Wednesday, February 24, 2021
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Adam Treloar trade to Western Bulldogs, Marcus Bontempelli forward, midfield squeeze, Nick Dal Santo

We could see the best of Marcus Bontempelli in 2021. Picture: Michael Willson
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Triple All-Australian Nick Dal Santo believes the tantalising midfield squeeze at the Western Bulldogs could, in fact, help the club’s captain Marcus Bontempelli become a better and more complete player in 2021.

The addition of ball magnet Adam Treloar, as well as the retainment of Josh Dunkley, means Bulldogs match committee will have a glut of midfield rotations to contend with this season.

Treloar, who was among the league’s top average disposal and contested possession winners last season, joins an on-ball brigade that also includes dual All-Australian Jack Macrae, best and fairest winner Lachie Hunter, top-10 draftee Bailey Smith and premiership player Tom Liberatore.

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Bontempelli, a triple All-Australian and triple best and fairest, has shown glimpses of his potential as a forward – he averaged over one goal per game between 2016 and 2018 – but has been used more as a centre bounce player over the past two seasons.

Speaking to foxfooty.com.au, Dal Santo urged Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge to send Bontempelli into the attacking arc more often in 2021, or even play him as a permanent forward, following the acquisition of Treloar.

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“We’ve said for years now ‘we wish the Dogs had two Marcus Bontempelli’s’, because he’s so good forward and such a hard match-up but they need him in the midfield,” Dal Santo told foxfooty.com.au. “Well when you bring in a guy like Treloar – and yes he doesn’t kick it like Marcus but he gets it more than Marcus does and burst away speed from a pack Marcus doesn’t have – you think ‘OK, they can afford to have Marcus go forward more often’, either as a permanent forward or that drifting forward.”

The impending midfield squeeze at the Dogs comes just months after Dunkley requested a trade to Essendon – a wish that, ultimately, wasn’t granted – as he wanted to spend more time as an inside midfielder.

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While the Dogs are thrilled Dunkley is still at the club, it means competition for on-ball spots will be now be fiercer in 2021.

But Dal Santo said the prospect of having more team success would hopefully be the playing group’s top priority.

“There’s always unhappy midfielders, whether you’ve got really good ones or not,” he said. “There’s always multiple players on your list that are missing out on a game or playing on a flank or on the wing when they really think they should be inside midfielders.

Marcus Bontempelli and Bailey Smith of the Bulldogs. Picture: Daniel PockettSource: Getty Images

“But let’s be glass half-full, because the Bulldogs’ depth runs as deep as anybody in the midfield. To be able to bring in Treloar and Josh Dunkley, then you’ve got Marcus Bontempelli leading from the front plus ‘Libba’, Macrae, Hunter, Bailey Smith – if you’re an opposition player or coach, you’ve got some headaches.

“I’d love to think that instead of someone being disappointed that they’re not in the midfield, all of a sudden they’re thinking the collective looks good.

“I’ve been involved in teams where people are happy to be playing half-forward or in a pocket – because you’re winning every week. You’re not getting paid the same money that you could be somewhere else, but you’re winning every week and all of a sudden you don’t care.

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“Ross Lyon used to say: ‘It’s amazing what can be achieved when no one cares who gets the credit.’ So I’m bullish on the Bulldogs, I like what they’ve put together.”

Many eyes will be on Beveridge this season and how he can harness the Bulldogs’ individual on-ball talent and create team success.

But Dal Santo said it was just as much incumbent on the Bulldogs’ leadership group for keeping the entire list accountable.

Captain and vice-captain: Marcus Bontempelli and Mitch Wallis. Picture: Dylan BurnsSource: Getty Images

“I know Marcus well and I know a handful of the other guys a little bit in passing, but I think the leadership group as has much responsibility at that club in regards to training standards, accountability, fluctuations in games – that can be controlled with your preparation and everything that goes into it,” he said.

“I think there’s a lot of senior players that need to take responsibility. I don’t know how they take ownership of it, but at some stage they should be praised for the way that they’re going. But on the other hand, being mentioned for not pulling their weight and not getting this group to where they should be.”



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