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Young skipper Bontempelli breaks new ground

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 05: Acting captain Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs thanks fans during the 2016 AFL Round 11 match between the Western Bulldogs and the West Coast Eagles at Etihad Stadium on June 5, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Marcus Bontempelli led the Bulldogs to a fine win over the Eagles as stand-in skipper

YOUNG Western Bulldogs midfielder Marcus Bontempelli created a record when he led the team to victory as stand-in skipper against West Coast on Sunday at Etihad Stadium.

At 20 years and 194 days of age, he became the youngest captain in the game's history to lead a VFL/AFL team to victory.

And Bontempelli, playing his 48th game, did indeed lead the Bulldogs to the eight-point victory, collecting 30 possessions (21 contested), including some vital touches when the game was tight.

It means the Bulldogs now have two titles when it comes to the youngest captains in VFL/AFL history, with former Bulldog and Fitzroy champion Bernie Quinlan being the youngest ever stand-in skipper. 

He stood in as leader in round 18, 1971 aged 20 years and nine days but the Bulldogs went down to Carlton by 30 points. 

'The Bont' was given the role after regular stand-in captain Easton Wood was a late withdrawal due to hamstring tightness. 

Wood is filling the role in the absence of appointed skipper Robert Murphy, who is out for the season with a knee injury. 

Although Bontempelli is unlikely to lose the quirky record any time soon, he might not hold the title as acting captain for long.

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says a rotation policy is in place if Wood is unavailable. 

"We've had [Dale Morris] as acting captain and had a win, and Bonty today, and even though Matty Boyd's had a go before as permanent captain it's probably his turn next time. He's got a bit to live up to," Beveridge said.

Poor old Matthew Boyd doesn't have a chance in matching Bontempelli in the AFL captaincy history books. 

According to the official AFL statistician, eight players have been younger than Bontempelli when acting captain but all have played in losing teams on the day.

Bontempelli is understood to have taken the title previously held by Melbourne's Hughie Odgers, who led Melbourne to victory in 1911 after Vin Coutie retired.

Odgers had earlier led Melbourne in round three, 1910 but Carlton defeated his team by 33 points.


University's Lester Kelly, who led his team aged 20 years and 149 days, has the unwanted record of playing the most games (40) without a win.

The youngest official captain in AFL history was current Melbourne's Jack Trengove, who was skipper at 20 years and 211 days old when he led the team in round one, 2012.

Coincidentally Trengove made his return to senior football this round having not played a senior game since round two, 2014, three weeks before Bontempelli made his debut in round five, 2014.

 Youngest stand-in captains
20 9 Bernie Quinlan Footscray 18 1971
20 10 Trent Cotchin Richmond 4 2010
20 13 Graham Arthur Hawthorn 10 1956
20 43 Geoff Moriarity Fitzroy 3 1900
20 65 Bob Kingston South Melbourne 18 1964
20 149 Lester Kelly University 12 1912
20 150 Hughie Odgers Melbourne 3 1910
20 194 Marcus Bontempelli Western Bulldogs 11 2016

Meanwhile, Bontempelli's hot form has propelled him into the top five of the Schick AFL Player Ratings for the first time in his career, displacing Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury.

His success in the rankings can be explained by his well-rounded game. 

Since the start of 2015, he is in the top third of the competition's midfielders for contested possessions, goals, tackles and metres gained per disposal.

Only five other players meet those benchmarks: Gary Ablett (132nd), Patrick Dangerfield (second), Joel Selwood (10th), Dayne Zorko (13th) and Jack Ziebell (100th). 

The Bulldog's goalkicking accuracy (11 goals, five behinds) also sets him apart.

A deeper look into the numbers show Bontempelli converts scoring attempts at close to six per cent better than would be expected based on the difficulty of those shots.