In this week's Nine things we learned, we discover that Port Adelaide's critics weren't wasting their breath, Carlton has a huge month ahead and the Swans should have the flag favourites nervous. 

1. You've got a problem, Ken

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley was quick to bat away the Power's lack of performances against top-eight teams as a "waste of breath" when they defeated Sydney a fortnight ago. But he's got a definite problem on his hands against top-four teams after a battering against Melbourne on Thursday night and said as much, conceding there was a "gap" between his side and the other contenders. In a perfect chance to make a statement, the Power were swamped by the Demons' pressure at the Adelaide Oval as the home side lost their fifth game of the season and fourth against the current top four. In all four matches they have now conceded an average of more than 61 points from turnovers and the differential against the opponents in those games is more than five goals. – Mitch Cleary

2. The next month will define Carlton's future

Carlton's hunt for a scalp continues, but it won't decide the club's fate this year. Nor, perhaps, will it define the outlook of the club's external review into its football department. Its defeat to Geelong on Saturday night, which came after missing 13 of its first 14 scoring shots in a wildly inaccurate display, meant its wait for a victory over a top-eight opponent stretches to eight games this year. However, the next month will instead provide the Blues with the bread and butter opportunity to finish the year on a high. Collingwood, North Melbourne, St Kilda and Gold Coast – all incredibly winnable games, and all in Victoria. This, rather than games against Geelong, will be David Teague and the coaching group's chance to put some credits in the bank heading into the back-end of the club's review and potentially beyond. - Riley Beveridge

3. Young star Serong has graduated from tagging school 

Fremantle midfielder Caleb Serong turned from gritty, disciplined negator to damaging, prolific creator in Saturday's big win against Hawthorn. The young star has clearly graduated from Justin Longmuir's school of run-with roles and is ready to be a key offensive cog in the Dockers' deep midfield. The 20-year-old had 13 of his 30 disposals in a brilliant second quarter and was the leading clearance player on the ground with 10, standing out with his ability to see the game unfolding quickly and drawing teammates to where they needed to be with his clever disposal. The Dockers' midfielders all took their turn to have standout quarters against the Hawks. Nat Fyfe had 13 touches in the opening term before Serong starred in the second. David Mundy took control of the third quarter with 10 touches and Andrew Brayshaw rattled home in the fourth with 13. Adam Cerra was also a constant to finish with 26 disposals. The Dockers could still call on Serong to tag if needed, but it was a depth of offensive contributors that overwhelmed the Hawks on Saturday. - Nathan Schmook

4. Fairytale flag not beyond Horse's young Swans

The Swans have already defeated three of the top four this season and their latest success over the Bulldogs on Sunday shows they are good enough to beat all comers and are firmly in the premiership race. Last year Richmond used Melbourne's lockdown due to COVID to its advantage as they tasted premiership success on the road and the Swans can do similar this year if they are forced to remain in Melbourne until the final week of September. John Longmire has a cavalry of young men willing to perform any role required and a bevy of experienced heads who can lead the way when the whips are cracking in September. - Jonathan Healy

5. Adelaide relies on Tex much more than it would prefer

Taylor Walker’s resurgence has been one of the stories of 2021, with the former Crows skipper entering round 17 placed second in the Coleman Medal leaderboard and enjoying a terrific season. The Crows recently signed Walker to a one-year contract extension for 2022, but with him missing on Friday night against with a neck injury, they were impotent in attack, registering their lowest ever score in club history - 2.9 (21). Walker has booted 41 goals this season and the Crows would have been unlikely to beat Geelong in round one, Gold Coast in round three and Melbourne in round 10 without his influence in those games. The next best goalkicker at Adelaide is Shane McAdam (20 goals). First-year forward Riley Thilthorpe is one of the most exciting young talls in the competition and has booted 17 goals in an exciting debut season but the Crows still need ‘Tex’ to hit the scoreboard. - Callum Twomey

6. Saints' Man of Steele might be the best leader in the comp 

Although his team has been the epitome of a rollercoaster ride in 2021, Jack Steele has been consistently magnificent, but the St Kilda skipper took things to a new level against Brisbane on Saturday night. With the game still in the balance at the final change, and the Saints' making a habit of fourth quarter fade-outs, Steele simply took over, racking up 15 disposals, five marks, four clearances and kicking two goals to slam the door shut on the Lions. There's not many better captains in the competition at the moment. - Michael Whiting

7. Shai's return to form a bright spot on Tigers' bleak night

Richmond's premiership defence is in freefall after Sunday evening's capitulation against Collingwood but Shai Bolton can hold his head high after a return to form that helped spark the Tigers to a lead of almost six goals during the third quarter. Bolton continually found space where there was little, using his agility to spin out of contests and kick the Tigers into attack. He recorded just 11 touches and two clearances against St Kilda in the wet, and was slightly better with 19 and three against Gold Coast. His tally of 26 disposals, eight clearances and a goal was a fine return, but he had too few helpers to hold off the Pies' final-quarter onslaught. - Sarah Black

00:48 Mins
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Bolton's clever assist leads to Collier-Dawkins goal

Shai Bolton has delivered a very smart tap-on assist which saw Riley Collier-Dawkins nail this running goal

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8. Young Suns can help beat winter blues

Gold Coast’s thrilling victory broke a streak of nine losses against the Giants and was its second in a row against a team that had started the round in the top-eight. The Suns’ sudden awakening looked unlikely a couple of weeks ago, especially as they have rarely won matches in the second half of recent seasons, but a growing group of young guns seem unaffected by problems of the past. Jack Lukosius, Charlie Ballard and Wil Powell stood tall in defence even when the Giants were pushing hard in the final minutes, while Jeremy Sharp again impressed on a wing. Even with Matt Rowell having his quietest game yet, with only seven disposals, the Suns’ potential is shining through. - Martin Pegan

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Last two mins: Giants blow late chances, Suns hold on

Enjoy the thrilling Last two minutes as GWS and the SUNS grind out a tough battle in the wind at MARS Stadium

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9. Senior Roo is leadership personified

In a game that was fiery from the start and often marked by misdirected aggression, North Melbourne midfielder Ben Cunnington kept his head and steered his team magnificently. The tough onballer was calm in the midfield chaos with 10 final quarter disposals and a critical goal from 45 metres off one step to finish with 26 touches (13 contested). There were better players, with Jaidyn Stephenson outstanding. But in a game that threatened to boil over with an angry and ill-disciplined West Coast overstepping the mark with their aggression, it was Cunnington's calm approach that set the tone for his team to maintain their focus and notch a memorable upset win. – Nathan Schmook