THE WESTERN Bulldogs believe they will be vindicated in overlooking dual SANFL premiership midfielder James Aish to instead select this year's draft bolter.
After rejuvenating their midfield with tough ball-winners, they last night secured the silk in the no.4 pick Marcus Bontempelli.
He only roared into top-five calculations in the last six weeks of the year, with SANFL star Aish a top-three prospect for the last three years.
But the Dogs say the graceful 193cm Northern Knights midfielder Bontempelli is also a star at winning his own inside ball.
One Melbourne recruiter rated Bontompelli the best player in the draft, with Dogs head recruiter Simon Dalrymple confident Bontempelli is worth the risk.
"James will be a terrific player. The decision was very much neck and neck, but we just felt in the end Marcus was going to be a bit more difficult to play against in the midfield. Part of that is winning your own ball and it's not that James won't do that, but Marcus is bigger and has some unique capabilities," Dalrymple said.
"Gold Coast and GWS have some really good midfielders, but we think we are getting a very good base. They are all very good at winning their own ball and we know the coach (Brendan McCartney) really values that. It is important to winning finals."
Northern Knights midfielder Marcus Bontempelli will hope his brilliant finish to the 2013 AFL season will be rewarded with a top 10 pick in this year's National Draft.
While the Dogs believe Bontempelli can play Round 1 if he puts on weight over the pre-season, they have secured a ready-made defender in Norwood defender Matthew Fuller (pick 42).
The 23-year-old left-footer kicked a 55-metre bomb in the SANFL Grand Final that set recruiters hearts' racing, and at 180cm and 84kg can play on the half-back line alongside Michael Talia and Easton Wood.
They rounded out a trio of picks with Mitch Honeychurch (no. 60), the lightweight Eastern Ranges midfielder weighing just 67kg.
But while he is a slip of a kid, the 177cm on-baller averaged two goals a game in the TAC Cup and was an All-Australian.
Bontempelli has drawn comparisons with Scott Pendlebury given his long reach and unique style, but was more intent last night on paying tribute to coach McCartney than considering his Round 1 aspirations.
"I am just really happy to be at the Dogs. The team is really up-and-coming and the coach is a really great person and a great leader and a great teacher. He has been unbelievable with the way he has communicated with me. That is something he does really well, connects with his boys and I have heard that from coaches and recruiters and now to be playing under him is such a boost for me.
"It's so exciting. I have worked so hard to get to this level this year, and I am so happy to be at the Dogs. The focus is earning the respect of your teammates and trying to show at training you deserve the opportunity. That's what I will be doing in the next five weeks and then if games come I will be pretty happy."
Bontempelli averaged 14 disposals and 67 SuperCoach points for Vic Metro this year before storming into top-five calculations with a brilliant finish to the season.