Captain Marcus Bontempelli says there is still plenty of upside left in the Western Bulldogs after they were smashed by Melbourne in the AFL grand final.
A bruised Bontempelli says the Western Bulldogs can’t afford to catastrophise and will look to move on quickly from their AFL grand-final thrashing.
The 74-point loss to Melbourne at Optus Stadium will go down as one of the more memorable capitulations in a grand final given the Bulldogs led midway through the third quarter, only to then concede 16 of the next 17 goals.
Bontempelli conceded Melbourne’s star onballers, including Norm Smith medallist Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver, had been allowed to get out the front of stoppages far too easily when the game was on the line.
The Bulldogs captain said his priority as a leader would be to keep the defeat in context and encourage his teammates to stay united.
“You have to obviously do your best to acknowledge what’s happened and be realistic and be truthful,” Bontempelli said.
“But I think the honest reflection is it just wasn’t us today, especially the second half of the game.
“There is upside, a lot of our young players played extremely well through the back half (of the season) and most of the finals really with what they were able to contribute to get us to this point.
“We acknowledge how difficult it is to make a grand final and that’s a milestone in itself. But the endeavour has to be there now, to bounce back, lick our wounds.
“No doubt this will sting for a little bit but try to make something of it.”
The Bulldogs’ trip to the historic Perth grand final had been preceded by quarantine stints and finals in Launceston, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Bontempelii, who fought valiantly to finish with 25 disposals and three goals, acknowledged the group’s resilience had been tested.
“The challenges don’t stop coming,” he said.
“This is my second year at it (as a captain) and I feel like I’ve learnt a lot across the past two years.
“You try and absorb as much as you can from today that you can use going forward…I’ve got to try my best to set the tone and set the direction.”
Bontempelli was one of nine players lining up for the Bulldogs who had played in their drought-breaking 2016 premiership.
With Melbourne still under lockdown, the Dogs will look to collectively process the defeat before returning home.
“We’ll spend a few days together here until the group splits up a little bit, people will head home and some will stay around to get some RandR and reflect on what’s been a difficult season but hopefully reflect on a lot of the good stuff,” Bontempelli said.
“That’s probably the start for us as a group, to move past this point and start to move on.”