BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - MAY 05: Josh Dunkley of the Bulldogs celebrates after kicking a goal during the round seven AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the Gold Coast Suns at Mars Stadium on May 5, 2018 in Ballarat, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Essendon are ramping up their bid for Bulldogs star Josh Dunkley as they look to bolster their midfield ranks for 2021.

According to AFL Media, the Bombers are coming “super hard” for Dunkley and have even pressed for Josh’s younger brother Kyle, who was recently delisted by the Demons.

Essendon are set to lose Joe Daniher, Adam Saad and Orazio Fantasia in the upcoming exchange period, giving them a strong hand come the trade window and plenty of free salary space to spend.

Speaking on Dunkley, AFL Media’s Mitch Cleary said Essendon are pushing even harder for the Bulldogs onballer.

“He’s got two years run at Whitten Oval, but the Essendon Football Club is coming super hard,” Cleary told AFL Trade Radio’s The Early Trade.

“How hard can Essendon come? Because they’ve got the salary cap room, they’re moving Joe Daniher out, Adam Saad moves out as well as Orazio Fantasia to Port Adelaide.

“I think they’re well and truly able to pay Josh Dunkley $700-800,000 to be their big inside bull. They’ve been crying out for a player like Josh Dunkley for a long time.”

Dunkley has dropped in the midfield ranks at Whitten Oval, being run through the ruck at times in 2020.

Kane Cornes believes some of the frustrations Dunkley faced this season could be the reason why the 23-year-old might want to leave the Kennel.

“I wonder if he’s frustrated by the way he’s been used this year by Luke Beveridge. If I’m a midfielder of his calibre, I don’t want to be rucking.

“I know it wasn’t for a long period but there were times throughout the year where he was their genuine second ruck and it did make him much less effective around the ground and doing what he does best.”

After a deflating opening to their off-season, the Bombers are set to secure Giants young gun Jye Caldwell in the upcoming exchange window and will hope to land Dunkley to add to their list for 2021.