NEW captain Marcus Bontempelli won’t let his Western Bulldogs get carried away with the external hype surrounding the AFL club this year.
A strong finish to last season – barring an ignominious finals exit in week one – and a young, developing list has sent expectations soaring.
Champion Data recently rated the Bulldogs’ list second in the competition behind premiers Richmond, with Luke Beveridge’s squad boosted by the arrival of key recruits Alex Keath and Josh Bruce during the trade period.
But Bontempelli wants to keep the Dogs’ feet firmly on the ground as the evolving group seeks to emulate the one that reached the loftiest of heights in 2016.
“For now, you’re pretty focused internally on what we’re trying to work on,” Bontempelli said.
“I guess you understand that at times there’s going to be a little bit more expectation or attention from that point of view.
“If you look at it in a good way, it’s great that people rate the football club and where we’re at, but we certainly know that there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge and we’ve got to meet our own expectations first.”
The Bulldogs won eight games in the second half of last year before being thumped by grand finalists GWS in an elimination final.
Their scoring power was on full show when they averaged 115.4 points over the last five home-and-away games.
“I think we made some ground, for sure, obviously with our ability to score and influence,” Bontempelli said.
“We were probably struggling to do that earlier on in the year.
“You’ve got to kick goals to win games and it was nice to have a few where we felt like we hit our stride from a game plan and style point of view.”
While their attacking plan worked, defence was an issue at times and it has been a key focus over summer.
In the background, memories of that physical hiding from the Giants linger.
Their first meeting of 2020 comes early – in round three – and has already been circled on Bulldogs calendars as they look to implement the lessons learned from last September.
“They had a strength from a physicality point of view that we probably didn’t at the point in time and there were a number of things that came out of the game from a style point of view as well,” Bontempelli said.
“As we grow and mature as footballers and as people you understand areas where you can improve on and it’s obviously been something for us to work on throughout the pre-season, adding a physical part outside of the actual contest.”
© AAP 2020