WESTERN Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli has urged Jamarra Ugle-Hagan to talk his way through his challenges as the much-hyped teenager fights for an opportunity at AFL level.
Ugle-Hagan has been under an intense spotlight since long before the Bulldogs matched Adelaide's bid to select the talented forward with the No.1 pick at last year's NAB AFL Draft.
The 19-year-old has impressed in the VFL, kicking eight goals in three matches, but is yet to break into a Dogs senior team that was unbeaten until last week's 22-point loss to reigning premier Richmond.
Bontempelli entered the AFL in similar circumstances to Ugle-Hagan, as a young prodigy who was taken with pick No.4 in the 2013 draft before making his debut in round five the following season.
"I check in with him pretty regularly because it is tough," Bontempelli said on Tuesday.
"He's the No.1 draft pick and coming in with plenty of attention.
"Continuing to voice your thinking and your feelings is important and you've got to have outlets with people you can talk to about the challenges that you face.
"As one of his mates and as captain of the footy club I'll always be that for him, and he knows that."
Ugle-Hagan was named as an emergency for the Richmond game, indicating he is edging closer to senior selection.
He will likely be in consideration for Sunday's round eight clash with Carlton at Marvel Stadium but the possible return of Tim English from concussion could play a role in extending Ugle-Hagan's wait.
"I feel like he is (handling it fine), but he's probably like any athlete, he probably wants to be ahead of where they are and he's hungry to succeed," Bontempelli said.
"He came in with a bit of a rush and wanted to display a bit of an influence early but sometimes it just doesn't go to plan.
"Sometimes they're good lessons to learn early in your career because they do help you as you progress, going through those challenging experiences.
"There's no doubt he'll be better for it as a player."
Bontempelli said the Bulldogs were disappointed with the loss to competition benchmark Richmond, but took lessons from the performance.
The Dogs sit second on the ladder with a 6-1 record.
"It has been a relatively strong run of form and you've got to continue to ride the positive wave, while also learning on the fly," Bontempelli said.