Sad Departure to Western Bulldogs: they are gone…..

Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli has brushed off concerns over a back injury to play a key role in his side’s comfortable 17-point victory over North Melbourne.

Struck down by back spasms at training mid-week, Bontempelli passed a late fitness test and was outstanding in the Bulldogs’ 11.11 (77) to 9.6 (60) victory at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.

The inspirational skipper had 35 disposals and 11 clearances as the Dogs moved back to a positive ledger (8-7) in pursuit of a finals berth.

Cody Weightman kicked a game-high three goals, taking his tally to six in two games on return from an elbow injury, while Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Aaron Naughton and Adam Treloar kicked two each.

Tom Liberatore (25 disposals), Ed Richards (21) and Ryley Sanders (21) were also influential for the Bulldogs.

Rory Lobb was another impressive performer, moved to defence to accommodate returning key forwards Naughton and Sam Darcy.

A ruck-forward throughout his 11 seasons, Lobb snared 12 intercept possessions and worked well alongside regular full-back Liam Jones in the absence of injured pair Alex Keath and Ryan Gardner.

Jones was a brick wall, holding Kangaroos spearhead Nick Larkey scoreless from just five disposals.

Naughton marked his return from a knee injury with the opening goal before Ugle-Hagan and Roo Paul Curtis traded brilliant snaps from opposite pockets.AFL 2023: Western Bulldogs problems, analysis, trade out star player,  Bailey Smith, Tim English, Luke Beveridge contract, latest news

The Bulldogs led by nine points at the first break – 4.4 to 3.1 – before kicking the only goal of the second quarter through Darcy, keeping their opponents scoreless in the process.

The lead grew to 38 points as the Dogs kicked four of the first five goals after half-time, and they held on despite the Kangaroos’ late burst of three consecutive goals during the final term.

The Bulldogs face a big test away to Port Adelaide in round 17, while North Melbourne hosts Gold Coast.

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