The Onballers Cruise with the Western Bulldogs

We’re on a cruise with the Western Bulldogs, en route to a remote and private island. We’ve blown all our cash on Instagram models, leaving us stuck on a dodgy boat. Is that a leak? “Let’s turn this hot mess around,” someone says. “No! Let’s just do it and be legends man,” someone else insists.

Within hours, the ship starts sinking. Who do you save? Your life-raft fits five Bulldogs.


Ryan Buckland: I save Marcus Bontempelli…wait, I need five?!

Ken Sakata: You can kick it with extra legroom I guess. But that means hours in a raft, just you and Bontempelli. And he’s probably wondering why you just killed all his friends.

Ryan Buckland: I save Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Mitch Wallis, Easton Wood, and Tim English

Saving Bontempelli is an absolute no-brainer. He’s having a late sophomore slump, this being his fourth year, but he’s still averaging 20 touches and a goal a game. A lot of what Bontempelli adds to his team isn’t captured in the box score stats – the deft handballs, the Rolls Royce stoppage exits, the defensive gravity he brings to the Dogs’ forward line.

Macrae and Wallis are all flexible midfielders who can play alternative positions (Macrae a genuine wingman and Wallis as half forward or small forward). Macrae has quietly become one of the most reliable midfielders in the game, only dipping below 20 disposals once this year, with a very even left-right spread of disposals on the ground, and recording the lowest giveaway (clangers less free kicks given per disposal) rate of any player averaging 15 touches or more per game. Wallis has been a revelation since returning from his broken leg, averaging 14 contested possessions and almost a goal a game roaming the half forward line and playing as a change up at stoppages.

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Wood is the captain of the life raft. By ceding him that title, I’m kind of karmically guaranteeing that the life raft makes it through stormy seas and I have great success. My life turns pretty dark the year after, and I’ve got a killer hangover for some reason, but it’s worth it.

Tim English is the heir to Dean Cox’s throne. You don’t let that kind of potential sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Ken Sakata: Rybucks, I toss Tim English immediately. If my raft needed like, a tall Helen Mirren-vibe, then sure. (Sorry Timmy. More of a Judi Dench guy.)

I think, morality-wise, all senior players can’t board the raft. I’m making an arbitrary cut-off: if you’re over twenty-five, you’re not boarding HMS Sakata. Twenty-five years old does seem young, but at thirty-two years old, I need my seniority on the raft to be unchallenged. My raft, my rules. You’ve had your time on the blue marble, adios.

Bob, Easton, Liam: I hope you guys are strong swimmers. Now to the shit-ton of youngsters to choose from.

Obviously Bontempelli gets a life-vest. He’s a unique talent and the centerpiece of whatever Bulldogs 2.0 becomes after this disastrous boat trip. You can’t expect another Bontempelli anytime soon. Not to mention I’d be fucking crucified if I didn’t save him.

I agree re: Macrae. A utility with bite. He could feasibly play anywhere but key-position, a switchblade, if you will. His draft comp was Pendlebury. He hasn’t quite lived-up to that (NB: There are multiple Pendlebury-types each draft), but I love love love his field kicking.

So Bont and Macrae are rewarded for services to football. The team won’t come back from this maritime tragedy anytime soon. So from here on out, it’s all negotiables and special interests.

Jason Johannisen plays my favourite position in football. I love the half-back flanker. And Johannisen is one of the best at it. He’s battling through the hard tag at the moment, which is a shame. But the raft is for perpetuity, not a contract year.

Racial elephant in the room. Lin Jong makes it 100%. I’m gonna go with the race thing on this one, sorry. It is astounding to me that we only have one Asian person in the AFL. It is a warm, fuzzy, proud feeling watching an avatar of yourself running around the MCG. I can’t give that up. Why aren’t there more Asians in the AFL? Why aren’t there more Asians in AFL media? If my minor journalistic career takes me anywhere, I intend to find out. Look man, I don’t want to be the guy who drowns an Asian unicorn, okay? Onto the last vest.

I make no secret that my heart lies somewehere in the (idiot)(footballer) Venn-diagram. The middle, obviously. Which makes Tom Liberatore an obvious choice. I find Liberatore fascinating as a concept. Saving him will be a net-win for sports-culture. (The Macau AFL team won’t have to find a new ruck either, so that’s a plus.) I just don’t know about spending hours on a raft with this:

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Buona festa del papa papeeeeeee papaaaaa

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Libba makes it on the raft. But I reserve the right to toss him off.