Joe Daniher is congratulated by Essendon teammates after kicking one of his five goals.
Joe Daniher is congratulated by Essendon teammates after kicking one of his five goals. Michael Dodge

Big Joe back on target for greatness with Essendon

IT has become the year of Joe.

Essendon's fortunes this season have followed the same path as Joe Daniher's. When the young forward dominates, so do the Dons. When he misfires, his teammates seem to follow.

We've seen Daniher reach a high standard at times in previous seasons; but now with a full midfield fleet behind him, that standard is going even higher. And it's leading to remarkable calls about his future.

"In two years Daniher will be the best player in the game," proclaimed AFL legend Kevin Bartlett on SEN radio during Essendon's win over West Coast.

In a sense, we know what Daniher is - a perfect package of height and agility that provides one of the most dangerous targets in footy.

The issue is his goalkicking. Daniher has always struggled from set shots, even as a junior, and through the first eight rounds of the 2017 season he had the worst accuracy from set shots of the league's top 30 goalkickers.

"He's better on the run than set shots. If we can handball it to him rather than kick it to him, he'd kick more than he misses," his Essendon teammate David Zaharakis joked to last week.

Whether it was on purpose or a happy accident, the Dons did that yesterday.

Daniher took only three marks - the only other time he has recorded fewer than six this season was in the wet against Carlton in round three.

He finished with five goals straight and four of them came from open play; only the first, a set shot from 35 metres out on a 45-degree angle, required his oft-criticised routine to be used.

In a way Daniher's goalkicking has just taken away from what is a season worthy of mid-year All-Australian consideration.

Through eight rounds the Bomber was averaging career-high disposals (16.2), uncontested possessions (10.8), marks (7.8), score involvements (8.1) and metres gained (360).

Even in games which saw him criticised - such as the loss to Melbourne, where he kicked 1.6 - he was incredibly impactful, recording 13 marks with four of them contested. Ideally he'd be converting those opportunities but at least he is creating them.

His performance on Sunday drew praise from Brisbane Lions champion Jonathan Brown, who said he didn't think he had seen anyone that nimble and that tall in footy before.

"Paul Salmon was a great full-forward who played in the ruck as well and I would have thought Joey was more mobile than the Big Fish," Brown said on Fox Footy.

"This has been a strength of his game this year, he's been able to get up the ground and show his nimbleness at ground level."

But Daniher clearly isn't letting any of the high praise get to him yet, based on his post-match comments to Cameron Mooney on Fox Footy.

"It's a work in progress," he said. "I know my kicking specifically is not where it needs to be and my game in general is not where I want it to be.

"So I've just got to keep working and keep working with the group of guys that we've got, and hopefully some good stuff is around the corner."

If that was "a work in progress", we can't wait to see a "good" performance from Joe.

News Corp Australia

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