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  1. #1
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    Jan 2007
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    How chats with Pat Cummins guided Bontempelli's 2024 reset


    As Australian Test captain Pat Cummins made a cool 32 off 44 balls to lead his team to an against-the-odds win over New Zealand in Christchurch on Monday, Marcus Bontempelli was among the millions of Australians applauding.

    The Western Bulldogs skipper is not just a Cummins fan, however. He knows better than most what makes the Australian captain tick and has applied some of the valuable lessons he gleaned off Cummins when they got to know each other at the end of 2021.

    The pair?s connection arose in 2021 while they participated in a small leadership hub facilitated by Aleda, a company Bulldogs? director Luke Darcy and Matt Wadewitz grew.

    Bontempelli?s group also included comedy icons Andy Lee and Rob Sitch. As the quartet shared their experiences over an eight-session program run over a few months, Cummins became Australia?s captain when Tim Paine stepped down on the eve of that year?s Ashes series.

    Bontempelli was hearing first-hand how Cummins was navigating his challenges, as the four participants devised ways to deal with problems that inevitably arise in their working lives, lending each other the benefits of their own experience as leaders in environments that demand high performance.

    During the process, ?The Bont? struck up a strong relationship with Cummins, a person who is changing the face of cricket with his modern leadership style while winning the most important titles, including the world Test championship, one-day international World Cup and retaining the Ashes in 2023.

    Pat Cummins and Marcus Bontempelli met through a leadership program run by Aleda. TV personalities Rob Sitch and Andy Lee were the other participants in a program facilitated by Matt Wadewitz and former AFL footballer Luke Ball.
    Pat Cummins and Marcus Bontempelli met through a leadership program run by Aleda. TV personalities Rob Sitch and Andy Lee were the other participants in a program facilitated by Matt Wadewitz and former AFL footballer Luke Ball.CREDIT:ALEDA

    Along that journey, Cummins has not been afraid to express his beliefs on a variety of social issues and has allowed others in his team follow suit, empowering them to find their own way to perform as professional cricketers.

    The fresh-faced quick has also resisted external pressure to conform to what others say his role should be, or revert to former players? ideals. And he has walked the talk too, showing mental resilience and skill to perform when his country has needed him most.

    Bontempelli began learning lessons that have helped him navigate the challenges his club has faced since their ignominious exit from the top eight last season.

    ?Pat was very, very insightful,? Bontempelli said.

    ?As long as we are confident and comfortable, and things are smooth in here, then externally, we can sort of get through anything. I have got a huge amount of respect and admiration for Patty.?

    The normally unflappable Bontempelli admits he felt frustration seep into his bones last season.

    He?d won his fifth best-and-fairest award and finished second in the Brownlow Medal count, yet the team he led missed the finals for the first time since he became skipper in 2020.

    That was a disappointing reality check for club and captain when the season ended with the Bulldogs ninth on the ladder after five losses (by a combined margin of 29 points) in the final eight games.

    Australian cricket captain Pat Cummins believes Australia Day shouldn't be celebrated on January 26.

    ?There was no doubt I was frustrated at different points,? Bontempelli said. ?I felt like we had a really strong contribution from a solid core, but it wasn?t enough in the end. You see the gap start to really open up against the really good teams because they bat so deep.?

    It would have been easy for Bontempelli to think, ?What more can I do?? He didn?t. He acted on that frustration.

    Before his teammates left for their end-of-season break, Bontempelli made it clear he expected them to start preparing for 2024 on day one of the off-season.

    That didn?t mean being silly. It meant taking a mental break while simultaneously beginning the slow build towards pre-season to lay a foundation for a better season than the one just gone. Bontempelli tried to make his point in a way that motivated rather than disincentivised the group.

    ?That?s the challenge as a captain of the football club: are you asking for too much at times, particularly when your ?self-accountability?, from my perspective, is so high?? Bontempelli said.

    ?I saw the capacity for us to be doing things better and, as that older sort of statesman, I realised time?s running out for me, and it is for a few others.?

    Importantly, the sublimely skilled 28-year-old included himself in the group who needed to become better if the Bulldogs are to win the second flag he so desires.

    ?I?ve always definitely been a lead-by-example guy, [rather] than a more forceful-voice guy. That?s something I?ve had to do better and almost undertake the responsibility to do,? Bontempelli said.

    ?We were always a relatively quiet group. We had some sort of louder characters in the locker room, but when it came to probably standards, expectations and behaviours, sometimes you just assume everyone is going to hopefully deal with things the same as you, and that is just not the case.

    ?Everyone is different on the spectrum of how they live their lives and how they play their careers.?

    The skipper wanted to strike the right balance between demanding that the load be shared while allowing each personality to work out what works best for them.

    He admits that 2023 became a grind at times as two steps back seemed to follow each step forward made by the team, through an ill-timed injury or a close loss. He does not want a repeat performance.

    ?It?s always trying to find that really nice happy medium of high expectations, but high fun, and enjoyment and continuing to try and work at both,? Bontempelli said.

    He senses a better balance this season already with training reflecting that renewal, and he loves having Tom Liberatore as his sidekick after the dogged competitor was elevated to vice captain.

    ?Libba? has seen the game from all angles, and is the ultimate teammate according to Bontempelli.

    Entering his fifth season as captain, Bontempelli decided it was best for him to let go of some control to enable future leaders to flourish and provide him with the time needed to ensure he does his most important job: play well.

    ?I?m definitely looking for more opportunities to do less and give guys more opportunity to influence and take a bit more control,? Bontempelli said. ?That way they grow, they experience and I just sort of become more of a watchful eye in the background and just pop in when I?m needed. That will definitely help as the year goes on.?

    Ed Richards leads a talented bunch aged 24 and under, including Aaron Naughton, Cody Weightman, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Ryley Sanders and the injured but engaged Bailey Smith. Bontempelli sees now as the perfect time to instil the values former greats Bob Murphy, Matt Boyd and Easton Wood left him when they departed.

    Naturally empathetic and supportive, Bontempelli says he is increasingly willing to have more confronting conversations with his teammates if and when necessary.

    ?The biggest thing I have learned is to try to address things as soon as possible, not to let them peter out for a week or two weeks or three weeks. The truth will set you free,? Bontempelli said.

    He establishes the facts and leans on teammates to get a sense of what might be happening in the life of the person receiving the feedback before wading in.

    ?I definitely think the appetite to have those conversations for me has evolved. In saying that, I think now we?ve got a bunch of guys who are definitely in a better place, who have evolved to do the same thing,? Bontempelli said.

    He wasn?t afraid to express his view on potential barriers to success that drifted into the Bulldogs? operation last season.

    For one, he noticed his premiership coach Luke Beveridge was being stretched too far.

    ??Bevo? is such a good manager of people and when it comes to his willingness to help people, [and] to take more stress or things off their plate ? in a period of time it ended up overloading him. That?s my opinion,? Bontempelli said.

    Following a review by respected football administrator Peter Jackson, the Bulldogs had a coaching overhaul pre-Christmas, with Matthew Egan appointed to an operational role in the football department. Bontempelli said the changes had created a fresh environment and freed up the premiership coach.

    The Melbourne president didn?t want this remark ?ending up in the newspapers?
    ?It will allow [Beveridge] to really hone in on coaching and be a positive influence regardless of how things are going [and] troubleshooting, whether there are issues or problems on the fly [as well as] allow him to really connect with players on a further level,? Bontempelli said.

    Bontempelli has never been afraid to let Beveridge know his thoughts, and this off-season was no different.

    ?Bevo and I have a really open and honest relationship. We always have ? we catch up pretty much at the end of every season just to talk through challenges we faced personally and then on a team level.

    ?We did so this year, just discussing openly and honestly how we could both help each other going forward. I really respect and love him as a coach.?

    The signs are good from Bontempelli?s perspective, but he knows the real test will come when the ball is bounced against Melbourne on Sunday in the Bulldogs? season-opener.

    ?In terms of our capacity, we probably underperformed last year with some of the talent we?ve got on our list,? Bontempelli said. ?Clearly we?re looking for that exponential growth across the board.?

    As Cummins takes a well-earned cricketing break, the universally admired Bontempelli embarks on his 11th football season aiming to prove the doubters wrong. He doesn?t have to look past the cricket team and the leader he knows better than most for inspiration.
    FFC: Established 1883

    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Re: How chats with Pat Cummins guided Bontempelli?s 2024 reset

    I love Bont.

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  5. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    Re: How chats with Pat Cummins guided Bontempelli's 2024 reset

    Quote Originally Posted by angelopetraglia View Post
    I love Bont.
    It?s kinda impossible not to. I just pray the team takes the honour of playing for the RWB as seriously as he does. Seeing that photo of Williams & Naughts in change rooms after R1 laughing worries me. You wouldn?t see Bont laughing like that after such a horrible performance.

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