SAID it three weeks ago on AFL Daily, now doubling down in print – Bont is the best Bulldog of the modern era, quite possibly the best ever Bulldog. Already, at just 25.
Yes, there will be those in the Teddy Whitten, Chris Grant, Dougy Hawkins, John Schultz and Brad Johnson camps uneasy with that early call, but even before this 2021 season where a Brownlow Medal is now looming as yet another personal accolade, it was impossible to totally dismiss Marcus Bontempelli from such status.
While Bont's achievements and numbers in just seven and a half seasons place him prominently in such discussion, it is actually the intangibles which make the strongest case for him. His presence on a football field, his ability to dispose of the ball cleanly and his durability is peerless.
THINGS WE LEARNED Lions love beauty of The Beast
On Saturday night against St Kilda, Bontempelli booted four goals in his side's 111-point win. He's on track for a career high goal tally, his 15 from 10 matches coming at a better strike rate than his previous season-best outcome of 26 from 26 matches in the premiership year of 2016.
In all seven of his completed AFL seasons, Bontempelli has received a personal gong, from being an incredibly unlucky runner-up to Lewis Taylor as the 2014 Rising Star through to three All-Australian jackets (2016, 2019, 2020), and three best-and-fairests (2016, 2017, 2019). Since 2015, when he placed third in club champion voting in his second season, he has never finished lower than third in that count. He has been permanent captain since 2020, and was the youngest ever to captain a VFL/AFL team when he filled in for Bob Murphy and Easton Wood in 2016, a premiership winning season.
And on that Grand Final win that year, if you ever get the chance to watch it again, please pay close attention to his flawless 22-disposal, six-clearance, seven-tackle, nine hitout game of the then-20-year-old. Jason Johannisen, Tom Boyd and Liam Picken were outstanding, but a retrospective case could be mounted for Bontempelli as a Norm Smith Medal winner.
With 155 matches behind him, Bontempelli is not even halfway to Whitten's 321, and more than 200 short of Johnson (364). But since playing 16 of a possible 22 in his first season, he has missed just five since, and none since 2018.
Game No.156 will see him leading his ladder leading side under Friday night lights in arguably the most anticipated match of 2021, against second placed Melbourne. Michael Hibberd, who did the near-impossible and nullified Dustin Martin in round six, looms as Bont's next immediate challenge.
Match Review continues to confuse
ACCIDENTS happen on a football field. That's the danger of the game, always has been, and anyone who plays it signs up to that being the case.
Two players were badly hurt in round 10 incidents, Hawthorn's Jaeger O'Meara after a collision with Carlton's Lachie Plowman and Geelong's Mitch Duncan after being tackled by Sun Nick Holman.
I have long argued the AFL's Match Review Office has been way too lenient in its adjudications of incidents involving head contact, but I am staggered that on Sunday night it managed to slap both Plowman and Holman with two-game bans.
Plowman apparently made "careless contact" with O'Meara. That's not what I saw, and neither did the officiating umpire who didn't even pay a free kick. Plowman spoilt the ball, and braced for his own protection.
As for Holman, who ran down Duncan with pace to lay a tackle … the MRO said it too was "careless contact". Again, I didn't see it that way. Nor did the officiating umpire, who paid a free kick – to Holman.
So the umpires have different views to the MRO. That’s a problem. The tribunal, too, seems to regularly have different views to the MRO. Bailey Fritsch and Tarryn Thomas have both recently had MRO bans overturned. That too is a problem.
At the end of the season, time for a complete overhaul of the match review office system.
What's with the constant whinging, Dimma?
THEY sold themselves as "Hungry and Humble", the Tigers, in last year's Amazon Making Their Mark documentary series.
They might still be hungry, and will certainly need to be after falling to 5-5 following a round 10 loss to Brisbane. But they're not humble. Well, at the very least, the coach isn't presenting himself and his club in such a manner.
Damien Hardwick seems to be at war with AFL headquarters at the moment. For no reason. Last week it was "I hate Marvel Stadium" and on Friday night he somehow managed to whinge about umpires at half-time of the Lions game at the Gabba. In another era of AFL administration, think Ian Collins and even Andrew Demetriou, and in other major sports around the world, Hardwick would have been sanctioned for his negative comments.
Surely he is on a final chance.
Saints back in no man's land
JUST 12 matches ago, St Kilda recorded a courageous elimination final win against the team now favourite to win the 2021 premiership.
In 11 matches since, the Saints have lost seven, the latest by a disastrous 111 points on Saturday night to the team it knocked out of the 2020 series, Western Bulldogs. The Dogs have lost just one of their subsequent 10 games post the finals loss.
The little surge of last season was another false St Kilda dawn. There will be no finals appearance this year. Of the six losses in 2021, four have been by nine goals or more – Bulldogs (111, round 10), Port Adelaide (54, round six), Richmond (86, round five) and Essendon (75, round three).
Injuries have contributed to the demise, with Jade Gresham again missing, along with Rowan Marshall and Zak Jones.
There is no spark in the 2021 Saints. They play the hapless North Melbourne next Saturday.