Essendon is coming “super hard” for Western Bulldogs midfielder, according to AFL Media’s Mitch Cleary.
The Bulldogs want to keep Dunkley but the 23-year-old is reportedly keen on a move to the Bombers despite having two years to run on his contract.
AFL Media’s Callum Twomey reported over the weekend that Essendon is also considering recruiting Josh’s brother and former Melbourne midfielder Kyle.
With Joe Daniher (Brisbane), Adam Saad (Carlton) and Orazio Fantasia (Port Adelaide) seemingly on the way out of Tullamarine, Cleary understands that the Bombers will have salary cap space to pay Dunkley up to $800,000 a season.
“He’s got two years run at Whitten Oval, but the Essendon Football Club is coming super hard,” Cleary told AFL Trade Radio’s The Early Trade.
“How hard can Essendon come? Because they’ve got the salary cap room, they’re moving Joe Daniher out, Adam Saad moves out as well as Orazio Fantasia to Port Adelaide.
“I think they’re well and truly able to pay Josh Dunkley $700-800,000 to be their big inside bull. They’ve been crying out for a player like Josh Dunkley for a long time.”
Dunkley was deployed in the ruck by Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge throughout the 2020 season and Kane Cornes wonders whether that’s contributed to the inside mid potentially wanting out.
“I think that $700,000-mark is about right for him,” Cornes said.
“I wonder if he’s frustrated by the way he’s been used this year by Luke Beveridge. If I’m a midfielder of his calibre, I don’t want to be rucking.
“I know it wasn’t for a long period but there were times throughout the year where he was their genuine second ruck and it did make him much less effective around the ground and doing what he does best.”
Essendon will also look to secure a deal for GWS youngster Jye Caldwell after he nominated the Bombers as his preferred destination.