At just 20 years of age, Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli has been installed by some bookmakers ahead of Lance Franklin and Luke Parker as favourite to take home the Norm Smith medal in Saturday’s AFL grand final.
It’s a remarkable level of hype for such a young player and underscores the amount of responsibility on the gun midfielder’s shoulders as the Bulldogs look to win their first flag in 62 years.
But if Bontempelli was feeling the pinch, he wasn’t showing it at Friday’s grand final parade.
“It hasn’t really sort of changed too much for me,” Bontempelli told AAP.
“I’ve tried to keep my mindframe as simple and as normal as possible. That’s a credit to all the players, the coaches … my family, my parents and my sisters to just keep it normal.
“‘Enjoy it, enjoy the moment’ is a lot of the advice we’ve been given, so I’ll be doing my best just to do that and get to tomorrow when it comes.”
An All-Australian this season, Bontempelli’s versatility across the ground and freakish ability to step up in big moments and kick clutch goals makes him the Bulldogs’ most dangerous player heading into Saturday’s game.
He said he was pleased coach Luke Beveridge had opted against changing the side which beat Greater Western Sydney in last week’s preliminary final.
“It’s great for us as players to know the team’s not changing much,” he said.
“I’m sure if it had, you’ve got extreme confidence in the players that come in to play their role. We know that we’re going to get a contribution from 22 across the board and we never have weighted too much heavily on the individual.”