IN THIS week's Nine Things We Learned, we discover that a Richmond lead in the last quarter is no longer safe, the Rising Star race is all but over and Sydney has several ways to beat teams.
Check out these lessons and more as our team runs their eyes over round 18.
1. Fear factor gone, the Tigers have forgotten how to close
Richmond's shock loss to North Melbourne was a huge blow to its top-eight chances, and it has left itself in a position it shouldn't be in. It was the sixth time in 2022 that the Tigers have led in the final quarter and lost, and that is part of a 9-8 win-loss record. No other team in the top eight has suffered such a defeat more than twice (Melbourne, Brisbane and Collingwood) and it is the worst record in the competition (Hawthorn has four). Richmond should be far better placed, and it has been in almost every game, but it has forgotten how to get over the line. – Dejan Kalinic
2. This was Nick Daicos' Rising Star crowning moment
If there was any remaining doubt, Nick Daicos' 40-possession, three-goal performance against the Crows was his crowning moment as the 2022 NAB AFL Rising Star. Jai Newcombe, Nic Martin and Sam De Koning are all worthy contenders but Daicos has proved to be something extremely rare, with his quality, composure, endurability and game-winning impact. The latter was on show in spades, kicking two clutch final-quarter goals when top-four hopeful Collingwood was threatened by Adelaide, which had led by 16 points late in the third term. He wasn't shy in the dying moments with the game up for grabs either, with two rebound 50s in the final minute. A class above. - Ben Somerford
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3. Stop looking for the All-Australian centre half-back
There's still five weeks remaining and a lot to play out, but if the Therabody AFL All-Australian team was picked now, Giant Sam Taylor should be a lock in one key defensive post. Yes, Steven May, Jacob Weitering and James Sicily – among others – have great claims, but Taylor added some more scalps to his resume against Brisbane on Saturday. The young Giant racked up a whopping 15 intercept possessions as an avalanche of ball came in the direction of him and opponents Eric Hipwood and Joe Daniher during the club's loss to Brisbane. In the air and on the ground, Taylor can win the ball back from any position and is among the league leaders in intercept possessions and contested one-on-one wins. – Michael Whiting
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4. Back the Truck up, Rutten deserves his dues
It goes without saying that when you’re the coach of one of the biggest clubs in the land, one that competed in the finals in 2021, and one that hasn’t won a final since 2004, you’re well and truly under the microscope. Ben Rutten has taken a hammering at times this season, to the extent where some have questioned whether he deserves to keep his job. So, now the tide has turned, let’s give 'Truck' the credit he deserves. It may be too late to make the finals, but the Bombers have salvaged something from the wreck. They are humming, having won four of their past five games, with two of those victories against top-eight teams (Brisbane and Sydney). They still have North and GWS, and Port (at Marvel Stadium), so the wins may keep coming. - Trent Masenhelder
5. There's more to goals than kicking them
The 'goalkicking gunfight at the 'G' may have seemed an anticlimax with eight goals spread between Jeremy Cameron, Tom Hawkins, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay, but it's the hidden statistics that show the difference between the pairs. The Cats duo combined for 20 score involvements, making sure goals were being kicked no matter whose boot the ball came off, while the two Blues totalled just nine. So far this season Hawkins and Cameron have totalled 33 goal assists compared to Curnow and McKay's 10. As good as the Carlton combo is, their Geelong counterparts know how to share the spoils up forward just a little bit better. - Howard Kimber
6. Bevo might have found a new key defender
After making an impact as a mobile forward earlier in the season, Buku Khamis showed he might have a future as an intercepting defender after producing an eye-catching performance on Friday night. Luke Beveridge hasn't been afraid to spin the magnets in the past. He deployed Adam Treloar to half-back last week and has also moved Mitch Hannan down back. But it was Khamis who provided a dour backline with some pizzazz, finishing with 18 disposals and seven marks to support Alex Keath who was on one leg and Ryan Gardner, who nullified Max King. - Josh Gabelich
7. Brilliant Breust deserves more credit
The Hawks may have just six wins this year, but Breust has quietly compiled yet another excellent season. The 31-year-old forward was the matchwinner with six goals in the Hawks' win over West Coast on Sunday. Of non-key position forwards, Breust has kicked the fourth-most goals this year with 34, behind only Charlie Cameron, Isaac Heeney and Bayley Fritsch, who all play for top-eight teams. Breust has kicked more than 30 goals in 11 of his 12 AFL seasons – the other being the COVID-affected 2020 campaign – as he continues to be among the game's leading forwards. – Dejan Kalinic
8. Career-best Kozzy just what Demons needed
The Demons' attacking woes have been well documented throughout their inconsistent six-week patch going into Sunday afternoon, but they finally may have found some answers, especially from the boot of Kysaiah Pickett. After only six goals in six games, Pickett roared back to life with a career-best performance in Melbourne's 14-point win over Port Adelaide that saw him match that exact total in one afternoon – which ultimately proved to be the difference. Pickett was kicking them from everywhere and was even getting others involved, ending up with eight score involvements. The small forward also got a much-needed helping hand early and late in the contest from the likes of Bayley Fritsch and Ben Brown – who combined for four goals. More of this from Pickett and co. will go a long way to getting Melbourne back into a consistent run of form - especially from a scoring perspective. - Nick D'Urbano
9. Sydney's versatility makes it a serious threat
After taking 82 uncontested marks in an entire game against the Western Bulldogs in round 17, the Swans racked up 88 in a half one week later against Fremantle and showed they can win in multiple ways. They adjusted to a kick-mark game style after half-time and finished the game well ahead in uncontested marks (127-70) and short kicks (126-75), with five players taking 11 marks or more. It was a big tactical win for coach John Longmire and his players, who executed the plan with discipline. The problem for top-four rivals now is the Swans can win games through their obvious forward-half talent, they now have a young midfield match-winner in Chad Warner, and their defensive interceptors are in form. Add to that a different gear to their game style and that's a lot for opponents to be on alert for. – Nathan Schmook