#34 Most Relevant | Josh Dunkley

Over the past few years, Josh Dunkley has been one of my favourites to own in SuperCoach, AFLFantasy & DreamTeam. 2023 was meant to be the season where he became a topline-scoring beast. While there were some ups and downs, I saw enough to suggest that Josh could still become the top-scoring player overall in 2024.


Josh Dunkley, a prominent player for the Brisbane Lions, possesses a diverse and formidable skill set that makes him a valuable asset. Renowned for his exceptional ability to win clearances, Dunkley excels in tight contests, showcasing his strength and tenacity. His high football IQ enables him to read the game effectively, positioning himself strategically to impact play both offensively and defensively.

Dunkley’s versatility is a key strength, allowing him to perform various roles, from midfield ball-getter to a forward line presence. His tackling prowess and endurance are standout attributes, ensuring he is consistently involved in the play and significantly contributes to his team’s performance. His skills in ball distribution, combined with his ability to break tackles and create scoring opportunities, round out a skill set that makes him a multifaceted and influential player in the AFL.

He entered the 2023 AFL season with high expectations in fantasy football. While his overall performance didn’t quite reach the anticipated heights, his season was punctuated with significant scoring bursts that showcased his potential.

In AFLFantasy, Dunkley posted a solid average of 103.5, tallying 12 scores over 100, with five exceeding 120 and only four below 80. His ability to play 21 out of 23 games was noteworthy, leading him to finish the year ranked 22nd for total points and 20th by average. These figures, while impressive, didn’t fully meet the lofty expectations set for him.

His performance in SuperCoach was even more striking. Dunkley averaged 113.8, with 15 scores above 100, including eight surpassing 120. Remarkably, he scored below 80 in only two games, cementing his position as the 7th-ranked midfielder by average for the season. This ranking underscores his effectiveness and consistency in the SuperCoach format.

However, a closer look at the details of Dunkley’s season reveals a 10-game stretch, from rounds 5-15, where he truly lived up to his preseason billing. During this period, he averaged an impressive 117.8 in AFLFantasy and an even more remarkable 130.4 in SuperCoach. This phase of the season highlighted Dunkley’s high-scoring capabilities and why he was so highly regarded going into the year. This scoring potential, demonstrated in these specific rounds, reflects Dunkley’s strong, albeit somewhat inconsistent, season and why he remains a significant player in the fantasy football landscape.

Over his AFL career, Dunkley has shown the pedigree of strong AFL Fantasy & SuperCoach scoring. In his history, there are multiple seasons where he averaged over 108, including a career-high 111 AFL Fantasy and 116.4 in SuperCoach in 2019.

While the ceiling scoring is in his history, we can’t hold on tightly to what he did in the past. Anything pre-2023 was done in a different team and system; therefore, it cannot be held as tightly for reference as in prior preseasons. At the Lions, he has shown us that the scoring capacity and ceiling are still there and that, heading into 2024, he’s highly capable of still being at the peak SuperCoach & AFLFantasy.

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The decision to start Josh Dunkley in fantasy teams has been a topic of debate for many seasons, often seen as underwhelming in the eyes of many. This raises an important question: were our expectations for Dunkley unrealistic, or was there more to his performance than met the eye?

Understanding the nuances of AFL is crucial in making informed decisions in fantasy football. Dunkley’s statistical performance last season may appear patchy at first glance, but it’s essential to consider the broader narrative. There are several plausible explanations for the fluctuations in his scoring: adapting to a new team and structure at Brisbane, thriving as the season progressed due to the Lions’ and opponents’ game styles, and varying roles he was asked to play. Rather than sheer numbers, these factors should inform our understanding of Dunkley’s performance.

How you interpret Dunkley’s seasonal splits is pivotal in determining whether he offers scoring and financial upside, presents a risk, or should be kept on your watchlist. In the first four weeks of the year, he averaged 92.75 in AFLFantasy and 104.25 in SuperCoach, a modest start by his standards. However, Dunkley’s performance spiked dramatically in the following ten weeks, averaging 117.8 in AFLFantasy and 130.4 in SuperCoach.

His season was then interrupted by a calf strain in round 16. Still, upon returning in round 19, Dunkley closed out the final six games with an average of 95.1 in AFLFantasy and 98.6 in SuperCoach. This final stretch, while solid, didn’t match his mid-season highs.

The analysis of Josh Dunkley’s performance, particularly towards the end of the season, requires a deeper understanding of the game context and team dynamics. Notably, three of his four lowest season scores occurred last month. However, these numbers can only be accurate considering the specific roles Dunkley assigned in these games. For instance, in two of these low-scoring games, Dunkley was tasked with tagging key opponents Caleb Serong and Rory Laird. Such defensive assignments often limit a player’s ability to score highly in fantasy terms, as their focus shifts more towards restricting the opposition rather than accumulating their statistics.

Further influencing Dunkley’s performance was the injury to teammate Will Ashcroft. Dunkley’s scoring averages with Ashcroft on the field were significantly higher – 108.3 in AFLFantasy and 121.4 in SuperCoach. In contrast, in the games without Ashcroft, his averages dropped to 91 in AFLFantasy and 93.7 in SuperCoach. This stark difference underscores the impact of team composition and individual roles on a player’s fantasy output.

Ultimately, deciding whether to start Dunkley involves weighing these varied phases of his season against each other. It requires a balance of understanding the data, recognizing the impact of team dynamics and roles, and considering the broader context of his performance. Dunkley’s case illustrates that fantasy football decision-making is as much about interpreting the story behind the numbers as it is about the numbers themselves.

The fact that Brisbane Lions have an early bye in the AFL season, missing Round 2, adds a strategic layer to considering Josh Dunkley in your starting fantasy squad. The dilemma here isn’t just about Dunkley’s individual value and high-scoring potential, which is evident against his early opponents, but also about how selecting him impacts the balance of your team, especially when considering other players from Carlton and Brisbane, who are also off during that week. This necessitates carefully comparing and ranking Dunkley alongside players like Lachie Neale, Kiddy Coleman, Sam Walsh, and Zac Williams. Your choices here are pivotal, as they influence your overall squad selection and structure.

Starting multiple players with early byes increases your team’s risk profile. It could lead to a situation where you might not be able to drop poor scores from these players during the best 18 scoring rounds. This is a crucial factor to consider, especially in a game where maximizing every scoring opportunity is key to success.

The popular strategy in the fantasy community often leans towards avoiding players with early byes. However, this doesn’t necessarily rule out Dunkley or other similar players. It’s more about understanding how this choice affects the rest of your team selections.

A potential strategy for Dunkley might be to target him as an upgrade after the Lions’ round 12 bye. Post-bye, the Lions have a schedule that includes early-round matches, making Dunkley an ideal Vice-Captain option due to the timing of these games. With Friday night games against the Dogs in Round 13 and Saints in Round 14, followed by a first Saturday game against Port in Round 15, Dunkley’s early match appearances could be advantageous for fantasy managers looking for a high-scoring Vice-Captain.

With his credible scoring history, he should be seriously considered in our starting squads. His potential for high scores, combined with the strategic considerations around the Lions’ early bye, means he should also be closely monitored as a potential upgrade target throughout the season. His selection is not just about the points he brings but also about how he fits into the broader strategy of your fantasy football team.

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Josh Dunkley’s ranking varies between SuperCoach and AFLFantasy, reflecting his different impacts in each format. In SuperCoach, his impressive average positions him as an M1, making him a highly valuable pick. Given his scoring potential, selecting Dunkley in the late second or early third round would be a strategic move, capitalizing on his consistently delivering high scores.

In AFLFantasy, I would rank Dunkley as an M2. While his average might suggest an M3 ranking, his strong name recognition and proven track record in the game mean he’s unlikely to be available for long in most drafts. Fantasy managers recognize Dunkley’s potential and are often willing to pick him earlier, making him a sought-after player well before the M3 stage. In both formats, Dunkley’s scoring history and his value to the midfield make him a key target in fantasy drafts.


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