1. Cale Hooker is not the answer for Essendon

He's played the wildcard role quite well in Essendon's forward line this season, but for now at least Cale Hooker is not the club's long-term solution inside 50. The Bombers had initially planned to play Hooker in defence against Port Adelaide, but an injury to the important Shaun McKernan forced coach John Worsfold to push him forward. There, he struggled. Having kicked the winning goals against Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast in recent weeks, Hooker couldn't hit the scoreboard from 13 disposals on Saturday. He looked lost at times and struggled to impact the game both on the lead or in contested situations. Meanwhile, with Michael Hurley out and with Aaron Francis hobbled by an early head knock, the Bombers lacked a genuine intercept marker across half-back. Ultimately, Hooker playing forward hurt Essendon at both ends of the field. Perhaps he can still impact as a pinch-hit option inside 50 in the finals, but there's no doubt he should be used primarily as a defender for the remainder of the season. – Riley Beveridge

BARRETT Rance still hell-bent on finals return

Cale Hooker struggled to make an impact up forward against the Power. Picture: AFL Photos

2. Forget the umpires, the Swans robbed themselves of a famous Derby win

There was plenty of noise made about a non-decision involving Sam Reid's attempted grab in the dying stages against Greater Western Sydney, but the Swans only have themselves to blame for the result. After Ryan Clarke put them in front of the Giants early in the final term, four-goal hero Isaac Heeney had two chances within a minute to extend the margin but missed both set shots from dead in front. James Rose botched another gettable opportunity, before a horrible Robbie Fox turnover at half-back led to a Jeremy Finlayson goal, which gave the Giants a lead they didn't relinquish. Finishing has been an issue for Sydney all season and the 3.8 it kicked in the second and fourth quarters came back to haunt the Swans again. - Adam Curley

3. Ross Lyon hasn't lost his players

There has been so much 'noise' around Fremantle over the past two months that football has almost become secondary to what might happen off the field, and after the abysmal first quarter against the Western Bulldogs when the season seemed on the line in round 19 it was questioned whether Lyon's message was still getting through. The Dockers had an excuse to roll over against League leaders Geelong on Saturday, with injuries biting hard and so much attention on the futures of Lyon, CEO Steve Rosich and fitness guru Jason Weber, but they were magnificent in a 34-point win. After going in too tall against the Dogs, Lyon deserves credit for picking a smaller forward line – with David Mundy as the primary 'key forward' – and inspiring his side to produce a ferocious effort across four quarters. The Cats couldn't handle the heat, and if the Dockers can sustain that sort of pressure against St Kilda, Essendon and Port Adelaide then finals aren't out of the question. - Travis King

4. The Hawks should turn to youth for the rest of 2019

Alastair Clarkson shouldn't expect many more questions about Hawthorn making the finals from here, after Friday night's disappointing fadeout to North Melbourne. Clarko kept telling us that wasn't his primary focus this year anyway. But now that the Hawks' post-season hopes are as good as shot, we might see more evidence. For all Hawthorn's lack of high draft picks, it has made late selections count. With three matches to go, the time has surely arrived for untried youngsters Jackson Ross, Mathew Walker – who footy boss Graham Wright tipped in March to make his AFL debut in 2019 – and Changkuoth Jiath to get a look (even if they're spread out). Harry Jones would be in this same boat, if not for a season-ending knee injury. This isn't about gifting games, either, given they've all shown promise in the VFL. Ross and Walker, in particular, warrant a promotion, given the Hawks' continued scoring woes. Paul Puopolo should be feeling the pressure, while even Jack Gunston and Luke Breust are no longer selection locks on current form. Having said all this, Jarryd Roughead deserves a farewell game – assuming he wants one – against Gold Coast at Marvel Stadium in round 22. – Marc McGowan

FROM THE TWOS Flag hero hurt, forgotten Cat returns

Paul Puopolo is one of the senior Hawks feeling the heat from the youngsters. Picture: AFL Photos

5. The Eagles have the best forward line in the comp

If one of them doesn't get you, the other will. Or the other. Or the other. Whether it's the marking of Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling, the speed of Liam Ryan and Jack Petruccelle, or the smarts of Willie Rioli and Oscar Allen, West Coast will find a way to hurt you. On Sunday, almost all of them inflicted some sort of damage on Carlton. There were times at Marvel Stadium where it looked as though the Eagles would score every time they went forward. Indeed, they finished the match with 24 scoring shots from 50 entries. It was just two more than the Blues managed, highlighting their elite efficiency and constant threat. It wasn't necessarily Kennedy or Darling's day, as it has been in the past, but it didn't have to be. Instead, Ryan was the chief destroyer to finish with four goals, flying in typical fashion for his soaring marks and even displaying his courage as he bravely went back with the flight of the ball to claim another contested beauty. And, just think, Jamie Cripps is still to return. - Riley Beveridge

6. Crows simply have to play Fogarty every chance they get

Key forward Darcy Fogarty has to be given an extended run in Adelaide's side. The 19-year-old's attack on the footy was on show in the Crows' 22-point win against St Kilda on Saturday night. Fogarty – the 12th overall pick in the 2017 national draft – has been overlooked all season, but he took five marks, had five inside 50s and two score assists, along with kicking a huge goal in the last quarter. It's going to be tough to find a spot for experienced forward Josh Jenkins, although his absence meant the Crows had to use defender Andy Otten as their back-up ruckman. But the short-term pain is worth going through if it means Fogarty gets a chance to develop on the big stage. - Lee Gaskin

THE RUN HOME Who'll play off for September glory?

7. Jack Crisp is the best 'steak knives' trade this decade

When Brisbane traded pick No.5 and Jack Crisp to get Dayne Beams at the end of 2014, there was little fanfare about Crisp's then-brief career at the Lions. The Pies went on to nab Jordan De Goey with that draft selection, and, of course, four years later got Beams back. Crisp was seen as the 'extra' part of the deal. But in between that time Crisp has become one of the most reliable and consistent players for Collingwood, which he showed again on Sunday with 30 disposals against Gold Coast. Crisp is signed until the end of 2023, so is clearly rated highly inside Collingwood, but he still goes under the radar slightly outside of the club with a number of big names ahead of him. Crisp is averaging 26 disposals this season and has been a mainstay since crossing to the club, producing far more than would have been expected of him when Collingwood made that deal. – Callum Twomey

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Jack Crisp has more than proven his worth after being traded to the Pies from Brisbane. Picture: AFL Photos

8. Fritsch has found his niche

The big positive for Melbourne in its loss to Richmond was the performance of Bayley Fritsch. With his piercing kicking and general smarts the lean left-footer is capable of being a valuable player at either end, but it's worth persisting with him at half-forward in a team that's struggling to score. The 22-year-old has tallied 11 goals in his past four outings, slotting multiple majors on each occasion. Against the Tigers he snared an equal game-high three goals, and should have got four. Fritsch was on fire late in the second term, nailing a long set shot and two minutes later set up another major for the courageous Angus Brayshaw with a sizzling inboard pass. It was daring football – the kind that could help lift the Demons out of their slump. - Ben Collins

Bayley Fritsch celebrates a goal with Angus Brayshaw. Picture: AFL Photos

9. Look no further than Charlie Cameron as the All Australian small forward

If he didn't have a spot locked up before, Lions livewire Charlie Cameron inked his name in the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian team with another four goals against the Bulldogs. In a versatile forward line that's difficult to defend, Cameron is becoming Brisbane's most lethal weapon, again used as the deepest player to maximise his speed in space. He's now kicked 41 goals from his 19 games, well clear of Eddie Betts (35), Alex Sexton (35), Jordan de Goey (34) and Michael Walters (34). Whether it's on the lead, in the contest or at ground level, Cameron rarely loses his feet and is lethal off both sides of his body. - Michael Whiting

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