Jamarra Ugle-Hagan celebrates kicking a goal during the match between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium in round 16, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

WESTERN Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli has brushed off concerns over a back injury to play a key role in his side's comfortable 17-point victory over North Melbourne.

Struck down by back spasms at training mid-week, Bontempelli passed a late fitness test and was outstanding in the Bulldogs' 11.11 (77) to 9.6 (60) victory at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.

KANGAROOS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats

The inspirational skipper had 35 disposals and 11 clearances as the Dogs moved back to a positive ledger (8-7) in pursuit of a finals berth.


Cody Weightman kicked a game-high three goals, taking his tally to six in two games on return from an elbow injury, while Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Aaron Naughton and Adam Treloar kicked two each.

Tom Liberatore (25 disposals), Ed Richards (21) and Ryley Sanders (21) were also influential for the Bulldogs.


Rory Lobb was another impressive performer, moved to defence to accommodate returning key forwards Naughton and Sam Darcy.

A ruck-forward throughout his 11 seasons, Lobb snared 12 intercept possessions and worked well alongside regular full-back Liam Jones in the absence of injured pair Alex Keath and Ryan Gardner.

Jones was a brick wall, holding Kangaroos spearhead Nick Larkey scoreless from just five disposals.


North tagger Will Phillips did well to limit the damage of Treloar, who cashed in on mistakes from other Kangaroos to kick his goals and finished with 22 disposals.

Harry Sheezel (27 disposals), Bailey Scott (22) and Darcy Tucker (30) were all busy in a losing cause, while Cam Zurhaar and Paul Curtis kicked two goals each.


Naughton marked his return from a knee injury with the opening goal before Ugle-Hagan and Curtis traded brilliant snaps from opposite pockets.


The Bulldogs led by nine points at the first break - 4.4 to 3.1 - before kicking the only goal of a dour second quarter through Darcy, keeping their opponents scoreless in the process.

The lead grew to 38 points as the Dogs kicked four of the first five goals after half-time, and they held on despite the Kangaroos' late burst of three consecutive goals during the final term.


The Bulldogs face a big test away to Port Adelaide in round 17, while North Melbourne hosts Gold Coast.

Underdone Bontempelli does as he pleases
With Adam Treloar copping a Will Phillips tag, Marcus Bontempelli was let loose and he certainly made the most of his right to roam. The skipper did as he pleased, amassing 35 disposals and 11 clearances (both game-highs) along with six marks and six score involvements. Had he hit the scoreboard in the right way – he kicked 0.3 – his output would have been truly destructive. The 28-year-old was almost a non-starter after hurting his back in an incident at training during the week, but he passed a late fitness test ahead of the game and clearly showed no ill-effects of the injury.

Roos' curious sub call
North defender Zac Fisher appeared to limp to the bench in the third quarter and went straight to the back row, with sub Dylan Stephens immediately coming into the game. The club insisted it was purely a tactical move to take Fisher off, however to that stage, the 26-year-old was the their leading possession winner with 22 touches. It was yet another surprising substitute decision from the Roos, who elected to remove Will Phillips a fortnight ago despite him shutting down Nick Daicos for three quarters.

A Xerri good day out
Kangaroos ruckman Tristan Xerri is having quite the year, and Saturday's outing was yet another strong showing from the big man. Coming up against All-Australian ruck Tim English, Xerri certainly had the better of the duel. He won the hitout count 34-25 and finished with 20 touches (13 contested), five clearances, five marks and six tackles to be arguably his side's best performer in yet another close loss.

NORTH MELBOURNE            3.1     3.1     6.3        9.6 (60)  
WESTERN BULLDOGS           4.4     5.8    10.10     11.11 (77)

North Melbourne: Curtis 2, Zurhaar 2, Ford, Sheezel, Taylor, Teakle, Xerri
Western Bulldogs:
Weightman 3, Naughton 2, Treloar 2, Ugle-Hagan 2, Darcy, Liberatore

North Melbourne: Xerri, Sheezel, Tucker, Ford, Curtis, Zurhaar
Western Bulldogs:
Bontempelli, Liberatore, Willams, Lobb, Jones, Weightman

North Melbourne: Nil
Western Bulldogs:
Duryea (foot), Vandermeer (ankle)

North Melbourne: Dylan Stephens (replaced Zac Fisher in the third quarter)
Western Bulldogs: Oskar Baker (replaced Taylor Duryea in the third quarter)

Crowd: 27,005 at Marvel Stadium