Western Bulldogs midfielder Josh Dunkley has opened up about the truly vile messages he received during the team’s slump in 2018.
Following a round four loss to the Sydney Swans that season, which dropped the 2016 premiers to 1-3 for the season, Dunkley said he opened his phone to discover ‘literally hundreds’ of abusive messages.
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The 24-year-old discussed the deluge of abuse in a column penned for ESPN.
Dunkley was already beating himself up after flubbing what would have been a wide open goal with less than three minutes to play, with the Bulldogs going on to lose by just seven points.
What awaited Dunkley was a truly shocking display of vitriol over an early season football game.
“In my desperation to try and switch off from what had happened a few hours earlier, I decided to lean on social media. It’s fair to say, that wasn’t the greatest idea I’ve ever had. What I saw horrified me,” Dunkley wrote for ESPN.
“My Instagram DMs were overflowing with literally hundreds of abusive messages, but one of them really stood out. Someone had actually sent me a Google Maps screenshot which had directions from Marvel Stadium to the West Gate Bridge.
“Here I am, just a 21-year-old kid, being advised by a disgruntled ‘fan’ to commit suicide after making an error in a game. No matter what the coaching staff and senior players tell you, you can’t help but feel responsible for the loss when you see something like that.
“Seeing that image made me feel sick to my stomach. Without any doubt, that was the lowest I have ever felt after a game. It was my rock bottom. All I wanted to do was hide.”
Dunkley said he’d learned lessons of his own from the ordeal, having permanently switched his social media to private to combat the abuse.
The Bulldogs star is the latest Australian athlete to come forward to speak out against abuse they receive from so-called fans.
Australian T20 captain Aaron Finch and his partner called out abusive messages they copped during the T20 series against New Zealand earlier this year, while fellow AFL star Eddie Betts has constantly had to condemn ugly messages sent to him.
Bulldogs temper expectations for Bruce
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge claims it would be “outrageous” if Josh Bruce is able to bag another monster AFL goal-haul.
The left-footed forward became the first AFL player to kick 10 goals in a game since Ben Brown in 2019 when he tore apart a hapless North Melbourne defence on Good Friday.
After an underwhelming start to his career at Whitten Oval since arriving from St Kilda ahead of last season, Bruce looks to have rediscovered his confidence.
But Beveridge believes expectations for the 28-year-old have to be realistic as the undefeated Bulldogs host the resurgent Brisbane Lions in Ballarat on Saturday.
Bruce kicked 14 goals in 17 games last year, with six of them coming in one outing against the Kangaroos.
“(Bruce) popped into my office the other day and we had a good chat about last week and what it looks like this weekend,” Beveridge told reporters.
“You never say it won’t happen but, to back it up with that sort of scoreline again would be outrageous.
“All the things that I’ve highlighted he’s done well for the team in the past … it was most of those things that led to him getting the rewards.
“The great thing with a performance like that is it compounds all of the thinking is he’s more than capable of doing something like that and it’s only going to help him in the future.”
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