We’re four weeks into the AFL season and we’re starting to get a grasp on where teams sit.
Contenders are establishing themselves and the ladder is slowly taking shape.
Here’s what we learned from Round 4:
Pump the brakes on Sydney
While Sydney defeated Essendon in the opening game of the round, they were far from convincing at the SCG.
The Swans are 4-0 and have exceeded all expectations set for them in the pre-season, but we shouldn’t yet label them contenders.
Sydney opened up the year with a blistering three-week patch and looked too slick and fast for their opposition in that run.
While highly fancied to deliver Essendon the same treatment, they instead looked clunky and allowed Ben Rutten’s side to control large patches of the game.
Although it was nowhere near the scintillating performances shown earlier in the year, up and down efforts should be expected from the young side.
Sydney should play finals after their unbeaten opening month, but they’ll still need to do a bit more to be truly considered alongside the competition’s best.
St Kilda can be unstoppable under the roof
The Saints were staring down the barrel of a 1-5 start to the year if they lost to West Coast, and at half time their season hung by a thread.
The Eagles got out to a 33-point lead in the third term and looked home and hosed until Brett Ratten’s side clicked into gear.
But once the Saints did get rolling, the floodgates opened at Marvel Stadium.
The Saints moved the ball efficiently with speed and key forward Max King was the beneficiary with a career best five goals.
Off-season recruit Brad Crouch proved why the club went after him with a 26 disposal, 12 tackle performance at the coal-face and Jack Steele may have even taken another step after a breakout 2020.
St Kilda v Richmond at Marvel Stadium next Thursday now looms as a must-watch game.
Nathan Buckley needs to hit the reset button
Collingwood’s loss to a depleted GWS at the MCG was by far the most shocking result of the round.
The Giants were missing at least eight first choice players and came into the clash at 0-3, but never looked like losing in a dour contest.
Collingwood’s only win of the season came against Carlton in Round 2 as a result of moving the ball through the corridor with speed, but any of that willingness to take the game on has since disappeared.
Nathan Buckley’s side were ultra-conservative against GWS and the score line will be less favourable if they take the same tactics in against West Coast next Friday.
The time has come for Buckley to revamp the game plan or make wholesale changes to the 22.
His job may depend on it.
The inconsistent (but talented) teams of recent years have figured it out
Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have both possessed strong lists in recent years without tasting any success.
The talent on paper was undeniable, but neither came close to challenging in either 2019 or 2020.
It looks as though they’ve now officially hit their straps in 2021.
The Dogs and Demons sit one and two on the ladder after the competition’s opening month - and both boast healthy percentages.
The only question now remains… Can they keep it up?
For now, it looks likely.
Geelong desperately need Dangerfield
While Geelong went 2-1 over Patrick Dangerfield’s three-week suspension, his absence couldn’t be more glaring.
The Cats fell over the line against Brisbane and Hawthorn, and were second to the ball all day in defeat to Melbourne.
The superstar midfielder is set to return on Sunday against North Melbourne.
It couldn’t come at a better time for Chris Scott’s side.
It’s a big week for Carlton
The Blues now sit at an even two wins, two losses.
A disappointing opening fortnight has been offset with strong performances against Fremantle and the Gold Coast, but the true litmus test comes this week.
Many were expecting Carlton to make a leap in 2021 and we’ll get to truly find out where they sit after they take on Port Adelaide.
The Blues host the Power at the MCG on Saturday night and a win could well and truly vault them into finals calculations.
This Carlton side has enough talent to take it up to the competition's best sides, it’s about time they take a big scalp.
The Round 5 clash could prove a defining win or a reality check for David Teague’s men.