Bulldogs skipper Bontempelli hurt in training incident

Shayne Hope |

The Western  Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli is in doubt after hurting his back at training.
The Western Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli is in doubt after hurting his back at training.

Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli is in doubt for his side’s AFL clash with North Melbourne after hurting his back in an incident at training.

Bontempelli fell awkwardly under the weight of a tackle from a teammate on Wednesday and left the field early with a back spasm.

A club spokesperson said the prolific midfielder eased some fears when he was able to jog laps of the oval after the incident.

But Bontempelli is no certainty to line up against the Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium on Saturday, and will have to pass a fitness test on the eve of the match before being cleared to play.

The 28-year-old has been in scintillating form this season, rated among the leading Brownlow Medal contenders after finishing runner-up for the second time last year.

He sits third on the AFL Coaches Association’s player of the year leaderboard, behind Sydney star Isaac Heeney and Collingwood playmaker Nick Daicos.

Bontempelli has played every game so far in 2024 and was outstanding in wins over Fremantle and Collingwood before last week’s mid-season bye, despite battling illness in the lead-up to both fixtures.

The Bulldogs won four of their previous six matches before the bye, squaring their season record at 7-7 in pursuit of a finals berth.

They are 11th on the ladder, just four premiership points outside the top eight with a healthy percentage (119.7).

While losing Bontempelli would be a blow to the Dogs’ midfield, Sam Darcy is available after serving a two-match suspension, and fellow key forward Aaron Naughton is firming to return from a knee injury against North Melbourne.

James Harmes (hamstring) and Nick Coffield (shoulder) both face fitness tests in the coming days.

The Dogs’ leading goalkicker for the past two seasons, Naughton has been sidelined for a month after sustaining a moderate-grade medial collateral ligament injury in the loss to Sydney in round 11.

The Bulldogs have won their past five encounters with North Melbourne by an average margin of 59 points and will start hot favourites on Saturday, despite the Kangaroos’ improved performances since their mid-season bye.

Alastair Clarkson’s side banked their first win of the season against West Coast in round 13 and have been competitive in losses to Collingwood and Melbourne – both by margins of less than a goal – over the past fortnight.