Round 22 – North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: The sublime art of Marcus Bonticelli

North Melbourne versus Western Bulldogs

4.35 pm, Saturday, 29th August

Etihad Stadium


Neil Anderson


The Sublime Art of Marcus Bonticelli

Brendan McCartney’s recognition for his brief stint coaching the Bulldogs is starting to fade as his old team goes from strength to strength in 2015. He can blame his successor the Renaissance-man Luke Beveridge who receives all the plaudits and rave reviews in the press. It will surely go into over-drive now the Bulldogs are playing finals football.

Brendan McCartney laid some basic foundations for the Bulldogs’ success. Winning the contested ball first and then somehow getting it down to the forward-line was a good starting point, but there was never any plan-B if that failed. To be fair he had no in-form forwards available to finish of the good work done by the mid-fielders at that time.

His team was playing robotic unadventurous football and they were not enjoying it.

McCartney was like a conservative art-teacher teaching first-year painting. It was a case of OK boys we’ll start with some charcoal-sketches and I want you to make sure you use your rulers to get everything into perspective.

He’d wonder why young Stringer and the new boy Marcus would be staring out the window looking at the footy-oval and why the curly-haired Wallis boy was looking depressed about preparing to do the same old thing for yet another year.

The teacher had taken away any room for flair and creativity in his pursuit for getting the basics right. He had misjudged the personalities of half his class who possessed those creative skills and therefore he alienated them.

While the teacher wanted to start with basic still-life drawings of flowers in vases, his students longed for the freedom to paint like Jackson Pollock who used the more unorthodox methods of dripping, dabbing and smearing paint onto canvas.

Enter Master Painter Luke Beveridge using the same philosophy as Mister Keating in Dead Poets Society. Telling his boys to rip out the text that taught painting by formula and just paint from the heart.

So the class of 2015 is unshackled and free to create their own destiny as they face the Kangaroos today. It won’t be easy against a team that has won seven in a row including top-of-the ladder Fremantle. The bookies also have the Kangaroos as favourites.

The biggest hurdle for the Bulldogs to overcome is the three tall Kangaroo forwards in Petrie, Brown and Waite, not to mention the expected dominance of Goldstein in the ruck.

The first quarter was all about defence for both sides leading to a disappointing unattractive start to the match. As predicted, Brown and Petrie easily reached over packs and marked with Petrie kicking the first goal. Tarrant marked everything on the back-line finding good form late in the season and the only goal for the Bulldogs was kicked by Roughead out of a pack.

The Bulldogs lifted their intensity in the second quarter but veteran Kangaroos Harvey and Petrie looked damaging. Hunter and Stringer kicked points and it was up to newcomer Honeychurch to steady and goal. The highlight of the second quarter was Macrae running flat out towards goal and letting rip with a kick of about forty metres at a right-angle, finding Dickson directly in front of goal.

The pressure increased for both sides in the third quarter with neither side really opening up a big lead. Higgins being booed didn’t stop him from getting an easy goal when the ball went over the back of the pack. The first of two he would get that way. Another arm-wrestling quarter instead of free-flowing and high scoring, with the Bulldogs only eleven points ahead at three-quarter time.

The intensity lifted for the Bulldogs in the last quarter and they showed no signs of fatigue after coming back from Perth with only a six-day break.

The combination of creative coaching (Stringer bursting towards goal from the back of the square) and the players given permission to take the game on (back-line players Johannisen and Biggs kicking goals) led to a twenty-three point victory to the Bulldogs.

The artist formerly known as ‘The Bont’ epitomised what it means to play unfettered creative football. I cannot remember seeing him kick the ball backwards. He and Stringer broke tackles and willed the ball forward at all times and the rest of their team-mates felt obliged to be part of the surge towards goal.

Bontempelli with his Renaissance-artist name could well be a gifted artist in the twenty-first century, albeit in a sporting sense. If he does take up the fine art of portrait-painting, Bulldog supporters will be queuing up to buy an original ‘Bont’ to hang above their fireplace.

Find more creative sports stories from our many Almanac writers at

Western Bulldogs   1.3 5.5 7.10 14.12 96

North Melbourne   1.5 3.8 5.11 10.13 73


Western Bulldogs: Dickson, Crameri, Honeychurch, Johannisen, Biggs 2, Stringer, Roughead, Picken, Bontempelli

North Melbourne: Waite, Higgins, Petrie 3, Harvey.


Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Hunter, Wallis, Dahlhaus, Roughead, Stringer, Murphy, Macrae, M. Boyd

North Melbourne: Tarrant, Swallow, Goldstein, Higgins, Petrie, Thompson

Umpires: Dalgleish, Findlay, Rosebury

Official crowd: 37,299

Our Votes: 3 Bontempelli (WB) 2 Hunter (WB) 1 Stringer (WB)






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. Great stuff Neil. Bont turned the game from about 10mins in to the 2nd quarter – we’d been lucky not to have been 5 or 6 goals down. Morris remains the only defender who plays body-on-body. Biggs finds it but turns it over. Roo recruit Higgins only got softies over the back and other import Del Santo looked awful. North need all guns blazing or they’ll be straight out. Dogs should just blast away and see what happens.

  2. Neil- great read which captures the pace and irresistible energy of your Bulldogs. A final against the Crows promises to be a fast and high scoring belter. Stringer and The Bont. Even better than Morecambe and Wise!

    Thanks for this.

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Bonts, Stringer, Wallis, Honeychurch, Johanisson, Hunter etc etc.

    Exciting time ahead.

  4. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks for the comments.
    Crio: I’m still a fan of Biggs although he has occasionally turned the ball over. Unfortunately Murph has done that as well but it’s far outweighed by all the good stuff he does.
    I like your statement that the Dogs should blast away and see what happens. I’ll go with that thought into the finals. It will be interesting to see the lineup for the AFL and VFL teams on the weekend.
    Mickey: Possible talk of playing the Crows in the finals is enough to send Bulldog supporters back into therapy!
    I was trying to think of a better duo than Morcambe and Wise. Something a bit more dynamic and recognizable for the under 50’s. The most famous dynamic duo was Batman and Robin so I’ll settle for them.
    Andrew When you list those emerging stars for the Bulldogs the future does look bright. Just a bit more recruiting of the key-position players and they should be right.

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