'Brownlow Bont' to lead Bulldogs in big Demons opener
The Western Bulldogs owe Marcus Bontempelli a Brownlow Medal, coach Luke Beveridge has volunteered on the eve of their new AFL season.
Superstar midfielder Bontempelli appears set for a monster campaign, finally injury-free and ready to deliver for his star-studded Bulldogs side when they battle Melbourne on Saturday in a rematch of the 2021 grand final.
He led that year's Brownlow count by three votes after round 19, but was run down by Port Adelaide's Ollie Wines as the Dogs lost three of their last four games.
Asked on Friday if Bontempelli could reproduce that outstanding form, Beveridge suggested it was on his teammates to again help lift him to those heights.
"If he can play any better than 2021, that would be quite amazing," he said.
"We probably all feel responsible for him not winning the Brownlow that year, because the end of that year our last few games weren't where they needed to be.
"Every Brownlow medallist still needs their team to be going well to a fair degree and we feel like we cost him one.
"He was still influential at times last year, definitely at the end when he started to feel a little bit better. But if he could get close to it, that'd be amazing."
An in-form Bontempelli to go with a firing stacked forward line could vault the Bulldogs back into premiership contention, recruit Rory Lobb set to make his club debut against the Demons.
Lobb (206cm) was named up forward with Sam Darcy (208cm), Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (197cm) and Aaron Naughton (195cm), a mix that screams of firepower but could lack some mobility.
"It's the area we were in the first couple in 2021, then we really slid down the competition as far as stopping that rebound," Beveridge said.
"That's been a real focus over the pre-season to improve that, but if you go through say the individuals, Aaron's very good at that, Rory, he's particularly good at that, 'Marra's improving all the time as he plays games and Sammy ... he'll be probably the one that will take a little bit of time.
"So as much as they can be as key forwards, they're pretty good at ground level and when it's their turn, I think they can hold their end up.
"Probably for the first time since I've coached our club we've got depth through there with a roster of guys who can really shake up the competition ... for our supporters, it is really exciting."
Melbourne haven't been helped by the absence of key back Steven May through a calf injury, leaving Harrison Petty, Jake Lever and Adam Tomlinson to man the Bulldogs' talls.