Caleb Daniel says the Western Bulldogs' poor form leading into the AFL finals was partially to blame for captain Marcus Bontempelli's failure to poll a Brownlow Medal vote in the final four rounds of the home-and-away season.
Bontempelli was the outright leader of Sunday night's count after round 20 and was tied with Ollie Wines after round 21, but was ultimately overrun by the Port Adelaide star.
Wines finished with a record-equalling 36 votes to claim the Power's first Brownlow Medal, with Bontempelli (33) second and Melbourne midfielder Clayton Oliver (31) third.
The Bulldogs coughed up a top-four spot with consecutive defeats to Essendon, Hawthorn and Port in the last three rounds of the regular season.
The losing run coincided with Bontempelli's four-match streak without a vote, which cost him the game's most coveted individual award leading into Saturday evening's grand final against Melbourne.
"That's probably a by-product of how we played and him being able to poll in those games obviously would've been huge," Bulldogs defender Daniel said on Monday.
"But we're probably ruing the missed opportunity of finishing in the top-four and missing that double chance in the first place.
"I think it comes hand in hand, but we're here (in a grand final) now and we've played some pretty good footy in the past month, so we don't look too far back in that.
"It is what it is and we're just happy to be here in the last week of the season."
Bontempelli polled in 12 of his 22 games and was named best-on-ground nine times in a career-best tally of 33 votes.
It would have been enough to claim at least a share of the Brownlow in all but three previous seasons under the traditional voting system.
"He had a tremendous year and unfortunately fell a couple of votes short but we know he's such a great player for us," Daniel said.
Bontempelli could be the Bulldogs' third premiership captain by the end of the week and a Brownlow is also well within the 25-year-old's reach before his playing days are up.
The four-time All Australian won the AFL Players' Association MVP award this year and was the AFL Coaches' Association champion player of the year in 2019.
"He's just a super guy and that's probably the main thing that you take out of it, just how special he is as a character and as a person rather than the footballer," Daniel said.
"He's obviously one of the best (players) in the game and I love running out alongside him with the way he's able to impose himself on the game.
"But being able to be a great leader and a great mate at the same time is something that's pretty special."
Australian Associated Press