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The dramatic improvement in Joe Daniher’s goalkicking has come on the back of fanatical dedication to honing his skills, including a dawn training session at club headquarters on a day off.
Daniher’s outstanding past month – during which he has kicked 17 goals in five games – has upped his market value as he prepares to re-sign with the Bombers, a deal expected to follow the finalisation of the new collective bargaining agreement.
The athletic big man’s set shot goalkicking has long been a point of concern, with the issue rearing its head in the Dons’ round six loss to Melbourne, a game in which Daniher kicked 1.6. Following that game, Essendon coach John Worsfold refused to publicly chastise the emerging star, suggesting that Daniher was putting in the work at training to improve his area of weakness, as well as his ruckwork and marking.
In the three games since, Daniher, 23, has kicked a combined 13.2, including 5.0 in a dominant showing against West Coast at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Daniher’s commitment to improving his craft was highlighted by an episode last week, when Bombers players made visits to country Victoria. Despite the day being free of training commitments for players, the Dons have confirmed that Daniher, goal sneak Orazio Fantasia and midfielder Zach Merrett turned up to train at around 7am before the players departed for their visits.
“They came in early because that was the only time to do some extras on that day,” Essendon forwards coach Hayden Skipworth told Fairfax Media.
Skipworth has been working closely with Daniher and said his work ethic could not be questioned, with Daniher, Merrett, Fantasia and captain Dyson Heppell among those who were regularly going above and beyond on the track. However, Skipworth said he was trying to keep Daniher on an even keel.
“He’s working extremely hard on all aspects of his game. His vision long-term is to be a really accurate goalkicker,” Skipworth said.
“He’d do probably three or four goalkicking sessions on top of his normal training throughout the week.
“I’ve just trying to be really consistent with Joey as far as not going over the top. The thing that I’ve been working with him on is just focusing on the processes, not the outcomes. Goalkicking varies from week to week.”
The Bombers and Daniher’s agent Nigel Carmody have remained tight-lipped about contract negotiations, even though there is little doubt Daniher will remain at the club where his father, brother and three uncles all played. Essendon list manager Adrian Dodoro told a Bombers podcast last month that new deals for several players – including Daniher, Darcy Parish and David Zaharakis – were likely to be signed only once the new CBA was in place.
There is a feeling in the Daniher camp that a long-term deal of up to five years would provide the forward certainty, but that a shorter-term contract would likely mean more money, especially if his form continues in its current trajectory. Some at Dons have privately acknowledged that Daniher’s recent form spike means they will probably end up paying more for his services.
Another player agent suggested on Monday that Daniher should be hoping for at least $2.6 million over a three-year deal, taking the view that Daniher had added $150,000 a year to his worth with his outstanding football over the past month.
Daniher has kicked 134 goals from 79 games since making his debut in 2013. In 2015 he worked closely with Essendon great Matthew Lloyd on his goalkicking, a partnership that was discontinued.
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