As the only premiership player in Brisbane’s grand final side, Josh Dunkley has imparted as much as he can on his teammates as they treat their breakthrough berth in the season decider as a “bonus”.
The first-year Lion, who won the 2016 flag with the Western Bulldogs before losing the 2021 decider to Melbourne in Perth, is one of only three Brisbane players with grand final experience along with Charlie Cameron and Lachie Neale, who both played in losses at their former clubs.
The 26-year-old midfielder says finals were on his mind when he made the big decision to move north after eight seasons at the Bulldogs, but he did not expect to reach the last Saturday in September in his first season.
“It’s been an awesome ride … going into the year and firstly getting traded … finals was probably on the mind but not grand finals, so it’s an added bonus for me and the group,” Dunkley said.
“I feel like there have obviously been preliminary finals and semi-finals years before, but to take that next step … now for us, it’s to win tomorrow.”
He said most of the experience he had shared with teammates was about how to deal with grand final week rather than the game itself.
“This has been similar to 2021 in Perth in terms of the first few days, then you come down here to Melbourne, and there’s no better day and weather than the grand final parade,” he said.
“So to soak it all in and use that energy out there tomorrow is really important.”
Dunkley said Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale, who came on as the substitute in Fremantle’s unsuccessful 2013 grand final against Hawthorn, had been quick to put the focus back on the team after his unexpected second triumph on Monday night.
“The next day (Neale) addressed the group and said, ‘It’s not about me boys, it’s about us’,” Dunkley said.
“We’re excited, Lach’s obviously had an outstanding year and we’re pumped for him that he’s got that reward, but he wants to celebrate something as a group, so that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.”
Cameron, the last of the Lions’ grand final trio, said he had evolved significantly as a player since he was held to one goal in the Crows’ upset loss to Richmond in 2017.
“I think I was in my fourth year at the time, I think I just have a lot of confidence now in the group,” he said.
“I think I just understand what it takes to try and get yourself up for big games – I’ve had a quiet finals series this year, but hopefully I can try and back up (my finals form) over the last couple of years.
“I know I’m limited (in terms of) opportunities and touches, so I’ve just got to try and make the most of it.”
Cameron said he was looking forward to the battle with either Brayden Maynard or Isaac Quaynor after having the pair’s measure twice this season with 10 goals in two meetings.
“I think (the success) is just (due to) a different system they have … I know I’ll be having a tough battle with either Quaynor or Maynard, but whoever I get, like I said, I’ll back myself in,” he said.
“(Quaynor) is a quality player, he’s had an unbelievable finals series at the moment. I’ve got a lot of respect for what he’s done this year, I felt like he was snubbed (from the) All-Australian team.
“It’ll be a great match-up and hopefully we can both put a good show on for 100,000 (fans).”