Western Bulldogs Marcus Bontempelli vs Melbourne Demons Christian Petracca, who will win the Bulls’ clash?
Bontempelli is 194 centimeters tall and weighs 85 kilograms; big enough to have been a key position when Roos played for Fitzroy and Sydney. But he’s spent more time in midfield in the preseason when the Bulldogs developed a marker-based forward line that included the greats Aaron Naughton, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and former Docker Rory Lobb.
Carlton’s great Anthony Koutoufides was the prototype of the modern midfielder – tall, strong and athletic. Like Petracca, he could win the hard ball. Like Bontempelli, he was able to go forward.
“Petracca is a game winner. He’s in and under while Bont, where he excels, marks the ball in the forward line. It’s a bit more versatile, the Bont, but we probably haven’t seen enough of it,” said Koutoufides.
“I know im  Big final, when they played against each other, the Bont took those marks in the forward line…but Petracca won the game by his toughness. They are both phenomenal players; They are match winners.”
Demons coach Simon Goodwin said Bontempelli has a defensive headache.
“He’s a tough opponent because he’s such a good player to stand in front of the middle. He’s got high score stakes in the game, he’s affecting the scoreboard, he’s big. These big types of midfielders, like [Patrick] Cripps, Bontempelli, Petracca, they are tough players to play with; they’re tough encounters,” Goodwin said.
“We will have some plans, but sometimes the good ones are hard to stop.”
Bontempelli was plagued by injuries last year but the resilient left-footed player says he’s ready to flourish again.
He said Age He really wants to be in the conversation for the best player in the league, but team success was what drove him.
“I just want to play the best football I can,” said Bontempelli, who played nine games to 200.
“I’m feeling really good, I haven’t missed too much from pre-season, which I think is really crucial for you to get through the season.”
His improved condition is an exciting prospect for those looking forward to seeing him take on Petracca under the lights of the MCG on Saturday night, even if it’s just center bounces.
Petracca had the better campaign in 2022, averaging 28 touches per game versus Bontempelli’s 23.5, despite barely separating them in several key statistical areas. Bontempelli averaged more clearances and goals, but Petracca had more contested possessions and within the 50s.
A person from an opposing club’s football department said Petracca’s ability to find team-mates – he led the league in assists and assists for midfielders last season – had been underestimated.
“It’s a recipe for disaster for the opposition because they’re just super talented.”
The great AFL manager and former Melbourne manager Paul Roos
Bontempelli was one of three midfielders who belonged to the elite in terms of goals, assists and goal contributions last season. Of course, these stats depend on how much time is spent either up front or in midfield.
In career terms, the differences are also statistically minimal; Petracca averages 22.6 departures per game and Bontempelli 23.2.
In the last two seasons they led all midfielders in goals scored – Bontempelli averaged 1.1 goals in 48 games, Petracca averaged one goal per game in 49 games – showing how damaging both midfielders can be. However, Petracca needs to be more accurate with 19.31 last season.
Koutoufides could only laugh when asked to pick one over the other.
“It depends on the team I’m playing against. It’s too hard to say…but when I watched the grand finale, Petracca was just insanely good. He was incredible,” he said.
Roos says it’s almost impossible to place the pair at this point in their respective careers.
“They are really similar because they both go forward. They are both in good teams with a lot of support. That also helps,” said Roos.
“That makes them even more difficult to tag because when a tag comes on them, Bont just goes to the front, Trac goes to the front.
“You’re splitting hairs about [deciding] Who is the best player because they are both really similar. Trac probably has a little more power and strength around the stops, but Bont is probably marginally taller and a little better overhead. But again, they split hairs in terms of talent and they both deliver week in and week out.”
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