Joe Daniher celebrates one of his three goals against Gold Coast
ESSENDON heads into the bye firmly entrenched in the top four after a 43-point win over Gold Coast at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
Father-son selection Joe Daniher gave a glimpse of his enormous talent with three first-half goals as the Bombers pulled away to win 17.13 (115) to 11.6 (72).
The Bombers are also confident star forward Michael Hurley hasn't sustained serious damage to the wrist he injured in the dying stages of the game.
Hurley left the field clutching his troublesome right wrist late in the final term and headed straight to the rooms.
"He has wrists that have been operated on previously, so when they get a knock on them they get pretty sore but Bruce [Reid] is pretty confident he'll be right in 10 days' time," Hird said.
Essendon utility Brendon Goddard was best afield and Suns captain Gary Ablett won his head-to-head duel with Essendon counterpart Jobe Watson, racking up 36 disposals to 31.
Another first-year player who impressed was Gold Coast's Jaeger O'Meara, who continued his outstanding debut season with 30 possessions.
The Suns' pain in defeat was compounded by a string of injuries.
Tom Lynch hurt his knee when he collided heavily with Essendon's Jake Melksham in the second term. Lynch was subbed out immediately and ended the game on crutches.
Early in the third term, onballer Michael Rischitelli hurt his elbow and also was forced out of the game.
Rischitelli and Alwyn Davey collided heavily as they went for a ground ball.
Suns coach Guy McKenna didn't say the injuries were the only reason his young team lost the game but admitted they did make it tough after half time.
"I don't think we played our best brand of football if you like. I thought our use going inside forward 50, [we] probably went for the 'needle in the haystack' kick too many times," McKenna said.
"Essendon are a very good counterattack team and they clearly hurt us in that area so [we need] just a bit more composure."
The first half belonged to Daniher, who was playing his second AFL game.
He took seven marks - five of them contested - before half-time.
The son of Anthony joined the Bombers through last year's national draft and there has been massive hype about his talent.
Suns defender Rory Thompson then impressed by going onto Daniher in the second half and keeping him quiet.
But Daniher's first goal - a booming shot on the run from outside 50 - was worth the price of admission alone for most Bombers fans on the night.
The only other time these two sides played in Melbourne, Essendon kicked a club-record 15 goals in the first term two years ago and won by 139 points.
But this time, it was a danger game for the Bombers.
Brisbane upset them at Etihad Stadium in round eight and the Suns have shown marked improvement this season.
Trailing by 22 points at halftime, the Suns kicked the first goals of the third term to reduce the margin to 10 points and put the heat on Essendon.
But the Bombers then kicked the last four goals of the third term for a decisive 38-point lead.
The win leaves Essendon in third on the ladder, one win behind Hawthorn and Geelong, but the Bombers have played one more game than those two clubs.
Stewart Crameri runs away from Joel Wilkinson during Essendon's win over Gold Coast. Picture: AFL Media
ESSENDON 4.3 9.3 13.7 17.13 (115)
GOLD COAST 1.2 5.5 7.5 11.6 (72)
Essendon: Daniher 3, Crameri 3, Hurley 2, Ryder 2, Davey, Myers, Howlett, Kommer, Goddard, Stanton, Hibberd
Gold Coast: Rischitelli 2, Brown 2, Nicholls 2, Harbrow, Ablett, Prestia, Hutchins, Day
Essendon: Goddard, Ryder, Watson, Hibberd, Crameri, Pears, Daniher
Gold Coast: Ablett, O'Meara, Harbrow, Thompson, Brown, Sumner
Essendon: Hurley (wrist)
Gold Coast: Lynch (knee), Rischitelli (arm), Wilkinson (foot)
Essendon: Alwyn Davey substituted out for Jackson Merrett in the third quarter
Gold Coast: Tom Lynch (knee) substituted out for Jack Hutchins in the second quarter
Umpires: Farmer, Schmitt, Mollison
Official crowd: 31,452 at Etihad Stadium