Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli says Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is continuing to do all the right things as he pushes for an opportunity at AFL level.
The much-hyped teenager has been under an intense spotlight since long before the Bulldogs matched Adelaide's bid to select the talented forward with the No.1 pick at last year's NAB AFL Draft.
Ugle-Hagan, 19, has impressed in the VFL with eight goals in three matches, but is yet to break into a Dogs senior team that was unbeaten until last week's 22-point loss to reigning premiers Richmond.
Bontempelli entered the AFL in similar circumstances to Ugle-Hagan, as a young prodigy who was taken with pick No.4 in the 2013 draft before making his debut in round five the following season.
He’s been an important sounding board for Ugle-Hagan in the early stages of his career.
"I check in with him pretty regularly because it is tough. He's the No.1 draft pick and coming in with plenty of attention," Bontempelli said on Tuesday.
"Continuing to voice your thinking and your feelings is important and you've got to have outlets with people you can talk to about the challenges that you face. As one of his mates and as captain of the footy club I'll always be that for him, and he knows that.
“I’m sure he wanted to come in and play straight away and have an impact, but sometimes your footy career is non-linear and you do have to take a bit of a different journey at times and continue to persevere through the challenges and growth periods.
“I think that’s probably been most of my advice to him – continue to enjoy the journey and being part of the footy club, which he does – and then just let the processes play out as they may.”
Ugle-Hagan was named as an emergency for the Richmond game, indicating he is edging closer to senior selection.
He will likely be in consideration for Sunday's round eight clash with Carlton at Marvel Stadium but the possible return of Tim English from concussion could play a role in extending Ugle-Hagan's wait.
"I feel like he is (handling it fine), but he's probably like any athlete, he probably wants to be ahead of where they are and he's hungry to succeed," Bontempelli said.
"He came in with a bit of a rush and wanted to display a bit of an influence early but sometimes it just doesn't go to plan.
"Sometimes they're good lessons to learn early in your career because they do help you as you progress, going through those challenging experiences.
"There's no doubt he'll be better for it as a player."