Bont forward? Blight thinks Dogs skipper could kick more than 50 goals a season

Marcus Bontempelli could become the 50-goal forward the Western Bulldogs are craving if he played as a permanent forward, according to AFL Legend Malcolm Blight.

The Bulldogs are weighing up how best to deploy the quality midfielders on their list, and the skipper is prepared to have a crack at the role. His coach Luke Beveridge joked last year that Bontempelli would win the Coleman Medal if he played inside 50 full-time.

Moving forward? Marcus Bontempelli is open to a stint up front.Credit:Getty Images

The 25-year-old has been a three-time All-Australian midfielder but at 193 centimetres and with good aerial skills he could be a dangerous weapon forward, particularly with teammates Jack Macrae, Bailey Smith, Adam Treloar, Josh Dunkley, Lachie Hunter and Tom Liberatore in the midfield.

“I am incredibly open to [playing forward],” Bontempelli said.

“It’s something I have enjoyed doing in the past.”

Blight, who won the 1982 Coleman Medal, coached Adelaide to back-to-back premierships with midfielder Darren Jarman playing forward.



Blight says the idea could work as Bontempelli has the class and physical attributes to be successful.

“To make the switch I always felt you had to be a two-sided player. He is a mighty fine player and ‘Bont’ can actually go on his right foot … when he is under pressure I have seen him do that.

“Can he play in there? Of course he can.”

Asked whether Bontempelli could kick more than 50 goals in a season, Blight didn’t hesitate in saying he was capable, particularly if rule changes quicken ball movement.

However Blight cautioned that some midfielders struggled to make the mental adjustment required to shift, so that would be the main challenge for Bontempelli.

“If that is the case his form will drop off because he will beat himself up a bit,” Blight said.

“It takes a rare breed to do it so you have to put your patient hat on.”

Bontempelli agreed the opposition may find it hard to match up on him if they were occupied with key forwards Aaron Naughton and Josh Bruce and ruckman Tim English and said the most likely scenario was for him to move forward if the game demanded it.

“Hopefully all three of them are going well and I manage to get a smaller opponent that might suit me,” Bontempelli said.

“It may be something match-up-based seeing how we are going going in and what opportunities there may be for us going in.”

Bontempelli said Bulldogs players were expected to be versatile under premiership coach Luke Beveridge and players had embraced the possibilities that having a deep midfield presented.

“I like the conversations that are being had,” Bontempelli said.

“I like the way the boys are approaching the challenge of playing a different position.”

Although Bontempelli has never kicked more than four goals in a match and his set-shot accuracy can be inconsistent, his presence when pushing forward has been evident since he famously outbodied former Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge in the 2016 semi-final, a moment that signalled the end of the Hawks’ premiership era.

Since Beveridge arrived as coach, Jake Stringer (now with Essendon) is the only player to kick 50 goals in a season. The former Bulldog kicked 52 goals in 2015. Mitch Wallis won the goalkicking last season with 25 goals in 18 games.

Round one will also give the Bulldogs a chance to improve their recent form against top-eight teams, with the club only winning one of their eight games against finalists in 2020 (they haven’t beaten Collingwood since 2017).

Bontempelli said the club was well aware it had been off the pace in recent seasons.

“Obviously we have got a fair bit to do. We need to beat teams higher up the ladder … that will be our challenge this year of being able to produce our best footy for longer and especially against the top teams,” Bontempelli said.

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