Nick Daicos teaches a coaching icon a major lesson, Marcus Bontempelli continues his dominance, and a magical Dustin Martin milestone moment at the MCG.

Here are the biggest talking points from every game of Round 14 in the AFL.

1. Defence an issue, but Lions getting back to attacking best 

The Lions proved definitively on Friday night that the Saints can be scored on — and heavily — putting in sharp focus the Suns’ failure to do so last week.

Chris Fagan said after the game that the ball was in Brisbane’s court, and he’s right. The Lions have a helpful fixture that could see them win another four in a row if they can keep the scoring returns coming in from Joe Daniher, Eric Hipwood and Charlie Cameron, not to mention young guns Logan Morris and Kai Lohmann.

Kai Lohmann was excellent in Brisbane’s high-scoring win over St Kilda on Friday night, kicking two goals to go along with 12 disposals.(Getty Images: Chris Hyde)

The latter is proving to be a real star in the making for the Lions. He turns up in the right places, his distribution is excellent, and he is kicking plenty of goals himself.

The issue that could prove costly for Fagan’s men is defence. It’s not so much how many they’re conceding as the way they’re doing it. They keep giving their opposition chances, and they need to relearn how to finish teams off.

ABC Sport player of the year votes:

3. Joe Daniher (Brisbane)

2. Dayne Zorko (Brisbane)

1. Jack Higgins (St Kilda)

(Votes are compiled by the ABC Sport radio commentary team after each match)

2. Bontempelli reaffirms status as AFL’s best as Dogs resurgence continues

There is something truly special about the game’s best players being at the absolute peak of their powers, and Saturday afternoon saw exactly that as Marcus Bontempelli ran riot against Fremantle.

After starting the season in incredibly scratchy fashion, the Western Bulldogs have climbed back into the top eight on the back of four wins from their last six contests, and Bontempelli was at the centre of a 67-point belting of the Dockers.

The Bulldogs were tested early by Fremantle, which has been a strong travelling side all year, but Bontempelli first steadied his side and then gave them the ascendancy with a goal of the year contender in the second quarter where he outgunned three defenders to kick one of his three majors.

Bontempelli finished the match with 30 disposals, eight marks, seven clearances and five tackles to go along with his three majors and he was simply unstoppable all afternoon. 

His three majors made it the third straight game where he has kicked multiple goals, and there is no more damaging midfielder in the competition. 

Up against a vaunted Fremantle midfield featuring Nat Fyfe, Angus Brayshaw and Caleb Serong, just to name a few, Bontempelli and his old running mate Tom Liberatore dominated in the clinches. 

Liberatore finished the match with 28 disposals, with 15 of them contested, and flew the flag for the Bulldogs inside early on when Fremantle looked like it would run away with the game. 

The Dogs have done this before, starting the season in horrible fashion before catching fire at the back half. They’re a team that no one else in the AFL will want to face as we edge towards the finals. 

ABC Sport player of the year votes:

3. Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs) 

2. Tom Liberatore (Western Bulldogs)

1. Lachlan Bramble (Western Bulldogs)

3. Hawks show maturity by spoiling Dustin Martin’s 300th

After putting together a strong month of football, Saturday’s clash against Richmond was another nice little test passed by Sam Mitchell’s men. 

Richmond may be 17th on the ladder, but the Tigers at a jam-packed MCG for Dustin Martin’s 300th match was never going to be a walk in the park.

The 92,311 fans packed into the ‘G were whipped up into a frenzy in the opening minutes when Martin kicked the opening goal of the match, but where young teams would usually have wilted, the Hawks rose to the occasion. 

After a tightly-contested first quarter, Hawthorn took control of the contest through the second and third quarters, essentially rendering the final term useless en-route to a 48-point win.

James Worpel of the Hawks is tackled by Dustin Martin of the Tigers during the 2024 AFL Round 14 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Hawthorn Hawks at The Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 15, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia.(Getty Images: Michael Willson)

The Hawks’ impressive young core continued to impress in the win, with Jai Newcombe leading the way with 26 disposals and four clearances. 

Ever-reliable Hawthorn skipper James Sicily was arguably the best player on the ground with 33 disposals, 15 marks and 874 metres gained. 

While he wasn’t able to come away with a win in his 300th match, Martin’s goal on the run conjured memories of him making the MCG his personal playground during his peak years. 

Following the game, Martin admitted he felt “numb” as he soaked in the adulation from the crowd in attendance. Let’s hope the Richmond superstar still has a few more magical MCG moments left in the tank.

ABC Sport player of the year votes:

3. Jai Newcombe (Hawthorn)

2. James Sicily (Hawthorn)

1. Mabior Chol (Hawthorn) 

4. Are the Swans peaking too early? They’re probably not too worried

For most of the first two quarters of football at Adelaide Oval, the Crows looked to have found a way to handle the ladder-leading Sydney Swans.

Then the Swans midfield started finding Joel Amartey, and things changed rapidly. Eight goals in two quarters to the Sydney forward turned the game on its head, but it wasn’t just his goalkicking that did it.

Joel Amartey of the Swans marks during the AFL Round 14 match between the Adelaide Crows and the Sydney Swans at Adelaide Oval in Adelaide, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AAP: Matt Turner )

Sydney’s clearance work was immense — they finished with 51 clearances to 31, and 19 centre clearances to four.

John Longmire’s men seem to have a response for every challenge at the moment and even when Isaac Heeney or Errol Gulden have occasional quiet periods, there is always James Rowbottom or the dominant Brodie Grundy to rip the game away from the opposition.

Sydney is 12-1 at round 14, with three games and a 40 per cent margin over their nearest rivals, and four games in Sydney — including next week against GWS — in the next six weeks. Even if they go 4-2 in that period, they could wrap up a top-two spot with three rounds remaining.

Are they peaking too early? Other dominant sides have run out of puff in the past — but at the moment it’s a small concern for the premiership favourites. 

ABC Sport player of the year votes:

3. Joel Amartey (Sydney Swans)

2. Brodie Grundy (Sydney Swans)

1. Isaac Heeney (Sydney Swans)

5. Clarkson’s own goal gives Magpies a famous comeback win

For three quarters, North Melbourne mastercoach Alastair Clarkson coached the perfect game. 

After co-captain Jy Simpkin was a late scratch with hamstring tightness, Clarkson brought former No.3 pick Will Phillips into the side and immediately gave the on-baller the tagging job on Nick Daicos. 

Taggers have come back into fashion over the last month around the competition, with Carlton’s Alex Cincotta enjoying tremendous success as the Blues have rocketed up the ladder, and for three quarters the move to send Phillips to Daicos looked like a winner. 

Phillips held Daicos to just 11 disposals in the first half and despite Daicos kicking two majors in the third quarter, the Kangaroos largely had the Collingwood superstar under wraps. 

Kangaroos youngster Will Phillips did an excellent job tagging Nick Daicos before being inexplicably hooked at three-quarter time.(Getty Images: Daniel Pockett)

Then Clarkson made the bizarre decision to sub Phillips off at three-quarter time, replacing him with Jaidyn Stephenson. 

The move to take a completely healthy Phillips off the ground was baffling in the moment, and Clarkson’s error was magnified as Daicos tore veteran Liam Shiels to shreds in the final term. 

The Collingwood superstar had his fingerprints all over his side’s electric final term, which saw the Magpies overcome a 31-point deficit at the final change.

Daicos finished the game with 29 disposals, six clearances and a whopping 10 score involvements, with many of those coming in the final term.

North Melbourne’s young players will have learnt valuable lessons from the loss, but here’s hoping Clarkson too learnt a key lesson. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

ABC Sport player of the year votes:

3. Nick Daicos (Collingwood)

2. Bobby Hill (Collingwood)

1. George Wardlaw (North Melbourne)

6. Kelly a class above as Giants prevail in clash marred by inaccuracy

All afternoon at the Sydney Showgrounds, both the GWS Giants and Port Adelaide peppered the goals. 

The two teams combined to kick a score of 15.34, with the Giants’ 9.19 not all that more accurate compared to the Power’s 6.15. 

So it was fitting that on a day where players on both teams sprayed shot after shot that GWS superstar Josh Kelly iced the game with a silky smooth snap on the run to mark his return with a win. 

In his first game since Round 9, Kelly was outstanding, finishing the match with 27 disposals, nine score involvements, a team-high 640 metres gained to go along with his match-sealing goal. 

Josh Kelly made an instant impact on his return to the Giants’ line-up after spending six weeks on the sidelines through injury.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

The Giants no longer need Kelly to be big ball-winner at the source, with the likes of Tom Green in tow to carry those responsibilities, but his class on the outside remains vital to the team’s success. 

Much has been made of the Giants’ vaunted ‘Orange Tsunami’ that can overwhelm teams at times when Adam Kingsley’s unit is clicking on all cylinders, and that is built off the back of Kelly and Lachie Whitfield ripping teams apart with their foot skills. 

Whitfield was also outstanding in the Giants’ win, finishing with 28 disposals and nine tackles to go along with six intercept possessions. 

The Giants may only be sitting fifth on the ladder, but if these two are firing, they remain a formidable proposition for any team to face as we approach September.

ABC Sport player of the year votes:

3. Josh Kelly (GWS Giants)

2. Brent Daniels (GWS Giants)

1. Dan Houston (Port Adelaide)