WESTERN Bulldogs star Josh Dunkley has officially requested a trade to Essendon.
Dunkley's manager, Liam Pickering, confirmed his decision on Thursday.
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Pickering said Dunkley's choice was "purely a football decision", saying the 23-year-old wants to spend more time as an inside midfielder and believes he will gain that experience at the Bombers.
The two sides will now negotiate a trade, though any potential talks will be complicated by the fact Dunkley has two years remaining on a contract he signed with the Bulldogs midway through last season.
Essendon has conceded it does not have the "whip-hand" in negotiations, given his contract status, with the Bulldogs since reiterating that Dunkley is a required player and "someone we want to keep at the football club".
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The Bombers are set to have three top-10 selections that it can negotiate in a trade with the Bulldogs, pending a deal taking Adam Saad to the Blues, while it could also offer future selections in an effort to prise Dunkley out of Whitten Oval.
However, further complicating matters is the fact the Western Bulldogs do not need 2020 draft picks – and is actively looking to trade out its first-round selection, currently pick No.14 – due to it likely being absorbed by an early bid for gun Next Generation Academy prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.
Speaking on Trade Radio, Pickering admitted there would be significant hurdles to overcome for Essendon to complete the trade.
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"Do I think it will get done? Well, he's got two years to run on his contract and there are always roadblocks when you've got multiple years left on a contract," Pickering said.
"We'll be doing our best to work through it and hopefully it can happen, because that's what he wants to do.
"I don't know exactly how they're going to do it. That will probably become a bit clearer over the next few days, because we've still got a week to go. Whether there's players involved, just picks, picks and players … I'm not sure how they'll structure it."
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Although other clubs have indicated their interest in Dunkley since learning of Essendon's bid to secure his services, Pickering has confirmed that his client would return to the Bulldogs should a trade with the Bombers not be forthcoming.
"The Dogs' initial starting point is that they're not interested in trading him, which is understandable, but Josh is pretty keen to get there," Pickering said.
"He'll stay with the Bulldogs if he doesn't go to Essendon. The priority is to get to Essendon, but if he can't get to Essendon he'll be at the Bulldogs.
"Of course, he can (go back to the Bulldogs). We've seen it happen plenty of times, we saw it happen with Tom Papley this year. It can happen and I guess that will be in the back of the Bulldogs' minds.
"But Josh's mindset is going to Essendon and that's the focus at the moment."
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Reports emerged earlier this week that Dunkley had grown unhappy at the Western Bulldogs this season, though Pickering refuted those suggestions and said his decision to request a trade was purely football-related.
"It's not sour by any stretch," Pickering said.
"It was a frustrating year for Josh. He had an injury early and the Dogs have got a very strong midfield, as we know. There are a number of players that play a similar position.
"Josh, because he's a little bit more versatile than a couple of the others, he has spent more time out of the middle which is where he wants to play. That's the area he's identified at the Bombers, he thinks he can go in there and strengthen it up as a big-bodied midfielder."