TOUK Miller was double-tagged by Greater Western Sydney into his quietest game in over 18 months at the weekend.
Andy McGrath ran with Christian Petracca all night.
Jarrod Berry was sent to calm the influence of Zach Merrett mid-match the week before.
Callum Mills slowed Patrick Dangerfield to almost a walk in the 'Buddy 1000' game a fortnight ago.
Taggers, run-with players, stoppers – whatever you like to call them – would appear back in vogue in 2022.
On the early evidence, they've had success against the competition's most damaging and prolific midfielders.
Kane Cornes, who forged a majority of his 300-game career with Port Adelaide perfecting the role, thinks even more coaches should take a leaf out of the tagging book.
"I don't know if it is back," Cornes told AFL.com.au.
"I still can't believe some of the space midfielders get these days.
"(Patrick) Cripps was walking around bobbing up inside 50 (against Hawthorn), he's probably got seven Brownlow votes already, and to think you could let him do that shocks me.
"Coaches don't use it enough."
Cornes said the role had a multi-layered effect.
Take the job Lachie Ash and Matt de Boer shared in bringing Miller to a stop.
Gold Coast's co-captain had racked up 29 or more disposals in 18 straight matches, burying opponents with his power running between contests.
But with two players doing the job of one, the Therabody AFL All-Australian was reduced to 17 touches as the Suns' midfield was overwhelmed.
Not only was it harder for Miller to play against, Cornes said, but the tag also made the game more difficult for young midfield stars Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson.
"It threw their whole system out," Cornes said.
"People think it's a negative role, where you don't touch the ball. I used to use it as a starting point. Lots of the best mids don’t have a defensive bone in their body. It's such a great opportunity to get the ball.
"As a team we used to use it as a motivating factor when teammates knew you were doing a job.
"If your opponent would run past someone, they'd get a little bump.
"I always found it a good team morale thing. It wasn't just a 'me' job, it was a team job. I think we've lost that in the game in general.
"How good were the one-on-one duels? Backs don't even guard each other anymore, it's team defence and guarding space.
"It's embarrassing how much space each midfield gives each other."
When John Longmire sent co-captain Mills to quell Dangerfield in round two, it may have been the gold-standard stopping job. Mills racked up a match-high 29 disposals (and a goal) himself, while keeping the Cats' superstar to just 13.
McGrath was terrific in following Petracca. Melbourne's Norm Smith medallist finished with 21 disposals and a goal, a number lower than any game since the shortened quarters of 2020.
Although Essendon didn't win, McGrath (19 and a goal) cancelled one of the opposition's best weapons to keep his underdog team in the game until the death.
Many coaches have baulked at the role in recent years, saying it takes away from the team's defence.
But AFL Legend Leigh Matthews told Melbourne radio station 3AW last weekend he'd hear nothing of "structures" as a reason to not use a tagger.
"The coaching con in modern footy is that our systems and our structure and our gameplan will overwhelm the opposition talent," Matthews said.
"You go back to the Kirks, Lings, Cornes of only a generation ago, they all played in premiership teams.
"Their coaches weren't saying 'our structure's so good we don't need to stop an opposition match-winner'.
"It's the ultimate in coaching arrogance."
As the recent shutdown jobs on Miller, Dangerfield and Petracca have shown, there's more than one way to attack the task.
Chris Fagan sending Berry to a rampant Merrett in round two midway through the second term was yet another way.
Cornes says it's something teams should have in their arsenal, whether it's for a moment, a quarter, a half or an entire game.
It's why he's got an idea for Gold Coast ahead of facing Cripps' Carlton at Metricon Stadium on Sunday.
"It'd be a great job for Rowell to do," he said.
"If Rowell goes to him and sacrifices himself at stoppages, but as soon as the ball is there he can win it, which he will, that's a great contribution."