Marcus Bontempelli looms as Western Bulldogs’ trump card in finals, with coach Luke Beveridge declaring the wunderkind should be regarded as one of the AFL’s best midfielders.
Bontempelli continues to find new ways to impress and amaze.
On Friday night it was a monumental third quarter from the 20-year-old, which allowed the Bulldogs to escape with a three-point win over Collingwood at Etihad Stadium.
Bontempelli was kept quiet in the first half by tagger Levi Greenwood but helped himself to 12 touches in the third term, setting up a couple of goals and kicking one himself.
“I often think about the very best midfielders in the competition, who are the real match-winners. In a very short space of time he’s become one,” Beveridge said.
“At the tender age of 20 it’s a real feather in his cap.
“I’m blown away … how can you not admire the way he’s going about it?
“He’s had an enormous year and when you think of the changes in our midfield in recent times, for a 20-year-old to be leading the way in there is quite sensational.”
Beveridge noted Bontempelli is still learning to deal with the close checking that comes with being his team’s most potent player.
“He’s working with all of us to do things for the team when he’s in that situation,” he said.
“His high-water mark that he’s reached in recent times, well he continues to want the tide to come in a little bit higher.
“I thought he got close to some of his best stuff (against the Magpies).”
Beveridge added there was no need to give the 57-gamer a “rev up” at halftime.
“He’ll do it off his own bat,” he said.
“Marcus really lifted us in that third quarter.”
Beveridge, who also praised Liam Picken’s shutdown job on Steele Sidebottom, had mixed feelings after the nail-biting triumph over Collingwood.
“It (winning) shows a lot of resilience … it’s a really important win.
“I didn’t like the volume of ball and the openness of the plays that our defenders had to defend. We’re normally better at that .. it’s something we’ll need to correct.”
With games against Essendon and Fremantle to follow before September, Beveridge’s sixth-placed side are well placed to clamber further up the ladder.