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9 things we learned in R11

afl.com.au  June 4, 2018 10:05 AM

R11: Gamebreaker - Burgoyne's big game Relive Shaun Burgoyne's big Round 11 match.

1. The Saints could be dangerous now Membrey has kicked the yips

St Kilda hasn't tasted victory since Round 1 but Alan Richardson's men have done a lot right in competitive efforts against Collingwood, Richmond and West Coast recently, and the wheel might finally start turning now spearhead Tim Membrey has rediscovered his mojo. Membrey cost the Saints dearly at Optus Stadium in Round 8 – booting 1.5 in a five-goal loss to Fremantle – and had 8.15 for the year going into Saturday night's clash with the Eagles. But he was a dead-eye with six straight majors in his return to Perth and inspired the Saints as they pushed West Coast to within 13 points. Richardson's side could finally be putting their goalkicking woes behind them, booting 14.4 – with nine straight from set shots and two minor scores rushed – and notching their highest score since the season opener, after an efficient 12.5 against the Tigers. If St Kilda can start getting more reward for effort we might see the side many tipped to push for finals in 2018 re-emerge. - Travis King

2. The Tigers might have found a viable second tall forward

Richmond last year won a famous premiership with just one genuine key forward in spearhead Jack Riewoldt, but they might well have unearthed a youngster who could become a second marking target in attack. The Dreamtime at the 'G blockbuster was just the fourth AFL game for Callum Moore, but the 21-year-old thrived on the big occasion, taking an equal game-high two contested marks and firing a game-high five shots at goal, albeit for an inaccurate return of 2.3. The athletic, big-marking, long-kicking Moore has taken the spot of premiership hero Jacob Townsend, and Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said he is excited by his potential while insisting selection would be horses for courses. In any case, Moore will get a chance to strengthen his position next week against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. Maybe the Tigers don't need Tom Lynch after all. - Ben Collins

3. North Melbourne's whole is greater than the sum of its parts

It's easy to hone in on individuals when seeking to discover the reason for a side's rise or fall in performance. The Kangaroos remain a source of fascination for a media pack trying to understand how they bucked pre-season doomsayers to be a top-four contender. Theories include Jarrad Waite playing career-best football. Jed Anderson and Ben Jacobs shaking career-threatening injuries to strengthen the midfield and release Jack Ziebell to play in attack. Ben Brown leading the Coleman Medal. Well, we can toss all that out the window as of Sunday's 54-point thumping of Brisbane. Waite was a late scratching because of calf tightness. Anderson didn't play even five minutes because of hamstring tightness. Former Lions skipper Dayne Beams lowered Jacobs' colours for one of the rare times in 2018. And Harris Andrews commendably kept Brown to only two goals. Instead, there were 14 North goalkickers, Paul Ahern amassed 29 disposals on debut, Luke McDonald had a career-best 34 possessions and Mason Wood sparked his side after a quiet-ish fortnight. - Marc McGowan

4. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again

That is the mantra that encapsulates Collingwood rookie Brody Mihocek's football journey and his debut on Sunday was terrific reward for the persistence he has shown. Mihocek, 25, played for three VFL clubs and made the move to Melbourne from Tasmania to pursue a football career after being overlooked in his draft year. Strong form for Port Melbourne got the Collingwood recruiting staff's attention and after being taken with pick No.22 in last year's Rookie Draft, his unassuming nature and hard-working attitude has won many fans at the Holden Centre. Mihocek's ability to compete and influence the contest with four goals was summed up nicely by coach Nathan Buckley in his press conference on Sunday: "You would be a brave man to predict that he would hit the scoreboard the way he hit it but his contests and some of his back with the flights to create ground balls for his teammates in that role was exceptional so that's a fair debut, isn't it?" His story is an example for aspiring AFL players to never give up on their dreams. - Ben Guthrie

5. Burgoyne can still do it all

Shaun Burgoyne seemed intent on leaving his mark on Sir Doug Nicholls Round, and in the wash-up after Hawthorn's narrow win over his former side on Saturday, he'd done so in just about every way. The 349-game superstar was praised by coach Alastair Clarkson for his hard-at-it approach when the whips were cracking in the final quarter, and it was obvious from the early stages that 'Silk' meant business in and around the ball – as evidenced by the report for rough conduct he picked up in the first term. Burgoyne had more contested possessions and won more clearances than any player from either side and showed customary class to finish a tricky set-shot in the third. Match review assessment permitting, this remarkable player will line up for 350th match against the Crows after the bye and you'd never bet against him taking charge and willing the Hawks to another win, much as he did in Launceston. - Stu Warren

Read: Five talking points - Hawthorn v Port Adelaide

6. Gazza can still hurt you if he's given space

After all the pre-match chat and the anticipation of Gary Ablett returning to Metricon Stadium, the Suns really rolled out the red carpet for their former skipper. Ablett went about his job in the first half, accumulating possessions and helping Geelong amass a huge half-time lead. But after the break, the Suns gave him so much space you could be forgiven for thinking they thought he was still a teammate. Ablett kicked three goals, including one gem from 50m on a tricky angle, and finished with 37 disposals, 28 of them uncontested, to be the best player afield. Ablett has lost a bit of his pace, but he reminded everyone that if you give him time, he can still hurt you in a big way. - Michael Whiting

7. George Hewett is one of Sydney's most important players

When you talk about underrated players, the young Swan has to be considered for No.1 in the competition. Hewett is John Longmire's best 'minder' and has done some impressive jobs already this season. The 22-year-old has been sent to the likes of Tom Mitchell, Nat Fyfe and Patrick Cripps in the last month alone, and he's managed to curb the influence of three of the League's elite ball-winners, especially around stoppages. Hewett kept Cripps to 17 touches and six clearances on Friday night, while he racked up 21 possessions and led all players with nine clearances of his own, and that's the beauty of his role. He's not a pure shutdown player, he also gives Sydney drive going the other way. Hewett can also play as a defensive forward and took Lachie Whitfield's scalp earlier in the season. He'll never get the same recognition from outside the club as his star teammates, but the midfielder is vital to the Swans. - Adam Curley

8. Tom McDonald might be the AFL's most versatile

The Melbourne swingman has been a revelation since moving into attack last year and he added to his goal tally with four majors in the Dees' win over the Western Bulldogs on Saturday. It took him to 19 goals from six games this season, an outstanding number as he combines with in-form Demon Jesse Hogan (five goals against the Dogs) in the forward half. But McDonald also moved onto the wing at stages, and collected 24 disposals and 11 marks in a brilliant all-round game. With his elite athleticism and marking ability, the free agent can roam up the ground just as well as be a marking target. And with Jake Lever set to miss an extended period with a knee injury, coach Simon Goodwin could also put McDonald back in defence. There are few more versatile in the AFL. - Callum Twomey

9. Sleeping Giants start to awaken

The Giants were falling out of finals calculations after a shocking run with injuries and four losses in a row – their worst losing streak in 2014. But the performance at Adelaide Oval on Sunday reminded the rest of the competition why they've reached successive preliminary finals. GWS looks steadier down back with co-captain Phil Davis back while Stephen Coniglio and Zac Langdon were livewires up forward. Their trademark run and carry was on show again and most of their 80-plus tackles were ferocious. Given the Crows' consistency over the past few seasons, there was curiosity surrounding whether Adelaide's 91-point loss to Melbourne last week was an aberration or a genuine setback in their 2018 campaign. The blowtorch will definitely be on Don Pyke with the Crows' place in the top eight still no certainty. - Marcus Wilson

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