In this week's Nine things we learned, we discover that Nathan Buckley has made the right call on his All-Australian defender, Gary Rohan has risen to another level and a breakout Eagle deserves a new deal. 

1. Collingwood must keep Darcy Moore down back

With Collingwood's season floundering, you couldn't blame coach Nathan Buckley for experimenting and throwing Darcy Moore forward to try and turn things around. But after a goalless, five-touch performance against the Suns last week, Buckley finally decided to put Moore back into defence and it proved a masterstroke. Against North Melbourne on Saturday, Moore finished with a career-high 28 disposals, 19 marks, 11 intercepts and 480 metres gained. The All-Australian defender returned to doing what he does best, intercepting the ball with ease and kickstarting Collingwood's forward thrusts. With Buckley admitting recently that the Pies have lost their defensive DNA, keeping Moore down back seems like an obvious first step to reclaiming their brand down back. - Luke Michael

2. Gary isn't the AFL's best, but he is very good

Geelong coach Chris Scott has no doubts as to how good Gary Rohan's best is, saying after Friday night's victory over Richmond: "If you looked at them (his career highlights) in isolation, you'd think you're looking at the best player in the competition." In game No.150, and now flanked by Coleman medallists in Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron in the Cats' forward line, Rohan is finally starting to piece together the type of footy that could put him alongside the game's elite. Rohan has kicked 10 goals in the three games he's played with Hawkins and Cameron, compiling arguably his best run of form in Geelong colours. That pattern continued against the Tigers, where he finished with five majors from 16 disposals, six marks and 11 score involvements. The 'best player in the competition' might be a bit of a stretch, but Rohan is All-Australian quality if he continues in this fashion. - Riley Beveridge

3. Don't worry, Dees fans. T-Mac and Big Ben will work out fine

Melbourne's nine-point win over Sydney on Saturday night marked the first time former Roo Ben Brown and Tom McDonald had played a full match in attack together. The pair booted seven goals between them, with McDonald thriving on being able to move up the ground, secure in the knowledge Brown was stationed closer to goal. McDonald kicked four goals – his highest tally since a six-goal haul against a lowly Carlton circa 2019 – and found plenty of the footy, recording 18 touches, seven score involvements and five marks in conditions ill-suited to the big men. - Sarah Black

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T-Mac snaps truly after bursting through traffic

Melbourne's Tom McDonald fights his way out of hard Sydney defence to get clear space and goal

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4. Brander deserves a new deal after six-week burst

In the space of six games, versatile Eagle Jarrod Brander has gone from a fringe player without a clear role at AFL level to now be an influential member of Adam Simpson's best 22. The 196cm Brander is underrated and deserves acknowledgement for the way he has taken his opportunity this season. He is growing in confidence by the week and on Sunday against Hawthorn he had seven inside 50s (behind only Tim Kelly and Andrew Gaff), using the ball well with 19 disposals as a key link-up player through the midfield and drifting forward. His exceptional running power for a big man is highlighted by his ability to also push back and intercept, with Simpson now spoilt for choices with how to use the 22-year-old. Yet to announce a contract extension beyond this season, his signature should be high on the priority list now for the Eagles' list management team. - Nathan Schmook      

West Coast's Jarrod Brander in action against Hawthorn in round eight, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

5. Brisbane could have another Brownlow medallist on its hands

Last year Lachie Neale won Brisbane's first Brownlow Medal since Simon Black in 2002. This year, with Neale out injured, it's Hugh McCluggage putting his name in the frame early in the season. The former No.3 draft pick has been sensational during the Lions' winning streak and entered the round equal second in the AFLCA votes. He was again one of the architects in the win over Fremantle, displaying great poise in traffic and delightful ball use going inside forward 50. - Michael Whiting

6. The Saints are so much better with Paddy Ryder

The influence of St Kilda's veteran ruckman was clear in 2020, and two matches into his 2021 campaign, it's even more pronounced. Although wins over Hawthorn and Gold Coast will not light up the AFL, Ryder's impact in the Saints' revival has been pronounced, particularly his final quarter against the Suns. With the Saints trailing by 15, Ryder won seven hitouts, leading to a 10-3 advantage at stoppages, and 4-1 in the all-important centre clearances, as well as kicking the go-ahead goal late in the term. As a result, Rowan Marshall could impact more around the ground and St Kilda's midfield dined out. Ryder's return makes the Saints infinitely more dangerous. - Michael Whiting

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Ryder gets Saints rocking with big grab, go-ahead goal

Paddy Ryder shows his class with high mark and important goal in close final term

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7. Port's unsung heroes will be crucial against Dogs

All eyes were on Port Adelaide's midfield against Adelaide on Saturday night after last week's smashing at the hands of Brisbane. But it was the Power's defence which really got Ken Hinkley's men back on track against the Crows. Tom Clurey was fantastic in shutting down in-form key forward Taylor Walker, while Aliir Aliir was strong in his first Showdown since crossing to the club. Darcy Byrne-Jones, who claimed last year's best and fairest, was also back to some of his best form in a dogged and tough performance. All three will need to be at their best next week against the Western Bulldogs in a big clash of the flag contenders. - Callum Twomey

8. Brilliant Bontempelli's value is soaring

The Western Bulldogs had better re-sign restricted free agent Marcus Bontempelli quickly as the inspirational skipper is adding extra cash to his contract with every performance. Bontempelli's efforts in the comeback win against Carlton were bordering on superhuman, with the Doggies leader adding 10 clearances and eight tackles to his valuable 32 disposals. His averages in many key statistical categories this season show he's verging on career-best form. Dare we say a Brownlow Medal could be in the mix later in the season for the smooth-moving superstar? - Jonathan Healy

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Brilliant Bont play leads to a much-needed major for the Dogs

Marcus Bontempelli uses his composure to his advantage to clear the ball, resulting in a Josh Bruce goal

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9. A No.2 pick has found the form that made him GWS' No.1

Tim Taranto won the Giants' best and fairest in the year the club charged to its first Grand Final, averaging more than 27 disposals (11 contested). But he was unable to back it up last year after dislocating his right shoulder in the pre-season and needing surgery that kept him out until mid-July. Taranto still managed 11 games but had nothing like the impact that took him to the 2019 club champion award. The 23-year-old has rediscovered his best form this season, averaging more than 29 touches (nine contested) and he had that many, as well as a game-high eight tackles, to be one of the best on the ground in the Giants' two-point win over Essendon. If he can add more goals to his game, the No.2 pick from the 2016 NAB AFL Draft could be destined for more honours. - Martin Pegan