Carlton’s superstars blow GWS away, Harley Reid goes supersonic in the west and Collingwood look a lot like Collingwood again.

Here are the biggest talking points from every game of round six.

Bulldogs prove there is more to their game than Bontempelli 

The Western Bulldogs came into Thursday nights clash with plenty of questions about their finals aspirations.

They were comfortably beaten by Essendon six days earlier, with Luke Beveridge’s coaching under the spotlight after having All-Australian Bailey Dale as the substitute.

Four AFL players wearing red, white and blue, come together to celebrate a goal

Marcus Bontempelli celebrating with his teammate after kicking one of his three goals on Thursday night.(Getty Images: Robert Cianflone)

Another major concern for the Bulldogs was their chances of success seemed to solely depend on whether Marcus Bontempelli could claim three Brownlow votes.

But Thursday’s 60-point win over St Kilda was everything Beveridge and Bulldogs’ fans would want. The victory was a complete team performance, with Bontempelli’s 24 disposal and three goals just one of many contributions to the win. 

Aaron Naughton was terrific in front of goal, booting an equal career-high six majors. Dale could not stay out of the action, with his 39 disposals the best of anyone on the ground, 

Adam Treloar dazzled with 31 disposals nine clearances and a goal. Jason Johannisen (31 disposals), Jack Macrae (30 disposals and five clearances) and Cody Weightman (three goals) also played major roles in the win.

This is Beveridge’s blueprint for success. If the Bulldogs can have more games where Bontempelli can have 20 touches, multiple goals, and be outshone by others, they will challenge the best in the league.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Aaron Naughton (Western Bulldogs)

2. Bailey Dale (Western Bulldogs)

1. Jack Macrae (Western Bulldogs)

Crows right to look past free kick drama

Just about the only people who weren’t talking about the contentious late non-call regarding Sam Draper and holding the ball were Adelaide’s players and coaches.

To a man, almost all of them played down the incident and made clear that even had the Crows received a free kick for it and kicked a goal, it wouldn’t have been a wholly deserved win.

Adelaide players look dejected as Essendon players celebrate while a Bombers player lies on the ball after the siren.

The AFL has said Adelaide should have been awarded a free kick in the dying seconds against Essendon.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/James Elsby)

Unfortunately for Adelaide, this was a performance more akin to the first four weeks rather than the thrilling win over Carlton in round five. Yet again the Crows looked slow and uninspired, briefly lifted by Jordan Dawson and Jake Soligo but too often second best against the Bombers.

Izak Rankine and Josh Rachele had down days, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that when that happens, Adelaide can’t compete.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Zach Merrett (Essendon)

2. Jordan Dawson (Adelaide)

1. Jake Soligo (Adelaide)

Collingwood finally look like Collingwood again

Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in.

The scenes at the MCG on Saturday afternoon gave the distinct impression that Collingwood are back. The win over Brisbane was important but workmanlike, and the Pies rather fell over the line against Hawthorn.

Esava Ratugolea tackles Brody Mihocek as he tries to handball

Brody Mihocek looks to escape the clutches of Esava Ratugolea.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

This win over Port Adelaide was far more impressive, not least because a slow start meant they had to be at their absolute best to challenge the Power, let alone overrun them and build a big winning margin.

As soon as the Pies began properly competing in the contest, the Port midfield wilted and allowed Collingwood’s creativity and class to come to the fore. The big boys took marks, Bobby Hill and his band of small forwards went to work and the Pies were suddenly irrepressible.

The next step is putting together a four-quarter performance, which is still proving beyond Collingwood. But their best is still good enough, and we’re seeing more and more of it as the season progresses.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Will Hoskin-Elliott (Collingwood)

2. Darcy Cameron (Collingwood)

1. Jordan De Goey (Collingwood)

Who can stop the Blues’ big four?

Twenty points down and firmly on the back foot, Carlton looked in the direction of their leaders. Someone needed to stand up and stare down the rampaging Giants, the only question was who?

Turns out, all of the Blues superstars lifted. Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay, Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh simultaneously flicked the switch and went to work overwhelming an otherwise undefeated GWS.

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All four of them were breathtaking from about halfway through the third quarter right until the final siren. There is no weak link in this Carlton line-up any more, but when the real cream of the crop rises it makes them an entirely different proposition.

This was a win to make everybody stand up and take notice. The Giants didn’t play badly, in fact, they did a lot of things very well. Carlton were just that good, and a 19-point margin felt on the low end once the game ended.

The Blues are serious, serious business in 2024.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

2. Sam Walsh (Carlton)

1. Marc Pittonet (Carlton)

Geelong slick in the wet as Brisbane’s home woes continue

It is truly amazing how much can change in 12 months of football, and the contrasting fortunes of Geelong and Brisbane are truly a testament to this.

After being nigh on unbeatable at home over the last few seasons — they went 38-3 between 2020 and 2023 — Brisbane suddenly cannot win a game at home.

The loss to Geelong was Brisbane’s third in three outings at the Gabba and it’s a run that’s put their finals hopes in serious jeopardy.

This time last year, Geelong looked like a team that appeared to have tipped over the edge after scaling the mountain top with a premiership in 2022. 

A group of dejected Brisbane Lions AFL players walk off the ground with their heads down.

Brisbane’s home record dropped to 0-3 in the 2023 season after falling to a 26-point loss at the Gabba against Geelong on Saturday night.(AAP: Darren England)

Geelong had taken advantage of a relatively soft schedule to start the season 5-0, so facing the Lions at the Gabba loomed as the perfect test to see just how good the Cats are, and it was a test they passed in flying colours.

It wasn’t like they had it all their own way either, with Brisbane coming out of the gates flying and the weather playing spoilsport. 

However, once the rain arrived, Geelong adjusted expertly to the conditions and out-muscled Brisbane down the stretch to win six straight games to start a season for the first time since 2013. 

While much of the talk prior to the game centred around the return of veteran duo Tom Hawkins and Patrick Dangerfield, it was once again the Cats’ younger players — Max Holmes, Tanner Bruhn and Tyson Stengle — who were influential in the victory.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Tyson Stengle (Geelong)

2. Max Holmes (Geelong)

1. Brandan Parfitt (Geelong)

Harley the heartbeat of an incredible Eagles win

In the wake of West Coast’s staggering derby win over Fremantle, some pundits and commentators have claimed that 19-year-old Harley Reid is almost solely responsible for the Eagles’ mini-revival. The crazy thing is that isn’t miles from the truth.

It wouldn’t be fair to overlook the return to fitness of elite players like Elliot Yeo and Jeremy McGovern and career-best form of Jake Waterman. But the spark Reid has brought the Eagles is unquantifiable, and surely far more valuable than all of his goals, possessions, clearances and headlines.

An AFL player pumps his first and screams in excitement to a massive crowd

Harley Reid celebrates one of his three goals against Freo.(AFL Photos via Getty Images: Will Russell)

It’s also the same thing that was lost in the debates about potential pick one trades last year. The prize on offer wasn’t just the best underage footballer in the country — it was Harley Reid, and everything that comes along with him.

His fearlessness and physicality have proven infectious at West Coast. You can actually see Reid’s performances over the last few lifting his teammates, young and old, and forcing them to come along for the ride.

All the talk about “Harley hype” suggests some of it was overblown, but there’s no hyperbole when talking about this kid anymore. He is truly special. 

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Harley Reid (West Coast)

2. Elliot Yeo (West Coast)

1. Jake Waterman (West Coast)

Suns fail another legitimacy test against Swans

Since joining the AFL in 2011, there have been a handful of moments where the Gold Coast Suns looked like they were ready to take the next step to being a legitimate force to be reckoned with.

Sunday’s clash loomed as another opportunity to show they’d finally arrived after their ruthless demolition job against Hawthorn a week ago, but the Suns flopped again.

What will frustrate Damien Hardwick is that the match was well and truly there to be won, with Sydney scratchy in the first half after coming off a bye last week. 

Brodie Grundy celebrates a goal against the Gold Coast Suns

The young Suns were simply no match against the Swans and Brodie Grundy in his 200th career game.(Getty Images: Mark Metcalfe)

However, with the game on the line in the third quarter, the Suns self-destructed, with several acts of ill-discipline and poor decision-making virtually handing the match on a platter to the Swans. 

There is no lack of talent on the Suns’ list, but at some point these kids must step up and take hold of a game they’re not expected to win. 

For Sydney, it was another example that this team is absolutely a premiership contender. Isaac Heeney continued his insane start to what is sure to be a career-best year, while Brodie Grundy marked his 200th career game with a vintage performance in the ruck.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Brodie Grundy (Sydney)

2. Isaac Heeney (Sydney)

1. Oliver Florent (Sydney)

Change must come at North after Hawks drubbing

The sad reality of the North Melbourne-Hawthorn game is that the loser was always going to garner more attention than the winner.

So it proved with North Melbourne now, once again, firmly in the gun after what was a largely dismal display against the only other side that didn’t have a win to its name before this weekend.

Josh Weddle and Lloyd Meek celebrate a goal

Hawthorn picked up their first win of the year against a disappointing North Melbourne side.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

So many things need to change at North, you might think it would be hard to know where Alastair Clarkson should start. But it’s not actually — he should start with Harry Sheezel.

Starting this talented young man’s career at half-back was a good idea, but he’s now played more than enough footy to be handed more responsibility. Besides, whatever good he is doing as a rebounder is being undone as the team ships 100 points a week and fails to kick a winning score.

Sheezel was a mercurial forward and pinch-hitting midfielder as a junior. Let him put his dazzling skills to proper use, and let him inspire his team in ways that will really hurt the opposition. What is there to lose at this point?

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Dylan Moore (Hawthorn)

2. Jai Newcombe (Hawthorn)

1. Connor Macdonald (Hawthorn)