Essendon has shown an interest in the star of the Western Bulldogs, Josh Dunkley, ahead of the AFL trading period, reports Tom Browne of 7NEWS Melbourne.
There is still no indication that Dunkley, who still has a two-year contract, is reciprocating and planning a move.
But the bombers who will lose Joe Daniher, Adam Saad and Orazio Fantasia are desperate to attract talent with that significant place in their salary cap and what could become a solid hand of draft picks.
Dunkley fell slightly into the pecking order at the Bulldogs after a round 10 injury outpaced by Bailey Smith and a resurgent Tom Liberatore in midfield in year two.
The 2016 Premier player averaged 18 disposals and one shadow under three clearances per game this year – up from 28 and more than five in longer games last season.
Whether Dunkley, who turns 24 in January, would like to leave the Bulldogs remains to be seen, but Essendon could win the midfielder with a lucrative offer and please his rivals with a solid trading package.
Bulldog football director Luke Darcy laughed at the connection, however, saying the Dons would be less interested in recruiting Dunkley than they were in keeping him.
“I have a creeping assumption that it will stay exactly where it is,” said Darcy.
“Everyone looks everywhere at this time of the year and you want to bring every player to your club, whether you can or not is another matter.
“That would be a big surprise if he were anywhere other than the Bulldogs.”
The bombers are currently holding selection number 6, but list chief Adrian Dodoro wants “convincing” compensation for trades for Daniher and Saad.
Essendon has tried to catch a ball-winning midfielder – Carlton’s Sam Walsh – in early trade talks.
They also reportedly requested a big name from the Brisbane Lions when they started discussing a Daniher deal last week.
Neither attempt was successful, with the first and second round selections being the more likely return.
Essendon’s interest in Dunkley comes after Collingwood made a similar move for Bombers midfielder Zach Merrett last week.
7NEWS Mark Stevens of Melbourne reports that the Pies have shown “a very great interest” in Merrett, who has been the subject of back-and-forth reports about his future since the end of the season.
Paul Brasher, president of Essendon, said the 25-year-old recently stopped speculation that he was unhappy and could try to leave with a year left on his contract.
“Last weekend I had a call from someone who absolutely stated that Zach Merrett had submitted his resignation the day before,” said Brasher on the club’s website.
“Well, it turns out, I spoke to Zach over the weekend and he assured me it wasn’t true and he’s looking forward to a great 2021.”
Collingwood increased her interest in Merrett when speculation about Adam Treloar peaked after fiancé Kim Ravaillion confirmed she was moving to Queensland to pursue her netball career.
The 27-year-old midfielder is no guarantee of staying with the Pies despite having five years to fulfill his contract. Collingwood is said to have instructed Treloar to find a new home.
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