From the very beginning of the 2021 season, Luke Dunstan's back was against the wall. On the outer from week one after only the one game in 2020, Dunstan was forced to dominate in the reserves to earn his way back into the starting 22.
Dunstan only managed the one game through the first 10 rounds of the 2021 season, with the Saints adamant that Dunstan would spend the remainder of his contract year in the reserves. According to Saints champion Nick Dal Santo, the Saints “to put it bluntly didn’t want him to play” at AFL level.
Clearly a pill the midfielder wasn't ready to swallow, Dunstan banged down the selection door, taking advantage of the mounting injury list and the Saints' disappointing start to the season.
Averaging 37 disposals and two goals a game over a four-game stretch for Sandringham, Dunstan earned his way back into the side to be a shining light for the Saints in what was a difficult season.
Solidifying his spot in the side in the Saints' Round 12 upset win over the reigning premiers in Richmond with 32 disposals (17 contested) and a goal, Dunstan worked his magic and looked to have done enough to earn another contract at the Saints.
Despite performing on a week-to-week basis however, the Saints dropped the contested bull for their final round match against the Dockers in Launceston, all but underlying what looked to be the inevitable outcome.
Despite ranking in the top 30 in the competition for contested possessions per game, the club last Wednesday confirmed all speculation with the decision to not offer Dunstan with another contract past 2021. The 26-year-old is now without a home for 2022.
With this in mind, we've listed FIVE potential landing spots the gun onballer could find himself in 2022.
1. Gold Coast Suns
The Suns are one of the first teams already expressing interest in Dunstan upon the news he was no longer staying at the Saints.
Given the Saints decided to delist the midfielder, the Suns are looking to pick him up as a delisted free agent or through the Rookie Draft in order to keep their draft hand.
Dunstan would fit well into a Suns midfield that has again underperformed in 2021. Despite the efforts of All-Australian Touk Miller, the Suns finished in the bottom five on the ladder for the 10th time in their 11 years in the league.
A big-bodied contested ball winner would help the likes of young guns Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell break the game open, whilst also leading the young team by example with his ability to put his head over the footy.
The Suns have an abundance of young talent (several in which are out-of-contract at the conclusion of 2022) that they need to utilise correctly, so acquiring match ready players for a "win-now" mentality has to be their main off-season focus.
With plenty of picks to use on other potential acquisitions, a relatively straight forward pickup of a player of Dunstan's calibre for nothing would be a welcomed move for a side that is desperate to demand respect in 2022.