Running out games has never been a factor for me.

When I was a kid, I would run all day and night.

Whether I was on a footy field, at a shopping centre or chasing my mates during recess at school, I was always on the go!

I could run like there was no tomorrow. And even in the classroom, I always found it hard to sit still.

It would drive my teachers, bananas!

All that energy and moving around as a teenager saw me arrive at Whitten Oval as a lightly-framed draftee, particularly from the waist up!

I’ve always had good genetics through my legs, but my focus since turning up has always been to build my upper body strength to match it against those bigger-bodied midfielders.

Funnily enough, I remember playing in the grand final against Sydney on route to our 2016 premiership, and somehow got caught lining up against Josh Kennedy.

During my AIS-AFL academy training, I actually spent some time training with the Swans in the lead-up to my draft year (thanks to father-son alignment), and he was one of my idols coming through the juniors.

So to stand next to him on that day, playing against him, was a dream come true – and yet a nightmare match-up at the same time!

Just his sheer size and strength at the contest was incredible, and it is truly hard to appreciate how strong he actually is until you are both contesting for the hard ball.

After that game, in the moments we were celebrating our grand final win in the rooms, I couldn’t help but walk away thinking how I wanted to model my game around Josh.

What impressed me most was not just his size, but how he uses his body at the stoppages and his ability to push forward and impact the scoreboard as well.

Josh is as a complete footballer there is in our game, and is obviously a terrific leader for his team at Sydney.

While our two sides have already met this season, matching up on him in future games will be a goal of mine for years to come.

BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 19: Caleb Daniel (left) and Josh Dunkley of the Bulldogs celebrates during the 2017 AFL round 22 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Port Adelaide Power at Mars Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Ballarat, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)
BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 19: Caleb Daniel (left) and Josh Dunkley of the Bulldogs celebrates during the 2017 AFL round 22 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Port Adelaide Power at Mars Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Ballarat, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

I breathe a sigh of relief knowing 2017 is well and truly behind me, for both team and individual reasons.

My first year in the AFL could not have been any sweeter; I mean, how many 18 year old season debutants have the opportunity to win a premiership that early in their career!

But unfortunately last year was a major let down, as season-ending shoulder surgery hampered any chance of me building on from my rookie campaign.

I managed four games before the shoulder injury happened, and although I worked hard to come back for the final three games of the home-and-away season, looking back now I probably wasn’t physically strong enough to mark a successful comeback.

Josh Dunkley exclusive insight afl sport

I’m often asked how tough was it, going from winning an AFL premiership to not being able to play football due to injury in the space of six months.

Personally, it was hard for me because I was made to sit on the sidelines for most of the year and seeing the boys go down in confidence and ladder position, and not being able to help on-field in anyway, was one of the greatest challenges in my young time in the game.

So it is difficult and it was a difficult year but I think going forward we’re really excited, we reviewed the year and what we could’ve done better and we’re a close-knit group now which is really good going forward.

I think for us, its about getting back our identity. Understanding what exactly made us a premiership-winning team.

Under Bevo, we have always prided ourselves on playing a ruthlessly contested brand of footy.

We suffocated teams at the stoppages, and always had numbers at the ball, to either win it back or take the ball forward.

We may have slightly moved away from that last season, but we’re working hard on getting our bite back.