Top pick will be ‘better’ for wait to play

Football fans are salivating over what Jamarra Ugle-Hagan could do when Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge decides to pick him.

Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli is adamant Jamarra Ugle-Hagan will be a “better player” for waiting to make his AFL debut and has talked with the star teenager about biding his time.

Eight goals in three VFL matches has put Ugle-Hagan in the spotlight, but Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has resisted the temptation to select the No 1 pick at last year’s national draft as his team racked up a 6-1 record to start the season.

Taken at pick four as a teenage prodigy himself in the 2012 draft, Bontempelli had to wait until round five the next season to make his own debut.

Bontempelli said Ugle-Hagan came to the club in a “bit of a rush” and regular chats with the 19-year-old were crucial to ensure he navigated the challenges of being a player with high expectations.

“I check in with him pretty regularly because it is tough,” Bontempelli said on Tuesday.

“He’s the No 1 draft pick and coming in with plenty of attention.

“Continuing to voice your thinking and your feelings is important and you‘ve got to have outlets with people you can talk to about the challenges that you face.

“As one of his mates and as captain of the footy club, I’ll always be that for him, and he knows that.”

“I feel like he is (handling it fine), but he’s probably like any athlete, he probably wants to be ahead of where they are and he’s hungry to succeed.

“He came in with a bit of a rush and wanted to display a bit of an influence early, but sometimes it just doesn’t go to plan.

“Sometimes they’re good lessons to learn early in your career because they do help you as you progress, going through those challenging experiences.

“There’s no doubt he’ll be better for it as a player.”

Bontempelli has a busy load, managing players as captain but also looking after himself.

The star midfielder, who is third favourite for the Brownlow Medal, is off contract at the end of 2021 and in negotiations for a new deal.

“The dialogue’s been really good between my manager and the club,” Bontempelli said.

“There’s no real timeline probably on it, but as I sort of see it and I think as the club sees it, things are progressing pretty well. A lot can change in time.

“There’s probably a couple things that are part of it, obviously the dialogue has been good, the discussions are open, and it’s just sort of working through it in the right time.

“I think the most important thing is that the chats are good and they’re going well.”

The Bulldogs suffered their first defeat of the season against Richmond last Friday, a loss that Bontempelli said was just another step on their 2021 journey.

“It has been a relatively strong run of form, and you’ve got to continue to ride the positive wave while also learning on the fly,” Bontempelli said.

“We learned they are still the benchmark. There’s a few things clearly to learn.”

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