AFL Round 15 – Western Bulldogs v Melbourne: Bontempelli’s Dream



Western Bulldogs versus Melbourne
1.10 pm, Sunday, 29th June
Etihad Stadium


The hardest part of writing this report was selecting the best title for a weekend of football where I saw three Footscray teams in action.

One of my favourite Australian authors Alan Marshall used to stress the need for a stand-out title when submitting short-stories to newspapers and magazines. Something to catch the eye of the editor as he ploughs through the piles of work submitted by hopeful writers.

My weekend started at Kardinia Park to watch the Footscray Bulldogs play North Ballarat. It was also the venue to catch up with my school-friend after finding each other after fifty years. Freezing cold and a very poor match but the Bulldogs won and the team now sits second on the VFL ladder. So far so good for my footy extravaganza.

We were like two old diggers meeting after the war but instead of reliving campaigns on the Western Front we remarked more on surviving the wind and the rain and the sleet on the terraces at the Western Oval. It was amazing how many landmark matches we had seen at Footscray without knowing each other were there. Games such as Ted Whitten’s last match in 1970 and the last ever match at the Western Oval in 1997.

My first thought for a title as I surveyed the re-vamped Kardinia Park was ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’  named after the cult comedy movie. It just had a nice ring to it rather than an expectation  that one of us was going to die, only to be propped up in the seat and every time the Bulldogs kicked a goal the deceased would have his hands worked into a clapping motion by his friend.

Also because we were talking about football in the good old days of 1950’s and 60’s, I thought of Bernie Smith, the Brownlow Medalist back-pocket who starred at this very venue when it was a park rather than a stadium.  A bit of a long bow and segue for a title I know, but I was suffering from hyperthermia and my mind was wandering.

On Sunday I travelled what was a short distance for me from Geelong to Etihad Stadium, otherwise known by the non-commercial name of ‘The Dome’.

Still not completely thawed out from sitting in the outer at Kardinia Park, the next title that seeped into my addled brain was ‘Under Gillon’s Dome’. I was thinking of the Stephen King story which involves the New England townsfolk suddenly trapped within a huge dome-like structure. As usual with Stephen King, his stories are about ordinary people who do extraordinary things…especially when the food starts to run out and the propane for heating has been secreted away by the town baddies.

So entering the AFL dome I looked for parallels with the novel. Ordinary supporters thrust together by the AFL, representing two teams at about the same level on the ladder with their resolve to be tested when one of them fails.

The first stage of their hideous experiment was to stage a contest between two female teams representing Footscray and Melbourne just to mess with the supporters’ minds, while men in white-coats and carrying clip-boards took notes on the crowd reaction. The match was of such a high quality and the crowd was so appreciative, the McLachlan experiment failed badly.

When the main event was ready to start the two supporting groups were quiet and subdued wondering what the next test would be, not unlike the participants in the ‘Hunger Games’. Most of the crowd was distinguished by red, white and blue colours and the rest had chosen some sort of apre-ski outfits in burgundy with a dash of blue.

Getting back to concentrating on the match and leaving possible titles for Almanac reports aside, the Bulldogs made a good start with the sweet and piously named debutant Mitch Honeychurch kicking his first goal. But already the talls of Melbourne were causing problems both on the forward- line and back-line.  It would take the vertically – challenged but courage- personified Dale Morris to continually save the day once again.

Bulldog supporters know not to get carried away with a fourteen-point lead and we had every reason to brace ourselves for the Demon comeback and that particular quarter where our team goes missing. It happened towards the end of the second quarter and during the start of the third quarter. But the young Dogs must have been drilled into how to combat these run-ons by the opposition because they refused to be blown away and were only one point down at three-quarter time.

The fourth quarter struggle between the two teams looked like ending in a draw. I started to wish for at least a one-point victory so the long trip home to the country would be bearable.

Enter Marcus Bontempelli,  the young eighteen year-old. The player that I no longer have to check how to spell his name.

Because the Bulldogs were kicking to the Footscray end and I was seated at the other end, I missed the close-up of his heroics. I can’t remember his second-last goal but I rose up with the rest of the Bulldog crowd when he kicked the last and winning goal. I got my close-up of ‘that goal’ several times when I got home and watched the replay.

Best of all as I walked out of the dome barely noticing the tropical down-pour, I had my title for the Almanac report. Bontempelli’s Dream. It just sounded right. A bit lyrical perhaps, but representing his dream of kicking the winning goal and the Bulldog supporters’ dream of recruiting someone with a very special talent.


Western Bulldogs   4.1  7.4  10.4  14.7  (91)
Melbourne  1.3  3.4  10.5  13.7  (85)


Western Bulldogs:  Stringer 4, Bontempelli 2, Crameri 2, Dahlhaus, Hunter, Boyd, Honeychurch,
Higgins, Minson.
Melbourne: Jamar 3, Dawes 2, Grimes 2, Vince, Pedersen, Viney, Watts, Gawn, Jetta


Western Bulldogs:  Boyd, Bontempelli, Dahlhaus, Wallis, Stringer, Murphy, Higgins
Melbourne:  Howe, Vince, Watts, Grimes, Frawley, Jetta

Umpires Mollison, Chamberlain, Harris

Official crowd 24,953

Our Votes 3 Boyd (WB)  2 Wallis(WB)  1 Bontempelli (WB)


Fast forward to April 2023:

Neil recalls, ‘It was quite a weekend for me. Firstly watching Footscray (VFL) playing at Geelong, the Bulldogs women’s team at Docklands and then the beginning of a future superstar’s career. Marcus Bontempelli. I also met up with a friend from primary school I hadn’t seen for over fifty years. Two years later we were able to enjoy the premiership together. It was one of the worst years for the Bulldogs in 2014 (departure of captain and coach) so the heroics of Marcus Bontempelli gave us a glimmer of hope for the next year. Bont and new coach Beveridge got us into the finals in 2015 and expectations for success took off.’


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About Neil Anderson

Enjoys reading and writing about the Western Bulldogs. Instead of wondering if the second premiership will ever happen, he can now bask in the glory of the 2016 win.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Neil, wonderful story, good title and fantastic to have young men who bring joy to the Doggie faithful (and hangers on-ers).

    Well done


  2. Bob Speechley says

    I call Bontempelli “THE GOODTIME KID” which is a very rought translation of his name. A possible title for your piece could be “The Goodtime Kid Arrives”. Hopefully it’s an omen for the Doggies – they definitely could do with a return to better days.

  3. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Yvette. It’s amazing how one goal against fellow battlers can make you forget for a while about the lack of success over the years.
    Bob, as usual for me I’m always trying to come up with the perfect headline. A bit like Sam the Sub on the Coodabeens. I wish I’d known about the translation of his name.
    Bontempelli sounds like he should be a Renaissance painter, so perhaps something like, ‘ The Classical Art Of Goal-Kicking By Marcus Bontempelli’.

  4. Hi Neil, great story – I guess you ended up having a great weekend. Bontempelli’s goal was a cracker, pity you weren’t closer to the live action. I like the headline you ran with.

  5. Thanks for the review Neil. It was another weird day watching the Doggies. Who’s have thought we’d be freezing wtching them under a closed roof.
    Bontempelli’s flourish was fantastic. Dahlhaus’ first half outstanding. Wood good. Reckon Boyd’s getting plaudits from Dreamteam/stats slaves – he slaughtered the footy.

  6. Neil, I love the concept that even after we die, family might prop us up in the aisle and clap our corpse hands. I’m sure that is my fate, and I don’t even mind.

    And what a wonderful and apt translation of The Bont’s name. This kid is going to be something very special.

    I’m so glad you got to see this match. It’s a shame you didn’t get a bird’s eye view of THAT goal. We had the perfect spot to watch it unfold and I still can’t believe it happened.

    And on a morning where Nick Kyrios is the name on everyone’s lips, your title strikes a chord. Dreams, really can come true, and The Bont, as I’ve just posted in the Almanac, could be the guy to bring us that flag we’ve waited so long for (no pressure, kid).

  7. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks again Kerri. I hope ‘The Bont’ nickname sticks as long as Marcus agrees. It sounds a bit abrupt but very Australian as in ‘go the Bont you good thing! God we’re excited about this beautiful ray of hope aren’t we!
    To top it all off, listening to him speak after the match (barely puffing mind you) he was so impressive. Move over Chris Grant…we have ourselves a new humble champion.
    Also Kerri, seeing the Leunig cartoon reminded me that my old school buddy went to High School with him and I would have to if I had stayed in Footscray. Missed it by that much…

  8. Hayden Kelly says

    it’s still a good read . 2014 was a horrible season for us with the only glimmer of hope some promising kids Bont Stringer and McCrae indicating they had a future ahead of them . Recall walking out of the Melbourne game and saying to my mate ‘ Bontempelli is going to be ok ‘ Think i missed the mark a tad as i should have said ‘one day we will be arguing as to whether Bont or EJ was the best player ever to pull on a Dogs jumper ‘
    I am looking forward to going and watching his 200th on Saturday with my 2 grandkids wearing their number 4 guernseys .

  9. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Hayden. It would be good if we all say we were prophetic about the Bont. But it was an easy vision. None of us were predicting that glorious premiership would occur in two years and get the nostradamus award.

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