As Richmond steamrolled to another premiership on Saturday, putting an end to a season like no other, many teams were already planning their 2021 campaign.
Lists were being made of players that other teams deemed gettable and at the top of Essendon’s was Josh Dunkley.
A premiership player for the Western Bulldogs in 2016, Dunkley used to play predominately as a forward but made the shift into the middle last year with devastating effect, averaging 28 disposals, five clearances and six tackles per game.
He was then nominated to the All Australian team of 40.
This year has been injury interrupted, he only played 12 games and his averages were way down, also because he was shifted around again, spending more time up forward and in the ruck.
It’s most likely because of this shuffling that he is interested in a move to Essendon – it’s no big secret that Dunkley wants to be a permanent midfielder and the Bombers can offer him that assurance, while at the Dogs he’ll be behind young gun Bailey Smith and Tom Liberatore.
It has also come out that the Dons have offered him more money and are willing to get Josh’s brother, Kyle, at the club after the latter was delisted by Melbourne.
This is despite the shrinking list sizes that all clubs face and it seems that Josh has indicated he is keen to move. It makes sense that he would, more money, more midfield time and the opportunity to play with his brother are all good incentives.
But the fact remains, he is contracted for another two years at the Bulldogs and they so far have firmly said no to any trade.
This is not like the Jake Stringer situation, where the Bulldogs said they didn’t want him. There has been no sign of bad blood between Dunkley and his current club but the Dogs could still turn this into a win-win situation for everyone should they consider a trade.
The Dogs want draft picks. Essendon currently cannot trade their first-round pick this year or the next due to their trading over the last two years under AFL rules, but they have three players on the move.
While a trade for Orazio Fantasia will not get them anything more than a second-round pick, Essendon already have pick 6 – if they were to get two first-round picks from Adam Saad and Joe Daniher respectively, they could use that to trade for Dunkley.
Is it too much? If he were uncontracted, probably, but the Bombers really want him and the Bulldogs really don’t want to let him go. It would take a big offer like that to sway the Dogs to allow the trade to go through and it is possible that they would send something late back the other way as a sweetener.
The pick would help the Bulldogs draft their academy prospect Jamar Ugle-Hagan and still give them another opportunity early on in the draft and Essendon get their man.
Should the Dogs go the other way and not give in to a trade, it is not inconceivable that Dunkley plays out his contract, however if they want Dunkley to stay beyond the next two years, they need to start making some changes to the way they are playing him.
Essendon have a lot to work through this trade period and this is only one piece of their 2020 puzzle, but it would be a big one if they can make it happen.