Western Bulldogs midfielder Josh Dunkley has called for greater recognition of the 'whole-club' effort required to win a flag, as debate rages as to whether premiership medallions should be handed out to more than just the head coach and gameday players.
Speaking on the ESPN Footy Podcast on Tuesday, Dunkley threw his support behind widening the criteria for receiving premiership recognition, saying the AFL needs to create a new tradition and find a way to reward the contributions of everyone at the winning club.
He said premiership-winning football teams are built on the back of the effort of many including non-football department staff - not just the gameday players and coach.
"I'm a big believer in 'squads win premierships', and not just [gameday teams]," Dunkley said. "It's really important to understand that not only the players, but the staff as well put in time and effort to help you get to where you are today.
"It's a hard one because the players who play on Grand Final day are the ones out there and the ones doing it, but I'd love to see -- whether it's a medal or something else -- everyone get something. Everyone at the club - coaches and staff. [Even if the gameday players get a medal] but the entire squad, list, and staff get [something like a ring] to [acknowledge their involvement] in the program for that year.
"It's important to understand the work put in by the people that away with us right now and those left home."
Currently, the Jock McHale Medal acknowledges only the winning side's head coach, and Dunkley said the AFL was behind the times in not awarding something to winning assistants and line coaches.
"It's the same thing - the assistants probably put in just as much work to get us where we are, so you could argue that as well. [Luke Beveridge is] obviously our head man, but the assistants put in a lot of work. I really believe there should be something given out to everyone involved in the season," he said on the podcast.
Bulldogs key forward Josh Bruce was an integral member of the Dogs' 22 for most of the season before rupturing his ACL in Round 21, and is currently in Melbourne helping club staff fulfill orders of merchandise ahead of the Grand Final. Meanwhile, Demons veteran Nathan Jones returned to Melbourne ahead of the Grand Final to witness the birth of twins. Both will miss out on premiership recognition, with more hard-luck stories yet to come.
Dunkley said every year there were unlucky players involved in the Grand Final, and that it was a shame that valuable members of a premiership campaign miss out on getting reward for effort.
"Looking back to 2016 there were players still to miss out then. [Bob Murphy] was injured at the time, Mitch Wallis broke his leg, [Lin Jong] had just come back from injury - he was in our team for the elimination final ... there are going to be players for both teams that'll probably miss out. It's hard," Dunkley said.
"It's probably why these teams are in the position that they're in, because they've got such deep lists and squads that they can choose from. There's confidence in not only the players running out, but the players that are right there on the edge, to come in and play their role for the team which is what good teams are made of.
"It would be nice to be able to celebrate that together."