Dan Houston celebrates with teammates after his post-siren goal in Port Adelaide's win over Essendon in round 16, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Nine Things We Learned, we discover Dan Houston is an out-and-out match-winner, the Swans have a bevy of exciting youngsters plus much, much more.

Check out what we learned from round 16 of the 2023 season.


1) Adelaide is this season's wildcard

The Crows look like they're finally hitting their straps, and it comes at the right time as they face three of the current top four in the next few weeks. While those matches may look daunting on paper, the Crows played some seriously good footy against North Melbourne on Saturday, enduring some of the Roos' best gameplay all year and countering it to fly home for a 66-point victory. While the Crows have suffered some losses that may hurt them come the pointy end of the season, they also have taken some scalps and showed last week they can match it against the cream of the crop. After round three's stirring Showdown victory, a real test will be whether they can repeat that feat against the red-hot Power in round 20. But with Taylor Walker in near career-best form, captain Jordan Dawson in Brownlow Medal contention, boom recruit Izak Rankine in full flight and a brigade of seriously skilled youngsters, the Crows look capable of nearly anything and could wreak havoc on the competition as we head towards September. – Sophie Welsh


2) Dan Houston has ice in his veins

When Dan Houston marked on the 50m line on a wet night with a heavy ball with his side two points down and with 18 seconds left, many in his shoes would've thought it was beyond their limits and hurriedly pumped it to the top of the square. Not Houston. He had other ideas. He seized the moment, calmly letting the clock wind down before launching a shot that always looked to be on line. It was only a question of distance and he had it in him, albeit by less than a metre, to seal victory against Essendon. It was the stuff of legends and it will go down in Power folklore alongside Robbie Gray's brilliant after-the-siren game-winner against Carlton at the Gabba in 2020. Many believe Houston is having an All-Australian year and that goal may have just confirmed his case. - Ben Somerford


3) Opponents need to be wary of John Noble

Collingwood's 2019 mid-season draft pick added another chapter to what's fast becoming a terrific career in a huge win on Saturday night. Noble's 30 disposals were the second highest of his career, but it's the damage he did with them that really caught the eye. He gained 529m, the fifth-highest in the match, and had a disposal efficiency of 86.5 per cent. Throw in the wonderful third-quarter goal in which he sidestepped Noah Anderson and converted from 45m and Noble was clearly one of the best players on ground. The 26-year-old adds so much run and carry and is highly effective defensively with his speed and ability to come forward and force opponents into error.  Opposition teams have to be wary of him with and without the ball. – Michael Whiting


4) Wayward Dees need to straighten up to be a threat

Melbourne's inaccuracy in front of goal was once again costly, with the Demons' 5.15 scoreline proving the difference in a two-point loss to GWS. It wasn't just a once-off, either, with the Dees' previous four games returning scores of 8.15, 8.18, 8.13 and 10.12. While they escaped two of those games with wins, that sort of wayward kicking won't stack up come September – should they even get there – with the costly loss bringing the Demons back to the pack fighting for a finals berth. - Alison O'Connor


5) Hawks' struggles without Sicily laid bare

For the second week in a row, the absence of James Sicily highlighted why he is not only Hawthorn's most important player, but one of the most important players in the AFL when it comes to his side's fortunes. The Hawks have lost three games in the past month by 55 points or more and the reigning Peter Crimmins medallist has missed all three due to suspension – Port Adelaide in round 12, Gold Coast last week and Carlton on Sunday. Unfortunately for Sam Mitchell, the star defender still has one game to serve for the controversial tackle he laid on Brisbane midfielder Hugh McCluggage. What has made Sicily’s absence more difficult to stomach is the form he was in around his two bans. The 28-year-old amassed a career-high 43 disposals and 16 marks against St Kilda in round 11, then finished with 32 touches and 12 grabs against Brisbane in round 13.  - Josh Gabelich

James Sicily leads his team onto the field during the R13 match between Hawthorn and Brisbane at the MCG on June 10, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

6) It's not just about Errol and Chad

While Sydney's future seemed to rest largely in the hands of Errol Gulden and Chad Warner, an exciting spread of youngsters has emerged. Braeden Campbell has become one of the Swans' architects through the middle of the ground with his intelligence, booming kick and ability to then hit the scoreboard. Meanwhile last week's Rising Star nominee Angus Sheldrick, now armed with a new-found confidence, has played well above his 178cm as a contested, hardworking midfielder. Despite a frustrating draw with the Cats born out of Sydney's poor conversion, the arrival of Campbell and Sheldrick is a genuine positive fans can focus on. – Gemma Bastiani


7) Shuey still has excellent form and leadership

West Coast captain Luke Shuey believes he can play on beyond this year and help shape the Eagles' next successful era. Those were his words this week, and his actions backed them up on Sunday. Shuey set the tone for his team against St Kilda with a ferocious tackling performance, laying eight tackles in the first quarter alone. He got going offensively, too, combining with ruckman Bailey Williams for some clean centre clearances out the front. Shuey will be remembered for performing when the Eagles were at their best, winning the Norm Smith Medal in the 2018 Grand Final. He should also be acknowledged for leading like he did when they were responding to their worst ever loss. Leadership will be vital as the Eagles embark on their rebuild. If he can stay fit for the remainder of the season, the captain should be retained. - Nathan Schmook

Luke Shuey looks on during the R16 match between West Coast and St Kilda at Optus Stadium on July 2, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

8) Freo needs to be more effective with the footy

The Dockers simply did not capitalise on the sheer amount of disposals they amassed in the 29-point loss to the Western Bulldogs, particularly in the second and third quarters. The Dogs have a fine-tuned midfield at the moment, but the Dockers were able to rack up high numbers with the footy, winning the disposal count 405-316. Finding an array of forward targets proved to be an issue, with Michael Walters and Jye Amiss playing very well, but kicking eight of the team's 11 goals. Both coaches highlighted the high number of stoppages in Fremantle's forward 50 in the third term, with Justin Longmuir disappointed in the lack of capitalisation, while Luke Beveridge thrilled his side weathered the storm. – Sarah Black


9) There's no easy path back in for Daniel Rich

Three matches after being left out of Brisbane's team to face Sydney, it's becoming increasingly difficult to see an easy way back into its best 22 for Daniel Rich. Along with Jack Gunston, the Lions stalwart was left out to enter a training block designed to get him fully fit with the best chance of playing impactful footy. On Thursday night against Richmond, the Lions' half-backs and small defenders again proved pivotal to victory, with Connor McKenna, Darcy Wilmot, Keidean Coleman and Brandon Starcevich able to force turnovers defensively and link up with overlap run in attack. They're a major part of what coach Chris Fagan described as a "stingy" defence. Rich's best football still has a place at the highest level, but with a return to the field imminent, he may well have to come back through the VFL. – Michael Whiting

Daniel Rich ahead of Brisbane's clash with Fremantle in round seven, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos