Marcus Bontempelli put the All-Stars on notice ahead of next week's bushfire appeal match with a dominant display in the Western Bulldogs' big AFL pre-season win over North Melbourne.
A marquee selection for Victoria in the representative fixture, Bontempelli hit the ground running in his first appearance of 2020 by matching his career-best haul of 37 disposals at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.
The 24-year-old star stuffed the stats sheet with 10 clearances, 11 inside-50s, eight tackles and 17 contested possessions.
Two goals and a slick one-handed pick-up, followed by a quickfire handpass to a teammate, were the cherries on top in the final quarter.
"Marcus for a long period of time has been an every-time player," Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said after the 44-point win.
"He sets a great physical example out there.
"He's our new captain, he's never needed a formal title to show how good a leader he is, but he obviously really led from the front tonight."
Bontempelli had just 13 disposals in his previous match, when the Bulldogs were unceremoniously dumped from the finals by Greater Western Sydney last September.
But Beveridge denied that below-par performance under extreme pressure - Bontempelli was targeted for extra physical attention by the Giants - had an effect on the midfielder's mindset leading into the opening pre-season match.
"I don't think he gave it too much of a thought after we started pre-season," Beveridge said.
"He just put his head down and his work on the track has been next level.
"He brings other people along that aspire to be the best that they can be.
"He obviously had a terrific game tonight and he'll put that to bed pretty quickly."
Bontempelli was pleased with the outcome as the Bulldogs registered a 44-point win over North Melbourne.
"In most of these games you're just looking forward to playing again and building that chemistry and ability to play together," he told Fox Footy.
"It felt like we got that right for a little bit tonight, so you take what you can get from it personally and from a team point of view and just try and build on it."
Australian Associated Press