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JOSH Dunkley will wait until later in the year before deciding whether he nominates as a father-son selection with the Sydney Swans, having just returned from a long-term back injury.

The midfielder is eligible to join the Swans, where his father Andrew played 217 games between 1992-2002 and was a key member of their defence for a decade.  


But after a four-month layoff with a back stress fracture that saw him only play his first game of the NAB AFL under-18 Championships for Vic Country on Friday, Josh said he wanted to pick up some form before making his call.   

"I haven't given it much thought because I haven't been playing much footy. I'll just wait and see, and it depends where I'm ranked and that kind of thing," the 18-year-old told AFL.com.au.

"I'll talk to a lot of people about it. I'm still nowhere near making a decision. Obviously the Swans are a really good club and I've been up there a few times and they've really welcomed me in, but I'll just wait and see how I go."

Who will be this year's No.1 draft pick?

Dunkley's injury has made it hard for clubs to know exactly where he fits in the draft, but he is seen as a first-round prospect who could fit among the best dozen players in the pool with a strong second half of the year. 


The Swans are likely to be forced to match an early bid for academy player Callum Mills, despite a shin injury preventing Mills from playing so far this season.

Under the new father-son and academy points-based bidding system, that would wipe out their first pick and see other selections move to the back of the draft, but the club would still be able to take Dunkley as well either through trading extra draft picks in, or by going into a 'points deficit' for next year's draft.


The physical onballer, who captained the NAB AFL Academy in 2014 and has impressed with his leadership abilities, said the major factor he had to consider was his family, who still live in the Gippsland region. 

"If we were still living in Sydney, then 100 per cent [I'd nominate to go to] Sydney. But we're living in Victoria and through the hard times, like I've just been through with my back, you need your family there for support. It's not far to fly – it's an hour flight – but I'll just wait and see what happens," he said.

The last player to knock back nominating as a father-son pick was Marc Murphy in 2005, when the Victorian was eligible to join the Brisbane Lions but chose to enter the open draft, where he was selected at No.1 by Carlton. 


Dunkley first felt some soreness in his back during the Academy's tour of America in January, but kept pushing through the pain to train for most of the intense 10-day camp. 

"When I came back I had a week off and it didn't help me too much, and I went out and trained the week after and it was still sore," he said.

"I got a scan and sure enough it was a stress fracture. At that point I was told I'd be out for three months, and it ended up being four. But I'm back now and feeling better than ever." 

Helping his recovery has been a move to Melbourne to cut down his travel time between appointments, and he is living with older sister Lara in Kew. 

Dunkley will continue to play for Gippsland in the TAC Cup, but the Academy has organised an arrangement with Richmond allowing the teenager access to the club's facilities through the week.

He also played a game with the club's VFL team as he built up his match fitness before returning for Vic Country against South Australia on Friday where he had seven disposals and 10 tackles against SA in less than 50 per cent of game time.

Dunkley goes into the club each Monday for the team's recovery session, has a light jog, gets on the bike for 20 minutes and does some weights. He has noticed the difference an elite environment has made.   

"I'm going in there and doing some touch work and I feel like I'm a lot better with control of the footy, and I'm doing weights four times a week. I feel a lot stronger," he said. 

"I'm loving every minute of it and the boys at Richmond have taken me in as well which has been a bit of a surprise. It takes a while to get to know guys like Jack Riewoldt, or Shaun Grigg or Dustin Martin, but now it's sort of like they're your friends. 

"It's been really good, I've been lucky to have that kind of access which hopefully will benefit me in the long run."