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‘It was clear that the best thing for our football club was for Marcus to lead it’

Marcus Bontempelli has been recognised as the AFL Players’ Best Captain, presented by the Diamond Guys. Preceding skipper Easton Wood penned a piece for on what makes the Western Bulldogs’ captain so inspiring.

Words from Easton Wood

Marcus’ leadership qualities were apparent from a very early point in his career.

In his first year, he stood up in a game against the Cats in Geelong and kicked a couple of goals against the play, and that’s when we knew the kid meant business.

It soon became a matter of when, and not if, he’ll be leading the footy club.

His work ethic draws people towards him. There’s also the curiosity, and his ability to remain open-minded.

He never works for work’s sake. He’s always working to exploit a part of his game and understand it better, and try to get that incremental gain. That’s what really drives him, and that’s inspiring as a teammate around him.

Watching the best player in the team trying to get better, that pulls us all along in his wake, which is really special.

The other thing is his authenticity. He just wants the best for everyone, and he wants the best for the football club. He builds great connections and relationships with everyone.

Early days, he seemed quite comfortable talking with all the other 18, 19-year-olds, and was just as comfortable up the other end, talking with the ‘ancient’ (laughs) boys like Bob Murphy, Matty Boyd and Dale Morris.

He just seems to be able to interact with everyone, and does so in a really charismatic, but genuine manner. There’s no ego about him, despite all the accolades and the talent that he’s got.

Marcus’ leadership is headlined by his humility, a trait that Bob Murphy was also known for when he was captain.

Bob taught us those lessons about being gracious and being grateful for where you are, and if you are humble, you’re a lot more open and approachable.

Bonti’s done that naturally. It’s just how he is.

When I stood down from captaincy, I knew Marcus would be ready. You’re always thinking about what’s best for the football club, and that’s the motivating factor behind all of your decision-making. He might not have thought he was ready at that point, but he certainly was.

It was clear that the best thing for our football club was for Marcus to be leading it. He couldn’t have taken over at a more difficult time, head-on into a pandemic. But he’s attacked the captaincy in the same way he’s attacked his football. He’s curious about how to get better, he explores, he works on it, and he’s all-in.

He’s the best example to follow in our football club, by far. I keep thinking of our first, second and third-year guys that have come in and had him as their example to follow.

He’s always doing extras, and he’s not only doing them, he’s actively working with his coaches, exploring and tinkering and using vision to make his training as applicable as it can be. He does the same thing with weights and his off-season, and he brings guys along with him.

Normally players in that upper echelon of the midfield don’t need to worry about defending, but Bonti cares so immensely about being the best team player that he possibly can be.

He’s often floating back in front of packs and spoiling in the defensive 50, and when sneaky midfielders or forwards shoot out the back, he’s the one to go and join the defence. To see him do it and value it so highly, it’s just so infectious.

“He’s the best example to follow in our football club, by far.” – Easton wood on marcus bontempelli

He’s really generous in sharing his opinions and thoughts in what you can do in your own game to be better.

He just keeps raising the bar, which is inspiring for me. He’s improved every year that I’ve played with him, both on the field and off the field.

When you’re at Marcus’ level it can be taken for granted because of how successful he’s been already, but to operate at that level, it requires the utmost amount of diligence, dedication and consistency.

Ever since he’s taken over as captain, he’s been the focal point and worn it with absolute pride.

There’s a point in your career where you go from being a player for the Bulldogs to a player of the Bulldogs. Marcus had that epiphany early, and he continues to drive that.

He cares so deeply for this club because he owns it. He wants to nurture it for the betterment of all of us that are in it.