JOSH Dunkley would have been watching next week's AFL grand final in a rival club's colours if last November's stunning trade request had been granted.
The 24-year-old was seeking more midfield time and nominated Essendon as his preferred destination, but was ultimately held to the remaining two years on his Western Bulldogs contract.
"I haven't really thought about it too much ever since it didn't happen; I've just looked forward and tried to do as best I can for the team," Dunkley said.
"I've been on record saying I'm really excited for the future and things like that.
"But to be able to come back into the group and be embraced by everyone from day one of pre-season has been really important."
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As Dunkley prepares for a shot at a second premiership - the Bulldogs to take on Melbourne in the September 25 grand final - everything appears to have panned out well.
He has played an important role in the midfield rotation when fit and formed a close bond with star recruit Adam Treloar, who added even more depth to the Dogs' strong on-ball division over summer.
But the 11-month period since Dunkley's trade move fell through hasn't all been smooth sailing.
He was sidelined after a shoulder reconstruction in April and played one match on return before being forced into quarantine after he unwittingly attending a COVID-19 exposure site.
"For me, it's been an interesting ride," Dunkley said, having played 14 games this season, including all three finals so far.
"I did my shoulder (in round six), came back in pretty quick time, 11-12 weeks, which I don't know if it's been done before.
"I felt really good in that Gold Coast game (round 18) and then I copped the two weeks quarantine at home.
"To be locked inside my house for two weeks certainly didn't help my preparation and all the work that I'd done post-shoulder surgery... now I'm starting to hit my straps again."
It's happening at the right time, with Dunkley one of up to nine players from the Bulldogs' 2016 premiership team set to chase more flag glory in this year's historic decider at Perth's Optus Stadium.
"We've just got to put our heads down and work really hard - the job's not done yet," Dunkley said.
"We've got to train really well, get together and enjoy the moment a little bit and when it comes to game day we'll work really hard together and hopefully we get that (premiership)."
Dunkley said he has not yet closely considered his playing future beyond his existing contract, which runs out at the end of next year, but expects some dialogue with the Bulldogs' hierarchy during the off-season.