Josh Dunkley's Mailbag: Cheat meal, return date, favourite teammates and dream job (outside footy!)

Dunkley: Fans often provoke AFL players on nights out (2:52)

Western Bulldogs star Josh Dunkley says players need to be able to enjoy a night out without being harassed, revealing some of the treatment he's witnessed. (2:52)

WE PUT THE call out to our AFL fans who wanted the chance to ask Western Bulldogs star and ESPN's very own Josh Dunkley a question.

The response was overwhelming, but we've picked out the best questions and asked Josh for his honest answers. So without further ado, here's the first edition of our Dunkley Mailbag.

Which game are you eyeing for your return to football?

After having surgery, I looked at the fixture and highlighted our Round 18 clash against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium as the game where I wanted to get back. With a shoulder injury, you lose a lot of touch and physicality, so I'm just starting to work on that again, but I'm still on track to return for the game against the Suns. It's a little sooner than normal for a shoulder reconstruction, which normally sees you miss around 12-16 weeks. If I am able to get back in Round 18, it will have been about 11 and a half weeks. Fingers crossed!

What's your role been at the club during your injury layoff?

I've really tried to take on a mentoring role over the past few months and help with some of the younger guys at the football club. When you're injured, you can feel a little helpless, at times, but being able to give back is really important to me. I want to assist my teammates where I can and be there for whatever is needed, as ultimately, it makes us all better. I've also been able to spend a little bit of time in the coaches' box, which has been quite an interesting experience.

If you could take one skill from another player in the league, what would it be?

Can I take a couple of things!? I'm not overly quick, so I reckon I'd be looking to improve in that area! Maybe Patrick Dangerfield's speed and his ability to burst away from a stoppage. The other skill I wouldn't mind having is Daniel Rich's booming left foot. Yeah, I'll take those.

Who was your favourite player when you were young?

I actually mentioned this in my last column for ESPN, but the player I admired most growing up was Sydney's Josh Kennedy. I really tried to mirror my game on his when I was a junior. We're almost the exact same height and weight, and even now I try to play a similar style of football to him. The other player I really looked up to as a youngster was Scott Pendlebury. Being a local Sale boy, where I grew up playing footy, there was already a special connection there. I've actually been lucky enough to train with him in the off-season, which was really cool.

What did it feel like to win a flag against your dad's old side?

After the elimination final against West Coast, I was chatting to dad and he said, "you know, if you go all the way you could play Sydney in the Grand Final?" At the time, it seemed crazy, but as soon as it happened, I knew it was going to be a big deal. We've got a real family attachment to the Swans and I had connections with players and coaches there. It did feel a little strange playing them in the Grand Final but obviously amazing to win a premiership.

Outside Adam Treloar, who is your favourite teammate?

That's a good question! I've got a few. Marcus Bontempelli and Hayden Crozier are probably the two I spend a lot more time with outside of the football club (not including Adam, obviously!). To run into Adam after the trade period last year, and have so much in common, it was pretty cool. He's one of my best mates now. But to be honest, I'm really close with all of the boys at the club.

Do you see yourself playing your entire career at the Bulldogs?

Last year happened the way that it did, and while you can't really change any of that, for me, I know I've now had some really healthy conversations with everyone involved at the footy club about my future. I'm happy and I feel really settled at the Bulldogs.

How much confidence do the younger players at the Bulldogs have?

There's a huge amount of confidence amongst the playing group, and it's no different with the younger guys. We've been lucky enough to get Aaron Naughton, Tim English, Bailey Smith and Pat Lipinski, among others, and we're really starting to see the fruits of these picks.

What's your favourite place in Australia?

I absolutely love Queensland, and Noosa is probably my favourite spot in the country. I see myself moving up there to live when I'm done with footy. I just love that lifestyle, not to mention the weather! But at the moment, it's hard to go past Melbourne. It's such a livable city and you can't top it from a sporting point of view.

Do you have a post-game cheat meal?

I always have something naughty after a game! Straight after playing you always have an UP&GO or something with protein to help you refuel, but on the way home I tend to sneak through the Maccas drive-thru and go for a McChicken meal and some chicken nuggets! Normally you're dressed in the full club kit so it's pretty obvious where you're coming from, so you tend to get a few strange looks. But as a player, post-game is pretty much the only time you get to treat yourself, and if you go through like never having any junk food, you'll drive yourself insane.

If you weren't an athlete, what do you think you'd do as a career?

I'm really interested in the food industry. I probably wouldn't necessarily want to be a chef, but I'd enjoy being involved in cafes, bars and restaurants, whatever shape or form it might be.