Josh Dunkley, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane Lions, deal, contract, stalemate, Brad Johnson, delay, draft picks, Will Ashcroft, Jaspa Fletcher

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Western Bulldogs great Brad Johnson has warned his former club they risk getting nothing for wantaway star Josh Dunkley with fears the midfielder could walk to the pre-season draft.

Dunkley, who just days ago was named the Dogs’ best and fairest for season 2022, has informed the club he wishes to be traded to Brisbane to be closer to family.

The out-of-contract star is reportedly set to sign a six-year deal at Brisbane, reportedly worth between $700,000-$750,000 per season.

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But with the Western Bulldogs demanding more than Brisbane’s first pick – initially pick 15 but now out to pick 21 through trade deals, a stalemate has been reached and it’s a concern for Johnson.

“I think there is a chance (Dunkley walks to pre-season draft instead of securing a trade) looking at the complexity that’s going on here,” Johnson said on Trading Day.

“That’s disappointing for the Dogs for that to happen but that is the likely scenario that could play out.

“The Dogs for me, would I be disappointed if they got nothing for Josh? Of course. Because you’ve got a guy there that’s walking at top shelf and not getting anything for him.

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“He’ll get there because he will walk. Something’s going to have to give here from a Dogs’ point of view. They either make the decision as a footy club and go, ‘Yep, we want to accept something good because you’re getting a player of quality that’s leaving’, but also there’s the other side of it.

“Ultimately he could walk and I’m starting to accept that because of where it’s playing out.”

It’s not the first time a Dunkley deal has reached a stand-off with the mid’s request to get to Essendon at the end of 2020 falling flat.

Dunkley was forced to return to the Dogs but managed some of the best form of his career.

The difference now two years’ on is the fact Dunkley is out of contract and no longer obliged to return to Footscray.

But Dunkley’s wish to get to Brisbane has been made tougher by the fact the Lions need to bolster their draft hand as a priority, in anticipation of early bids on father-son talent Will Ashcroft.

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Ashcroft, widely regarded as the best player in this year’s draft pool, is one of two players the Lions want to secure, alongside Jaspa Fletcher, so they need draft points to match early bids.

But Johnson says the Dunkley deal could still go through if the Lions prioritise it.

“(Brisbane’s) focus has been on the draft picks first up to allow Will Ashcroft who I’m hearing is like Voss-Lappin-Power-Acker and Black combined so look out for what they are getting there!” Johnson laughed.

“21 with a future first (round pick) is something that could potentially happen here (for Dunkley) … this is going to go right down to probably the last day and the last hour here.

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“From my personal opinion here, you’ve got a best and fairest winner – a guy that beat Bont, Macrae, Smith, Naughton, Dale … this guy is in the sweet spot of his career and walks straight in next to (Lion’s Brownlow Medallist Lachie) Neale.

“That’s why it surprised me a little bit that Brisbane didn’t give up something earlier before the Ashcroft, Fletcher scenario started to play in because of what they are going to get straight away that can help them win a flag instantly.”


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