IN THIS week's Nine Things We Learned, we discover that a young Tiger will carry on his family's legacy, the Bulldogs are toothless at the moment, and an unlucky Lion deserves his first All-Australian blazer.
1. There is something special about Maurice Rioli jnr
After kicking three goals in just his third AFL game last Friday night, Rioli produced another eye-catching display in just his second game of the season. The teenager finished with 14 touches, six score involvements, five inside 50s and three goal assists against Collingwood, but it was his ferocious pressure and composure inside 50 that stood out. He laid two stunning chase-down tackles in the first half and directly set up Coleman Medal leader Tom Lynch twice. When you consider he was taken at pick No.51 in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, the son of Hall of Famer Maurice Rioli looms as a steal. - Josh Gabelich
2. The Dogs have lost their bite
Yes, they were missing skipper Marcus Bontempelli, key position players Alex Keath, Tim English and Josh Bruce, as well as Lachie Hunter, Mitch Wallis and Jason Johannisen, but Friday night's loss against Port Adelaide continued a season of toothless biting from the Bulldogs. The run-and-gun midfield that led them a Grand Final appearance just eight months ago were outworked by Port. The attacking flair is missing, and aside from Aaron Naughton, there's almost no pizzazz inside forward 50. A host of big names are inconsistent at best, and the ferocious attack on the ball that made them so feared is gone. Something needs to change quickly at the Kennel before this season gets away. - Michael Whiting
3. Ben Hobbs' emergence should help the Bombers' No.1
The last-quarter influence of Hobbs in Essendon's midfield against Hawthorn on Saturday night showed two things: the first-round draft pick can make a difference for the Bombers around the ball and it should also lead to Andrew McGrath spending more time at half-back. Hobbs had a strong game against the Hawks with 19 disposals and a goal, and had some very smart moments when it mattered in the Bombers' comeback. McGrath was also important late but the Bombers can't fit Hobbs, McGrath, Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett in the same midfield at once and some of McGrath's most damaging play has come off half-back. It could be a positional flip that serves many. - Callum Twomey
4. This is the year McCluggage has to be All-Australian
For the past three seasons Brisbane ace Hugh McCluggage has made the Therabody AFL All-Australian squad of 40 – but never the final 22. The pick No.3 from the 2016 NAB AFL Draft has spent much of his early career on a wing, a specialist role that has often gone overlooked by the selectors. However, in 2022, the Lions have opted to use McCluggage in a more central midfield role, and he hasn't let them down. Against West Coast he was incredible, kicking four goals and setting up four others from his 26 disposals. He might not get the gaudy numbers of other midfielders, but the damage McCluggage does in the front half of the ground could elevate him to his first AA jacket this season. – Michael Whiting
5. Blues' twin towers give top Cats a run for their money
Geelong duo Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron have a strong claim for being the best key forward pairing in the competition, but Carlton's Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow are hot on their heels. Finally playing consistent footy after years of injuries between the pair, the two Blues have now combined for 45 goals, just behind the Cats duo with 47. Their ability to work together and avoid spoiling each other was particularly noticeable against Adelaide, and their contested marking was second to none. - Sarah Black.
6. They love them homegrown down Geelong way
In the modern-day AFL no club is truly local, but the Cats have developed a strong preference for players from their junior catchment area and on Saturday another couple of local kids debuted in the hoops. Colac boy Cooper Stephens was taken with pick 16 in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft, but due to COVID restrictions through 2020 and an ankle injury and subsequent surgery that finished his 2021 before it started, he had to wait till Saturday for his senior debut. He didn’t waste the opportunity, grabbing 19 disposals and four clearances in a mature performance in the Cats' 55-point win over the Giants. Teenager Mitch Knevitt was named as medi-sub but only had to wait till the second term before getting his chance. A 193cm mid from Grovedale on Geelong’s outskirts, Knevitt had seven disposals for the quarter and 15 for the match, also looking more than capable at the level. With a pressing need to regenerate their list, the Cats may have found a couple more 10-year players in their own backyard. - Howard Kimber
7. The Dockers have discovered yet another young gun
Fremantle has no shortage of emerging talent led by top-10 draft picks Andy Brayshaw, Caleb Serong and Hayden Young, but Jye Amiss is another to add to the list. The Dockers took the East Perth product with pick eight at the 2021 NAB AFL Draft and, after an interrupted pre-season, debuted him on Friday night against North Melbourne. Coach Justin Longmuir said a week prior that he felt the 18-year-old key forward wasn't quite ready for AFL footy, but after eight goals in two WAFL games and some luck at selection, Amiss got his chance and grabbed it, booting a goal with his first kick. He took some strong marks and finished with two goals, along with six score involvements. - Ben Somerford
8. Is this former Blue the year's best bargain recruit?
Levi Casboult's AFL career appeared over when he was delisted by Carlton at the end of 2021. But eight rounds into 2022, Casboult’s move north to Gold Coast is paying dividends for player and club alike. The Suns picked up the then 31-year-old for nothing in the 2021 NAB AFL Rookie Draft, a lifeline Casboult has grabbed with both hands. Playing all eight games for the Suns so far this season, Casboult has booted at least one goal every game, including four against Collingwood last week and two crucial snags – including the sealer – in the Suns’ boilover against Sydney on Saturday. Gold Coast’s decision to take a gamble on the veteran - who played 154 games for the Blues across 10 seasons – looks even smarter in hindsight given the unforeseen absence of Ben King. The Suns may have a few areas to work on this season, but Casboult’s reliability is not one of them. - Sophie Welsh
9. St Kilda's second half against Melbourne was the real deal
Despite losing by 38 points, the Saints should be heartened by their effort against the reigning premiers. After trailing by nine goals to one, the Saints restricted the Dees to just five more goals for the game, while adding seven of their own. Against Melbourne’s much-vaunted midfield, St Kilda had more hitouts (31-25), clearances (30-29) and stoppage clearances (19-14). Melbourne was able to kick eight goals from stoppage, whereas St Kilda managed just two. And, the Saints will rue their efficiency inside 50, which was 36.4 percent, down on their season average of 50.7. - Trent Masenhelder