Luke Beveridge's awkward moment at Bulldogs awards over Josh Dunkley saga

Josh Dunkley's efforts at the Western Bulldogs were lauded by coach Luke Beveridge, after the midfielder won the club's best and fairest days after requesting a trade to Brisbane. Pictures: Getty Images
Josh Dunkley's efforts at the Western Bulldogs were lauded by coach Luke Beveridge, after the midfielder won the club's best and fairest days after requesting a trade to Brisbane. Pictures: Getty Images

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge found himself in the unenviable position of presenting the club's best and fairest award to wantaway midfielder Josh Dunkley on Wednesday evening.

Dunkley, who has requested a trade to the Brisbane Lions, won the Charlie Sutton medal ahead of fellow midfielder Tom Liberatore and three-time winner Marcus Bontempelli.

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If granted his trade wish, Dunkley will sign a long-term deal with Brisbane that Beveridge indicated the Bulldogs could not match.

The Bulldogs' awards night came days after Dunkley confirmed his preference to be traded to the Lions, opting to head north in favour of a five year extension with the Bulldogs, as well as interest from Port Adelaide.

Dunkley had earlier hinted at a move to Port Adelaide when he told reporters after the Bulldogs' finals exit that moving to South Australia was appealing given his partner, Adelaide Thunderbirds netballer Tippah Dwan, resides there.

He has since settled on Brisbane though, with Beveridge quipping at the awards night that the Lions would need to 'pony up' for him.

Beveridge described the pending move as "the elephant in the room" before presenting Dunkley with the coveted award.

"The obvious thing is that the Lions are going to have to pony up," Beveridge said.

"Sammy (list manager Sam Power) is going to go to work on that over the next week or two."

The 25-year-old, who averaged 25.4 disposals and 4.4 clearances a game this season, will leave a big hole in the Dogs' engine room.

"He's extremely well respected by everyone within our football club and obviously it's a real shame," Beveridge said.

"I describe Josh as the glue in our team. He does all the hard team things unconditionally and we're going to need more of that from his teammates, or former teammates, next year.

"He's a real diamond that we discovered and pinched from under Sydney's nose all those years ago.

"It's difficult to come up and match market value when you've got to spread the financial load across your whole group.

"That's part of it, but Josh has also made a life decision on where he sees his future and where he's going to live and what it means to him at this point in time, and we respect that."

Josh Dunkley ends Bulldogs career on high note

Beveridge and Dunkley struck a deal weeks ago that the midfielder would "see it through" with the Bulldogs until their best-and-fairest night, regardless of what decision he made on his future.

The coach said the two parties had invested too much into each other over the years for the relationship to end badly.

"We've had a couple of conversations since and the most deflating one one was when he called me to let me know what the decision was," Beveridge said.

"Again we had that chat and I reminded him of his conviction and he promised me he'd be here."

An emotional Dunkley has described his trade decision as a "lifestyle choice" and lauded Beveridge as a "father figure".

Western Bulldogs star Josh Dunkley is pictured during a game.
Josh Dunkley was a key part of the Western Bulldogs' 2016 premiership victory over the Sydney Swans. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

He polled 231 votes to win the best-and-fairest award ahead of fellow midfielder Tom Liberatore (211) and key forward Aaron Naughton (180).

In doing so, Dunkley became the 13th Bulldogs player of more than 1000 in the club's AFL/VFL history to play in a premiership, reach 100 games and win a best-and-fairest award.

Dunkley was part of the Dogs' drought-breaking flag in his debut season (2016).

Meanwhile, Brisbane defender Darcy Gardiner is off the free agency market after signing a three-year contract extension that ties him to the Lions until the end of 2025.

The 27-year-old, recruited from the Geelong Falcons with pick 22 in the 2013 draft, overcame concussion issues and a series of shoulder setbacks to reach the 150-game milestone earlier this year.

With AAP

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