Josh Dunkley has had to fend off suggestions there was more at play behind his switch from the Western Bulldogs to the Brisbane Lions during last year's AFL trade period. Comments made by Dunkley in a video published by the Lions discussing how he is settling in at his new club have prompted some league observers to ponder if Dunkley had been unhappy with the Bulldogs, where he won a premiership in 2016.
The clip, which was seized upon by former AFL star Kane Cornes who questioned his motive for wanting to change teams, features Dunkley discussing what he has found different in his new home in Brisbane. “It’s been a great pre-season so far. The boys have come back really fit and are running really well,” Dunkley said.
“Which has been a bit of a change-up for me too because we didn’t really run a lot at the Dogs – as much as we do here.” The comparison between the amount of running the two sides do piqued the curiosity of Cornes, who pondered whether or not Dunkley had been frustrated by certain habits at the Bulldogs.
Dunkley's trade went through just hours before the conclusion of the trade period, with the Lions and Bulldogs reportedly haggling over draft compensation for an extended amount of time. The Bulldogs received pick 21 in the 2022 draft, a future first rounder, a future second rounder and a future fourth rounder in the deal, sending back Dunkley, a future third-round pick and future fourth-round pick.
The Bulldogs' last two finals campaigns have resulted in brutal defeats, with Melbourne running over the Bulldogs in the 2021 Grand Final, while last year's elimination final saw a resurgent Fremantle come back from a major deficit to win. Cornes suggested Dunkley's reference to running in pre-season could suggest a 'lack of fitness' linked to their late game fade-outs.
That comments, plus another in which Dunkley said the Lions had 'even better midfielders' than at the Bulldogs, left Cornes questioning whether there had been frustration with the Bulldogs from Dunkley's end. He told SEN's Sportsday program he believed there was more to the story.
“I don’t fully believe him when he says he has no issues with his former club. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have tried so desperately to leave twice,” he said. “His old coach Luke Beveridge said Dunkley left only for money. I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, either.”
Josh Dunkley's trade to Brisbane sparks Bulldogs rivalry
Dunkley's comments also did not go unnoticed by Bulldogs fans. One fan's reaction on Twitter prompted Dunkley to weigh in himself, claiming the video had taken what he said slightly out of context.
“I genuinely have no problems at all with the club,” Dunkley said in reply to the fan online. “However if that’s how you want to try and rev up round 3 (Brisbane and the Bulldogs' first game), then go ahead. All I’m looking forward to, is playing against my old team mates.”
— Brisbane Lions (@brisbanelions) January 31, 2023
This has been taken way out of context, I genuinely have no problems at all with the club. However if that’s how you want to try and rev up round 3, then go ahead. All I’m looking forward to, is playing against my old team mates.
— Josh Dunkley (@jdunks5) February 1, 2023
Dunkley had previously requested a trade to Essendon. He again requested a trade last year, this time successfully making the move to Brisbane - however Beveridge suggested in the aftermath that Essendon's initial offer had contributed to the second trade request.
“He would’ve been offered a better deal, but we still offered him a lucrative contract... Probably the Essendon approach highlighted to him how much he could’ve possibly earned at another club, and that would’ve been part of it,” Beveridge told the Herald Sun after the trade.
“I think it’s a combination of maximising your opportunity, and leveraging good form, and we haven’t been able to satisfy him as far as his contractual demands go.”
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.