So, it’s something every Bulldog supporter (including yours truly) has worried about for the past two weeks… Josh Dunkley officially wants out of the Bulldogs.

Not only that, but he wants to go to Essendon. Of all clubs! That’s a bit like the decent-looking girlfriend dumping you in favour of a bloke who looks like the innards of your shoe and then lying to you up-front about his personality, fibbing that he’s a great guy when really he has the personality of cardboard.

All jokes aside, this opens up a can of worms on a number of fronts, both with the deal itself and for both clubs. Combined with the fact I haven’t written anything in weeks (bless you very much university studies), I thought I’d try and dissect the situation as best as I can, as we debate why Josh Dunkley wants to leave. Fans have the right to know why one of their favourite contested midfielders wants out.

 

How He’s Being Played

This first reason probably sticks out like a sore thumb, or a fat lip, and that’s how the coaching staff have treated him. Bulldog supporters have been critical for years about players jumping ship – see Ryan Griffen as exhibit one, Shaun Higgins as exhibit two… and, well I can go on and on about it for a while, but I think everyone gets the picture here.

I, for one, don’t feel angry or upset about the fact he is leaving – my scorn is directed more towards the bonehead coaching staff and it starts with the head honcho – Luke Beveridge.

For some strange reason, he’s watched Richmond’s 2017 premiership and thought ‘Hey, I’ll find a Shaun Grigg in my team so I don’t have to play another ruckman.’

Well, unfortunately for the man with the largest biceps in AFL world, that is just not how things work. Shaun Grigg was a fine midfielder for many years, but Josh Dunkley is his own kind of player. He’s the man that you want around the stoppages, not fighting against ogres for a hit out that he won’t win anyway.

He finished with a total of 12 hit outs in 2020, for the record.

As 2019 demonstrated, Dunkley loves the contested work; if he’s not getting the contested ball, he’s trying to tackle and harass the opposition. And for Christ’a sake, what is with Bevo’s infatuation with playing him as a deep forward? He’s 190 centimetres, so there’s some height, but his kicking for goal leaves me with my heart in my mouth about as much as when Ryan Gardner opts to kick the footy out from full back.

He finished with a total of six goals in 2020, for the record.

Bevo has made this point about being flexible with his list. Flexibility is good in football these days, but there is such a thing as TOO MUCH flexibility and the Bulldogs are a prime example of how not to do it. He tried Easton Wood, an All-Australian defender as a full forward two years ago, and that was about as big as a cluster…you know what as you could probably imagine.

 

The Culture

It leads to the next point, and it’s a point that has been touched on a little bit over the past couple of weeks: the culture of the club. Culture is a dirty word in football unless you use it in a positive light, otherwise it’s considered borderline slander.

Much has been said about the Dogs’ alleged culture problems this year on the socials. My favourite claim was from the partner of Richmond player Jack Higgins about partying in the hub that were so false that even sworn enemy of the Bulldogs, Damian Barrett came to the defence of the Dogs to say that he didn’t hear anything of the night in question, so that’s blown out of proportion.

However, the thing it stands out for me is this. It’s been four years since the premiership and the Bulldogs have finished in the following positions: 10th, 13th, 7th and 7th. It can be argued that Beveridge needs a few seasons to get the 22 players he wants to play in the next dynasty, but when you look at how Richmond are travelling right now, the Dogs should be thereabouts as well, as opposed to being a middle of the table team. The Tigers came from nowhere to win a flag and continued on with things. the Dogs just… stopped.

In 2019, it was good to see them take opposition by the throat, particularly in the back-end of the year. But this year, results-wise, felt more of a step backwards and there have been a few players who have looked a bit lackadaisical and – I’ll say it – soft at times in 2021. This could be where the frustration from Dunkley kicks in. Not because of his teammates as it has been pointed out, but simply because this team is too good to be in the middle of an AFL ladder.

Essendon were a bit of a rabble in 2020, and yes they haven’t won a final in forever, but there’s upside and promise within the list, and with a fresher face in Ben Rutten leading the charge next year as opposed to a stale John Worsfold, they can’t be any worse can they? Especially if Dunkley is there next year and beyond?

Nonetheless, Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains, club president Peter Gordon and Chris Grant, who is the director of Football at the Bulldogs, need to give Luke Beveridge a rocket up his backside and tell him to not just start playing players in god damn desired positions, but to start making players more accountable for what they do on the field. Not only is the club suffering due to it, but if one of the more professional and hard-working players on the team such as Josh Dunkley is seeking an exit out, then there’s a big problem.

 

The Contract Situation

So the Bombers, led by Northern Victoria’s stingiest fruit and vegetable grocer, Adrian Dodoro are offering him the keys to the Bombers’ engine room, which is fine. The Dons need someone tall, strong, agile and can win the footy at the source, because they haven’t got a lot of players that offer this skillset: Andrew McGrath is becoming a very good player, Dylan Shiel is about as hot and cold as Melbourne weather and Zach Merrett is better suited to be on the outside.

The terms of the contract being offered right now are a bit up in the air. The Herald-Sun have said that it’s a five-year deal. Tom Browne said that he was getting four, earning approximately $600,000 dollars a season. What we do know is that Dunkley still has two years to run on his current deal at the Bulldogs, and the club have specificed that they will not release him to join Essendon.

Good on them for doing that but as a counter-argument, we have to go back to the Griffen situation from six years ago. The Bulldogs said that he was a required player for 2015. The Giants said the same when the Dogs said that they wanted Tom Boyd – he was required to stick out the contract. In the end, a deal was struck and the rest, as you know, is history.

But it is also important to remember that Griffen was fed up at the Dogs to the point that he was willing to either sit out or retire altogether if he didn’t get to the Giants. It is about as likely as me being voted in parliament that this particular scenario won’t happen again with Dunkley. He’s 23, got plenty of footy ahead and it’ll likely look more like the situation with Tim Kelly when the Cats couldn’t get a deal done with West Coast two years ago, or Tom Papley when Sydney and Carlton got nowhere near a deal last year. Both players went about their business the following year and in the case of Papley, had a change of heart and committed himself to the Swans for the foreseeable future.

If a deal doesn’t get done, I don’t think Dunkley will mind too much seeing out another year with his best friend Marcus Bontempelli in the same team, before he seeks a trade again. Football has become more of a business than a sport these days, and I think the players know it.

 

What Will It Take?

I’m hypothetically taking over Sam Power’s job as the Bulldogs’ list manager for a moment. What is Josh Dunkley worth?

History indicates that contracted players are worth a little extra. You don’t have to go too far to reflect on the situation regarding Bradley Hill last year. He wanted to go from Fremantle to St. Kilda. Hill still had two years to run on his contract and the Dockers said it would’ve taken an extraordinary amount to get him over the line – the Saints coughed up Pick 10 (first round), pick 58 (third round), future second and fourth-round picks as well as Blake Acres.

Now both play different roles, but in all due respect to Bradley, I hold Dunkley in a bit higher regard. Given everything, two first-round picks is a starting point, but the Bombers have to hold on to both a first-rounder this year and next year, because of Essendon’s record of selling them to GWS over the past few years. They can get an exemption from the AFL, but how the league will react is anyone’s guess.

 

So… Let’s Make A Deal

Essendon have got picks six and seven (Joe Daniher compo) and are expected to get eight from Carlton for Adam Saad. So I suspect at least one of those to be thrown in – two will at least raise an eyebrow of intrigue. Throw in someone like Jayden Laverde, Brayden Ham, maybe even Jacob Townsend as another forward, we could be cooking with gas here.

Another big thing to consider here is that the Dogs are going to get academy player, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who is one of this year’s brightest draft prospects, with some comparing him to a young Lance Franklin. Expected to go within the top five, the Dogs will need to probably use an abundance of picks, especially if a bid comes with the first pick. Matching it with pick 7 or 8 will cost the Dogs another young top-10 prospect to go with that, so expect them to trade down the order to save the pain.

I wonder what it would take Collingwood to make a deal for Adam Treloar? The Dogs could use someone who’s half decent on the outside and can find the footy with no issue. Also, he’s a pretty consistent finisher from outside 50 – the Dogs haven’t had a player like that since Lindsay Gilbee and Nathan Eagleton were playing.

The Bulldogs could use someone like that, who knows how to take the game on and not to ‘umm and ahh’ with the ball 60 or 70 metres out.

Until Bevo starts playing him elsewhere, of course.

Say the Dogs do get picks 7 and 8 from the Dons for Dunkley, these get on-traded to the Pies for Treloar, along with picks 16, 39 and 42 coming back – at this point the Pies don’t even want Treloar because that situation is about as dire and as ugly as it gets. It leaves the Pies with two top-10 picks, which they could either choose to use and pick talented youngsters, or try to shop one around and see if they bring get more players in.

That leaves the Dogs with picks 14 and 16 – I would love to see these get on-traded to Adelaide, because right now, they’ve got some picks to play with – they offer up a big package of picks – 23, 33, 40, 56 and 66, if we go by the draft calculator, the Dogs still give up 200 more draft points more than what they’re going to bring in as things stand right now.

It gives the Dogs some more draft picks for Jamarra – Picks 23, 33, 40, 41, 54, 56 and 66. It also leaves the Crows with picks 1, 9, 14, 16 and 22, most of which will be bumped down the order with all the academy picks, but that’s still an impressive haul all the same.

But anyway, that’s a stroll down dream street.

We’ve got just less than a week to see what transpires and if history is any indicator, the Dogs might be changing their stance on giving Dunkley away as soon as possible. It’s disappointing, but in football, disappointment is an inevitable adventure.