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  1. #1
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    Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Hub life to the trade period: What life was really like for me in 2020



    Josh Dunkley

    PEOPLE OFTEN talk about how football players have it easy, and for the most part, we do. Our clubs treat us well, we eat as healthy as anyone, get to meet some great people and, above all, are paid to play the game we love. You certainly can't take any of that for granted.

    But a lot of the public probably didn't quite grasp how difficult 2020 was for us players. I certainly don't want to sound insensitive in any way whatsoever, as hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives to COVID-19, but I'm not sure footballers have ever been forced to endure anything quite like what we did last year.

    Having to pack up and move interstate for an indefinite period of time was the most difficult thing I've ever had to deal with. I'm not going to lie, I really struggled in the bubble, both from a mental and physical standpoint. To basically be stuck in a tiny hotel room for 90 days, living out of a suitcase, and only really being able to leave for training and games, was something I just couldn't get used to.

    I'm a very family-orientated person. I'm close with my entire family. Both mum and dad would come and visit nearly every week, so to all of a sudden have to say goodbye to that, and be away from home and everything you know, was tough.

    But what I struggled with most in the bubble was that there was just no escape from football. Normally, back in Melbourne, you can go for a walk or sit down, grab some breakfast and switch off for a while. But this turned out to be a never-ending football camp.

    My frustrations extended onto the footy field. My form wasn't quite where I wanted it to be and I probably wasn't getting as much opportunity as I would have liked. Throw in my ankle injury, and it was a recipe for disaster.

    It got to the point late in the season where I was so overwhelmed with everything that was happening that I seriously considering packing up and heading home. In saying that, I don't think I would've been the only player who had these thoughts.

    Looking back, my biggest mistake was holding everything so close to my chest. I had a lot of people around me, great people, caring people, but I didn't speak up and explain how I was feeling. By bottling everything up, I was never able to resolve any of my issues, and as a result, I started searching for a fresh start.

    Twelve months earlier, the mere thought of leaving the Bulldogs would have never crossed my mind. But here I was, sitting in my hotel room, unable to leave, seriously considering it. That was the first time I thought the Bombers would be a great fit for me.

    AFTER LOSING to the Saints in the elimination final, and having our season grind to a halt, a few of us decided to stay up in Queensland for a bit of an end-of-year wind down.

    Marcus Bontempelli, Hayden Crozier, Aaron Naughton, Jayden Shea and I hired a house up on the Sunshine Coast and were all excited at the chance to escape the AFL bubble we'd been trapped in for the past three months, even if it meant our return home would be delayed by a few days! But in the back of my mind, I knew I had to tell them what was going through my mind.

    I'm not going to lie; I was super nervous. It's a seriously difficult conversation to have with a group of your closest friends, some of whom you have won a premiership with. How do you break it to them? How were they going to react? What would they think of me?

    I also didn't want anyone to form the opinion that this was purely a financial decision, as can often be the case when players move clubs. Don't get me wrong, as a player, your salary is something that crosses your mind from time to time. But for me, I've always wanted to extract the most out of my career, and at that time, a move to Essendon, for a key midfield role, felt like the right path to maximize that, regardless of what figure was printed on any contract.

    I decided to break the news to them individually, as it felt more personal. To my surprise, they were all super understanding and could see exactly where I was coming from. There was no judgement or ill feelings towards me. It was widely discussed that if that's how I feel, then that's how I feel. There's no point trying to hide it or pretend otherwise.

    I had already begun the conversations with Luke Beveridge and some of the other staff at the club, but being able to discuss it with my teammates was a huge weight off my shoulders.

    The general feeling amongst the group was that everyone wanted me to stay, and if I'm being honest, I felt like I would, right up until the point where the trade request was submitted and the club released a statement about my future. That's when I started thinking this really could happen. It quickly became very real.

    I FELT pretty relaxed throughout the entire trade period. I wasn't glued to my phone or constantly checking the news, instead, I was just getting on with life and trying to enjoy some down time after the most difficult year of my life.

    Just being able to do the little things was what I had missed most throughout 2020, whether it was playing some cricket with my dad and brother, or honing a recipe in the kitchen, it really helped take my mind off everything that was going on in the background.

    It wasn't until 7:29pm, on the final day of the trade period, when I realised a deal wasn't going to get done. I was at the farm, sitting around the campfire with my family, and I was starting to think 'okay, time's running out here.'

    I really didn't know whether to be pleased, disappointed or angry. It's such a strange situation. You honestly have no idea, one way or the other, where you will be playing the following year. You're basically in limbo, waiting for an answer, something which, at that point, is totally out of your control.

    Once it was confirmed I was staying at the Dogs, I was already feeling uneasy about the moment I would walk back into the club and face everyone again. In the back of your mind, you can't help but feel they are sort of disappointed in you. After all, there's no escaping the fact you asked to leave.

    You end up getting to the stage where you start running those first conversations through in your mind, and all that does is make you even more anxious.

    I knew I had to build up the trust factor again. The only way to really do that in preseason is to return to the club in good nick and set the training standards. Over the break, all I did was work on my fitness.

    That didn't mean I wasn't going to address the elephant in the room on Day 1. I spoke to just about everyone at the club and made sure that all questions were answered. I wanted honest communication with everyone.

    That first day back at the club was honestly one of the most daunting days of my life, but by the time I was back in the car, getting ready to go home, I felt completely relaxed. Everyone had moved on quickly and nobody felt any need to dwell on what had happened.

    Since then, I have never looked back and now, on the eve of another season, I am as excited as ever to be pulling on the red, white and blue.

    FROM THE outside, you might look at my situation and say, well what's changed?

    There's probably three reasons why I'm feeling much happier now than I was six months ago.

    Firstly, it's great to be back home and getting to do the things we may have taken for granted during last year's lockdowns and restrictions.

    Secondly, the excitement around the club, ahead of the season, is at an all-time high. Being able to play home games again, and have fans back at the footy, is something every single player dearly missed last year.

    And lastly, the signing of Adam Treloar. I've only known Adz for a few months but he's quickly become my best mate. We have so much in common and get along like a house on fire. I cannot wait to play footy with him in 2021 and beyond.

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  3. #2
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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    I had thought the Essendon recruiting team were keeping Josh company during Hub Life...
    What should I tell her? She's going to ask.

  4. #3
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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Interesting read, maybe Dunkley does stay long term?
    "Its always good to win the Ashes test match'' - Libba, AFL Grand Final, 2016

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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Quote Originally Posted by Vred View Post
    Interesting read, maybe Dunkley does stay long term?
    Treloar might be a double win as a stable pony for Dunks. It does seem like the hub really affected some guys more than others, especially those with a really tight family unit.

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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Granted I understand the difficulties players faced in the hubs, but the 3 things that have changed aren't exactly inspiring. The first 2 are simply a result of post-lockdown life. Whichever club you're at, it's the same. The last reason is the addition of a last second recruit. Did he have no friends at the club before Adam arrived? To me, none of these changes resolve problems that may have initially pushed him to want to change clubs.

    What were his reasons for wanting to change? COVID and not being with family? How does changing teams fix that? The only thing that makes sense is time in the midfield. But that hasn't been addressed and has in fact been made worse with the addition of his new mate Treloar. If it was ruck then adding Martin to the side is a major reason for change.

    If it was all down to COVID, he was seriously misguided in his thinking that changing clubs would fix everything. It would have fixed nothing and potentially made things worse given he would have moved away from existing friendships. What was his manager doing in all of this? Helping him manage his mental health or trying to get a few extra $$$ for himself?

    I hope he's re-found his happiness and hunger for football life again but this article just creates more confusion and adds to the weirdness and ill-thought logic of the whole situation.
    Last edited by bulldogsthru&thru; 22-03-2021 at 11:48 AM.

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  8. #6
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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    I find it interesting that we no longer hear or see anything about the previous bromance of Bont and Dunks. As captain, he must have felt a real kick in the guts that his then best mate wanted to leave.
    "I'll give him a hug before the first bounce and then I'll run into my pack and give them orders to rip him apart."

  9. #7
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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Quote Originally Posted by bulldogsthru&thru View Post
    Granted I understand the difficulties players faced in the hubs, but the 3 things that have changed aren't exactly inspiring. The first 2 are simply a result of post-lockdown life. Whichever club you're at, it's the same. The last reason is the addition of a last second recruit. Did he have no friends at the club before Adam arrived? To me, none of these changes resolve problems that may have initially pushed him to want to change clubs.

    What were his reasons for wanting to change? COVID and not being with family? How does changing teams fix that? The only thing that makes sense is time in the midfield. But that hasn't been addressed and has in fact been made worse with the addition of his new mate Treloar. If it was ruck then adding Martin to the side is a major reason for change.

    If it was all down to COVID, he was seriously misguided in his thinking that changing clubs would fix everything. It would have fixed nothing and potentially made things worse given he would have moved away from existing friendships. What was his manager doing in all of this? Helping him manage his mental health or trying to get a few extra $$$ for himself?

    I hope he's re-found his happiness and hunger for football life again but this article just creates more confusion and adds to the weirdness and ill-thought logic of the whole situation.
    Yep. I wonder if he watched the Essendon game on Saturday night and how he felt watching them piss away a 40 point lead and lose to Hawthorn. I'm guessing that he is probably thought that he dodged a bullet.

    I thought that Dunks looked pretty good on Friday night. It was certainly a better 4 quarter effort than any of the Essendon players put in.

    I said straight after the trade period finished that if I were Josh then I'd be changing my management team and nothing that has happened since then has changed my mind.
    Our *three* weapons are fear, and surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again

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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    The guy was having a bad time away from family and was struggling with injury and what he perceived as limited opportunity in the midfield and a big money offer came along, in addition to a promise of being the big dawg inside midfielder.

    I can see how all of those elements played out to trigger the request for a trade. It's cool.

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  12. #9
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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Quote Originally Posted by SquirrelGrip View Post
    I find it interesting that we no longer hear or see anything about the previous bromance of Bont and Dunks. As captain, he must have felt a real kick in the guts that his then best mate wanted to leave.
    Maybe as captain it's harder to be in an exclusive bromance
    Your captain needs to be polyamorous; spread the love!

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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Quote Originally Posted by jeemak View Post
    The guy was having a bad time away from family and was struggling with injury and what he perceived as limited opportunity in the midfield and a big money offer came along, in addition to a promise of being the big dawg inside midfielder.

    I can see how all of those elements played out to trigger the request for a trade. It's cool.
    This is my take. He's done everything right since coming back.
    Even copped a public rev up from the coach and responded well.
    It's possible that article is brand Dunkley loaded with spin and thats probably part of it (and the smart move for his public persona) but I think he also admits some fault, explains the difficulties not only of his time in the hub but coming back into the fold at the Dogs and is looking forward to the future.
    I've got no issue with him presently.

  15. #11
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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Quote Originally Posted by jeemak View Post
    The guy was having a bad time away from family and was struggling with injury and what he perceived as limited opportunity in the midfield and a big money offer came along, in addition to a promise of being the big dawg inside midfielder.

    I can see how all of those elements played out to trigger the request for a trade. It's cool.
    Of course you’d say that. You started the whole thing.

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  17. #12
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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    I’m sure he had his valid reasons. The issue I have is with the article. It’s not open or honest about the reasons (which probably means we can read between the lines as to the reasons) and does nothing to put away fears he might do it all again this year. It was simply PR from Dunks. I’m just not buying it. I’m fully behind him as a dogs player but I’m not convinced he won’t try run again at seasons end.

  18. #13
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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Quote Originally Posted by bulldogsthru&thru View Post
    Granted I understand the difficulties players faced in the hubs, but the 3 things that have changed aren't exactly inspiring. The first 2 are simply a result of post-lockdown life. Whichever club you're at, it's the same. The last reason is the addition of a last second recruit. Did he have no friends at the club before Adam arrived? To me, none of these changes resolve problems that may have initially pushed him to want to change clubs.

    What were his reasons for wanting to change? COVID and not being with family? How does changing teams fix that? The only thing that makes sense is time in the midfield. But that hasn't been addressed and has in fact been made worse with the addition of his new mate Treloar. If it was ruck then adding Martin to the side is a major reason for change.

    If it was all down to COVID, he was seriously misguided in his thinking that changing clubs would fix everything. It would have fixed nothing and potentially made things worse given he would have moved away from existing friendships. What was his manager doing in all of this? Helping him manage his mental health or trying to get a few extra $$$ for himself?

    I hope he's re-found his happiness and hunger for football life again but this article just creates more confusion and adds to the weirdness and ill-thought logic of the whole situation.
    To me it reads like he went a bit stir crazy being locked up without he usual outlets away from footy and his brain was just screaming "GIVE ME CHANGE"

    Then Essendon rocked up with money and opportunity.

    If he did indeed have problems with professional standards then maybe bringing Treloar has helped reinforce what's expected of the players as well?
    Last edited by hujsh; 22-03-2021 at 03:46 PM.

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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Quote Originally Posted by hujsh View Post
    To me it reads like he went a bit stir crazy being locked up without he usual outlets away from footy and his brain was just creaming "GIVE ME CHANGE"

    Then Essendon rocked up with money and opportunity.


    If he did indeed have problems with professional standards then maybe bringing Treloar has helped reinforce what's expected of the players as well?
    Yep that's what I think too. He wasn't able to think clearly as a result. Dunks at least admitted he should have talked about it with Bevo and the players. This probably never would have happened if he did. A reasoning voice from his manager may have calmed the situation as well, but the greedy manager obviously didn't care and simply saw $$$. Aside from more $$$ and being a midfield general, not much would have changed. I think the larger problem was covid-life. Unfortunately (or fortunately given it didn't happen?) if he did change to essendon, he probably would have wrongly believed life was much better there not realising it was simply due to life going back to (almost) normal this year.

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  22. #15
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    Re: Hub life to the trade period : What life was really like for me in 2020

    Quote Originally Posted by SquirrelGrip View Post
    I find it interesting that we no longer hear or see anything about the previous bromance of Bont and Dunks. As captain, he must have felt a real kick in the guts that his then best mate wanted to leave.
    They were previously almost inseperable on social media. It's been quite a significant change.
    I should leave it alone but you're not right

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