebrates Port Adelaide's win over Carlton at the MCG in round five, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

4. Key forward, back-up ruck: Daniher can do it all

Joe Daniher came to Brisbane to help its forward line, but showed a second string against his former club on Saturday night that could be almost as useful. With Dan McStay returning to the line-up, Daniher was thrust into the role of back-up ruckman behind Oscar McInerney, with instant success. 'Big Joe' looked terrific around the ground, gathering a career-high 25 disposals, kicking two goals and taking marks in defensive 50, on the wing and forward. He was good at ground level, winning three clearances, giving coach Chris Fagan confidence he can do a valuable job as the season rolls on. - Michael Whiting

5. Trent Rivers is not getting enough attention

There's plenty of love out there for Kysaiah Pickett, and fair enough given the Melbourne goalsneak's freakish abilities. And everyone knows how highly rated Luke Jackson is, with the key forward/ruck earmarked for great things for many years at the Demons. But the Dees have another young gun who is flying under the radar in their 5-0 start to the season: Trent Rivers. The West Australian talent had another excellent outing on Sunday in Melbourne's 50-point win over Hawthorn, with 21 disposals and an assured display. The Dees already can count on him to deliver under pressure and, in his just his second season at AFL level, Rivers has largely done it without much fanfare. That should be about to change. - Callum Twomey

AROUND THE STATE LEAGUES Seven-goal Dee leads big forwards' feast

Melbourne defender Trent Rivers in action against Hawthorn in round five, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

6. The Cats' ruck issue won't go away

Rhys Stanley may have collected a career-high 24 disposals against the Roos, but the fact he could only manage eight hitouts matched up against Todd Goldstein and Tom Campbell means the ruck remains a major concern for Geelong and Chris Scott. The Cats smashed the Roos at stoppages around the ground (36-18) but managed only to halve the centre clearances with eight apiece. Darcy Fort and Josh Jenkins will get chances to impress ahead of September action, while Esava Ratugolea could be the wildcard option that Scott turns to later in the year. - Jonathan Healy

7. The GWS midfield has rediscovered the secret to success

The Giants' onballers pride themselves on being contested possession-winning bulls, so it should be no surprise they've bounced back since losing that count by -52 across rounds two and three. When the game against the Swans was on the line in the last quarter, GWS won the contested ball 39 to 28 … and scored 4.6 to 2.1. Josh Kennedy (13) ended the match with the most contested possessions on the park, but Callan Ward (12), Tom Green (11), Jacob Hopper (11) and Tim Taranto (11) were the next midfielders on the list as they eventually wore down the Swans. The Giants might be inexperienced at either end – and had nine players with fewer than 20 games under their belts (compared to six for the Swans) – but if their robust midfield foundations stay intact they might rise instead of fall. - Martin Pegan

8. Pups no more, these Bulldogs are the real deal

While the Bulldogs had already beaten three of last year’s finalists in Collingwood, West Coast and Brisbane this season, Saturday’s win against Gold Coast was arguably just as important to underline the Dogs' growing maturity as a team. Luke Beveridge's side has been hurt in the past by poor performances against teams they should have beaten, with the Dogs recording losses to Carlton (twice), Gold Coast and North Melbourne over the past two years. Facing a Suns side they only beat by five points last season, the Dogs could easily have suffered a slip up, but instead powered to an impressive 62-point victory despite being challenged in the third quarter. It leaves the Dogs 5-0 for the first time since 1946, and in a great position to finish in the top four and be a serious contender come September. - Luke Michael

9. The Dockers can't be ruled out of the finals race yet

It's only a very small sample size, but Fremantle is coming. Without a win away from home this season and with a host of players sidelined through injury, the Dockers weren't expected to challenge an in-form Crows outfit at Adelaide Oval. In fact, things didn't look good at half-time of Sunday's match as the Crows threatened to pull away. But what the Dockers do have is ticker. Led brilliantly by veteran David Mundy, a five-goal surge in the third term put them in front – and they were never headed in front of a vocal Adelaide crowd. It might just prove the impetus for Justin Longmuir's men to make a charge for September. - Brandon Cohen