In this edition of Nine Things We Learned, we discover that Dan McStay is looming as the biggest free agent, Dees face a forward dilemma, David Noble has an ace up his sleeve, plus more.

1. McStay might be the hottest free agent in 2022

With Darcy Moore the latest big name putting pen to paper during the week, the free agency pool is looking a little thin. However, following his performance against Geelong on Friday night, Brisbane's Dan McStay is someone to keep a close eye on. McStay is in the final year of his contract – and says he definitively wants to stay at the Lions – and played arguably the best game of his 143-game career against the Cats. He kicked three goals from 14 disposals that included an equal career-high 11 marks, four of which were contested. The 26-year-old is entering his prime as a key-position forward and sure to demand interest from clubs in his home state of Victoria. – Michael Whiting

Brisbane's Dan McStay celebrates a goal against Geelong in R4, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

2. Dees face familiar forward dilemma

Sam Weideman had a great opportunity to build some momentum on Thursday night, given a second crack in the senior side after Ben Brown was held out another week due to the AFL's health and safety protocols. However, the 24-year-old couldn't follow on from his career-best four goals last week and now once again looks in danger of losing his place in the side ahead of next week's clash with Greater Western Sydney. Weideman was held scoreless from seven disposals and three marks, having little influence on the game. It was a frustrating night for the youngster, especially given the solid run of VFL form he had put together prior to his two-week spell in the senior team. - Riley Beveridge

Port Adelaide's Travis Boak is chased by Melbourne's Sam Weideman in round four, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

3. Hill on fire in new role

Bradley Hill has been used predominantly on a wing and more recently across half-back since crossing from Fremantle at the end of 2019. Many have questioned where his best position is. And they will again – but for a good reason – after Brett Ratten used the three-time premiership Hawk across half-forward on Sunday. The 28-year-old showed he can be a weapon in attack, kicking a career-high four goals from 23 disposals in a sign of what could be to come in future. - Josh Gabelich

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4. The Blues need Pittonet to challenge

While the loss of Patrick Cripps was significant, the match eve withdrawal of ruckman Marc Pittonet had an equally large role to play in the loss to the Suns. Pittonet was unable to overcome a back injury suffered against Hawthorn the previous week and his absence was considerable. Jarrod Witts dominated against Tom De Koning in the ruck, paving the way for his midfield to crush the Blues at the clearances and gain territorial advantage. Carlton needs its big man back to match the best midfields in the competition. – Michael Whiting

Marc Pittonet in action against Hawthorn in round three, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

5. Where there’s a Will(ie), there’s a way

It’s been a tough two years on the sidelines for Willie Rioli, and a tough two years for Eagles fans as they waited for the enigmatic small forward to return from an anti-doping suspension. And return he has! Round one against Gold Coast was a warm up before he kicked a career-high four goals against North Melbourne the next week. His three-goal outing on Saturday against Collingwood was pure Rioli - class, flash, pressure and guts. There’s a reason the surname has appeared in seven of the past nine premiership teams, the same reason Adam Simpson believes anything could happen over the course of this year - because when there’s a Rioli in the action, anything can happen. - Howard Kimber

West Coast's Willie Rioli celebrates a goal against North Melbourne in R2, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

6. The Ash-tag is a thing

For the second successive week, Lachie Ash was charged with a run-with role, keeping a close check on in-form Dockers on-baller Andy Brayshaw from the first bounce until late in the third term. Ash had shut down Suns ball magnet Touk Miller last weekend, keeping him to 17 touches, with some assistance from long-time Giants tagger Matt de Boer. Brayshaw still managed 26 disposals but Ash kept him quiet at stoppages, with the Docker only having one clearance. Ash finished the game with 15 possessions with three clearances and four tackles, earning praise from coach Leon Cameron who labelled him "terrific". - Ben Somerford

Lachie Ash in the thick of it as tempers flares during the round four clash between Fremantle and Greater Western Sydney at Optus Stadium on April 9, 2022.Picture: Getty Images

7. Prestia is as important as any Tiger

Don't let the hamstring setbacks or soft-tissue concerns of recent times cloud your memory - Prestia remains a huge cog in Richmond's hopes this season. The gun midfielder was as good as anyone on the ground in Saturday night's win over the Western Bulldogs, returning from his slight hamstring concern to have 30 disposals and a goal in Richmond's strong win. Prestia could have played in round three but the Tigers took a cautious approach with their star, and his impact upon being back was big. If he can stay fit for the rest of the season the complexion of Richmond's midfield looks very different. – Callum Twomey

Richmond's Dion Prestia celebrates a goal against Western Bulldogs in R4, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

8. No coach, no worries

Following Essendon’s four-point win against Adelaide, teams that have played without their senior coach at the ground, due to health and safety protocols, are now a perfect 4-0. The Bombers were without Ben Rutten on Sunday, with Blake Caracella stepping up as caretaker coach for the day. Carlton was the first side to be impacted, with Michael Voss missing the Blues’ round two win against the Western Bulldogs (Ash Hansen was in charge). Last week, Fremantle was without Justin Longmuir, with Jaymie Graham at the helm of the Dockers’ 55-point Derby triumph. A change in Longmuir’s COVID-19 status extended his time in the AFL's health and safety protocols, meaning Graham was again calling the shots when Fremantle accounted for GWS on Saturday. Teams would obviously rather have their coach on hand, but given the variety of quality technology available, perhaps it's not as big an impost as initially feared. - Trent Masenhelder

Essendon coach Ben Rutton on Facetime with skipper Dyson Heppell after the Bombers' win over Adelaide in round four, 2022. Picture: @essendonfc Twitter

9. Noble has an ace up his sleeve

Eyebrows were raised at the opening bounce of North Melbourne's clash against Sydney with captain Jack Ziebell stationed in the forward line. The veteran had made a successful move to the backline in the past two seasons, but could be a bigger asset for the Roos up forward. The 31-year-old kicked the first goal of the game and finished with a career-high five for the match in a stunning performance that nearly inspired his side to an upset victory. He also brought a hard edge to the Roos' forward set up with his ferocious attack on the ball giving his teammates a real lift. It remains to be seen whether he will continue in his new role, but Saturday's performance at least gives Noble a new weapon up forward if he wants to mix things up. - Ben Sutton

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