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Struggling Daniher admits he has work to do

Mark Baguley and Joe Daniher celebrate a goal against Port Adelaide - AFL,Essendon Bombers,Joe Daniher
Mark Baguley and Joe Daniher celebrate a goal against Port Adelaide
I can't just focus on myself any more – I've got to be a leader and support my teammates.
Essendon forward Joe Daniher

JOE DANIHER regained some form late in Essendon's crucial win over Port Adelaide on Sunday but concedes he is "a long way" from the heights he wants to reach.

The out-of-sorts Daniher and the Dons endured a tough week following their galling loss to the Western Bulldogs.

The big forward was lampooned after muffing an easy goalscoring opportunity at a crucial late stage against the Dogs when he took a big mark and unwisely handballed to teammate Josh Green, who was immediately tackled.

It was the act of a man who was bereft of confidence in his goalkicking, after slotting just four goals in the opening three rounds – an underwhelming tally given he has won the Bombers' past four goalkicking awards.

We saw more of that inner turmoil in the opening three quarters against the Power at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

In the opening minute of the third term Daniher hauled in a strong mark about 30 metres from goal and, with no angle to speak of, chose to use the 'Stevie J' snap and missed badly.

With Essendon controlling the contest for much of the afternoon, the last piece of the jigsaw for the Bombers was a lift from Daniher – and he provided that in the final term.

Port had somehow scrounged back to within 19 points when James Stewart found Daniher, who marked strongly on a lead.

There was a hush from the red-and-black faithful as the oft-wayward Daniher hunched over the ball, so his conversion from 35 metres was met with great relief.

Midway through the quarter, with Port refusing to go away, Daniher provided one for the highlight reel – a long bomb from outside 50 that sailed through post-high.

It was the Daniher we know.

The 24-year-old – the club champion and an All Australian last year – wasn't getting carried away with his final-quarter effort.

"A week is a very long time in footy," Daniher told AFL.com.au.

"We were very disappointed with our game against the Bulldogs last week but we came back with a really good response individually and collectively.

"That's footy. It's a tough game, you play against good opponents, and it goes for four quarters, so you just keep giving everything of yourself and enjoying the challenge. If you stay focused, eventually it will turn your way, and it did a little bit for me late in the game.

"I can't just focus on myself any more – I've got to be a leader and support my teammates, and I'm looking forward to that challenge.

"I've obviously still got a lot of work to do to become the player I want to be, and I'm under no illusions that I'm still a fair way off that from a consistency point of view.

"That's a challenge I'm really going to enjoy, to keep working hard and keep being a strong leader for this club."

Of his signature long-range goal, Daniher said: "It's obviously one of the things in the game I love to do. I train it quite a bit so when it comes off in a game I love enjoying those moments too."

It might be just the thing that provides him with the impetus for a big performance in the Anzac Day blockbuster against a resurgent Collingwood.

Daniher is excited by the potential of the Essendon forward line, with or without the versatile Cale Hooker, who played down back against Port.

"We're still building our chemistry but we've got a lot of guys who can play forward, and a lot who are pinch-hitting through the midfield to give our mids an extra rotation, which really helps our team as a whole," he said.

"We're looking forward to playing some good, consistent footy. We are a long way off that, but tonight was a small step in the right direction."

Daniher also had praise for big-name recruit Jake Stringer, who was one of the best afield with four goals.

"Jake's got a whole heap of talent, he's got a great attitude, he's a really hard worker, and I was really pleased to have him spending a bit more time forward alongside me. I'm just really happy he's at our footy club," he said.