Essendon coach James Hird is confident Joe Daniher is on his way to becoming the best set shot for goal in the AFL after the young forward booted five goals in the Bombers’ gutsy nine-point win over Melbourne.
Coming off a demoralising 110-point loss to St Kilda and still coming to grips with the season-ending injury to inspirational skipper Jobe Watson, Essendon dug deep to score a brave 10.9 (69) to 7.18 (60) win at the MCG on Saturday.
Daniher, lambasted at times during his fledgling career for his struggles in front of goal, was the dominant forward on the ground.
“Joey was terrific with his marking and positioning and just his hard work off the contest,” Hird said.
“He didn’t start great, I thought he did a few things where we had to realign him a bit, but he kicked straight.
“Joe will have weeks where he’ll kick poorly and weeks where he’ll kick well, probably over the next 18 months, but he’s working so hard on his goal kicking.
“I’m confident that in 18 months he’ll be the best set shot in the competition because of the way that he works on his game.”
Michael Hurley was equally important down back for Essendon, who got out to a 25-point lead in the third quarter before seeing off a late charge by the Demons.
The Bombers played like they had the weight of the world on their shoulders in the listless display against the Saints, which was in stark contrast to the spirit and enthusiasm displayed against the Demons, for the most part, by a side containing 12 players with 40 games or fewer experience.
Hird said a ‘no holds barred’ meeting this week where the players aired their concerns about the looming World Anti-Doping Agency appeal hearing had played a part in the turnaround.
“The guys have gone through a lot with WADA and ASADA, the whole club has, but we have to perform on the football field and we have to perform on the training track because if we don’t then it’s time for all of us to leave,” he said.
“We cleared the air a little bit and then recommitted to performing, so it was pleasing today that they did perform.”
The first half was largely a grim battle for territory that broke open only occasionally, with Bernie Vince and Max Gawn important for the Demons.
Jeremy Howe ensured the sling tackle debate will keep bubbling along for another week when his effort on Alex Browne left the Bomber concussed and out of the game.
The dour contest needed a spark and Daniher provided it with three goals in a pivotal third quarter in which Essendon piled on six goals to one to lead by 24 points at three-quarter time.
Melbourne full-back Tom McDonald struggled against Daniher, but was sent forward in the final term and had an immediate impact.
He provided a focus for the Demons’ late rally that sliced the margin to just two points. But he managed only 1.2 with one out on the full as the wasteful Dees were left to rue missed opportunities.
“If you kick 7.18, it makes it really, really hard because you’ve got to keep the other team to a pretty low score,” coach Paul Roos said.
“When we played the way we wanted to play, we played some really good football, which we have done over the last month but it’s (about) keeping the players up when you have a bad result.”