Josh Dunkley is the newest addition to a very strong Lions list (Image: AFL.com.au; Design: Will Cuckson)

Josh Dunkley’s trade request has been met, with the Western Bulldogs completing a deal to send him up north to the Brisbane Lions.

The reigning Charles Sutton medallist has joined the Lions along with a future third-round and future fourth-round selection, in exchange for pick 21, and a future first, second, and fourth-round pick.

After 116 games and a premiership in his seven-year stint at the Bulldogs, Dunkley will move on to a new challenge at a team that has been itching to claim a premiership but has fallen short in recent years.

A trade for Dunkley has been rumoured in the past, with Essendon having been very keen to get him on board. But with Brisbane now securing his services, how does he fit in at the club for 2023 and beyond?

A versatile star

Perhaps the key trait possessed by Dunkley that would attract any club to acquire him is his versatility. Dunkley has the ability to impact a game on so many different levels, whether that be smashing through a contest, using his skills and speed to move the ball, or impacting up in the forward line.

In the case of the Brisbane Lions, they can afford to deploy him in any of these roles given the amount of talent they already have at their disposal.

The Lions’ midfield currently includes the likes of Lachie Neale, Hugh McCluggage, Zac Bailey, and Jarrod Berry. Not to mention father-son selections Will Ashcroft and Jaspa Fletcher are both likely to join the Lions’ midfield group in this year’s draft as well, although the Lions will need to ensure they have enough points to match any potential bids for the pair.

All of those players can impact a game in a variety of ways and Dunkley is the kind of player that can be used in any role to complement them through the middle.

Dunkley is strong in the contest, averaging 11.3 contested possessions, 6.1 tackles, and 4.4 clearances per game this season, but he’s also a great user of the football who can operate in the same way that the smaller bodies such as Neale and McCluggage do in that midfield.

At 191cm, Dunkley can play a role up forward as well if needed, he has the size to be able to compete in the air and his ability to impact the scoreboard is undeniable. Games such as the Bulldogs’ win against the Magpies in Round 9 this year is evidence of this, as he booted three goals while racking up 24 possessions, and nine marks in the process.

Dunkley’s versatility will help him fit seamlessly into an already brilliant Brisbane team, playing whatever role he is required to play to the best of his abilities.

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Proven winner

As a premiership player with the Bulldogs in 2016, Dunkley knows what it takes to get it done on the big stage.

Two semi-final eliminations and two preliminary final eliminations in the last four years would be tough pills to swallow for Lions fans, given they could’ve gone all the way in any of those four years.

Brisbane has struggled to get it done when it counts, but the addition of Dunkley will help greatly given he has the experience of playing in two grand finals and experiencing both sides of the day. Aside from Lachie Neale, the majority of Brisbane’s midfield has never had the experience of playing in a grand final.

With plenty of finals experience in the group from the last few years though, Dunkley could have what the Lions need to help finally get them to the big dance given he played a key role in both of the Bulldogs’ preliminary final wins in 2016 and 2021.

Hitting his prime

Dunkley has had plenty of experience at the highest level having played in a solid team for the last few years. At just 25 years of age, and as the reigning Western Bulldogs best and fairest winner, he is joining Brisbane in the prime of his career.

Admittedly, Dunkley has struggled with injuries in the past. However, he finally seems to have gotten his body right, pulling together a full season and making it arguably his best one yet.

If he can stay fit and carry his form over, Dunkley in the Lions midfield for the next few years will be a dangerous prospect.

The Lions’ premiership window won’t be open forever so they need to give themselves the best shot at taking it home.

With the addition of Dunkley, a couple of bright youngsters coming in on draft night, and their established stars in top form, the Lions’ midfield group is shaping up as one of the most exciting in the competition and it will give fans reason to believe that they can have another red hot crack at the premiership in 2023 and beyond.

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