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How far can the Dons go with Joey back in the game?

Highlights: North Melbourne v Essendon The Kangaroos and Bombers clash in round five

"SO WHAT happens with Joe next week?"

The burning question about Joe Daniher's Anzac Day playing status was front of mind for Essendon fans from five minutes into the third quarter, with Friday's game well in the keeping.

In reality, it probably was from the time the Bombers controversially announced the 2017 All Australian as a late inclusion for ruckman Zac Clarke, despite him not being named as an emergency.

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Daniher was supposed to resume from his calf injury – which followed the osteitis pubis setback that ruined his 2018 season – in the VFL on Saturday, but the wheels were clearly in motion on Thursday.

He last played a competitive match for points in round seven last year, almost 12 months ago.

A state league start would have, perhaps, enabled Essendon to play him on limited minutes and have him cherry ripe for Thursday's AFL date with red-hot Collingwood at the MCG.

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Instead, Essendon will absorb a big fine for bringing in Daniher, who was on a surprisingly heavy load from the outset, playing as a key forward and spelling Tom Bellchambers in the ruck.

We all assumed the Bombers would treat him with kid gloves after such a long period out of the game, but he played 101 minutes out of a possible 117.

Daniher was done for the day as the clock ticked towards 24 minutes in the last quarter and now the countdown begins to find out if he will back up in six days' time.

Essendon is on its way to greater things this season, whereas thrashed Good Friday rival North Melbourne – after loading up on recycled talent – might be headed for the bottom four.

However, for the Bombers to cause serious damage they almost certainly need Daniher up and going somewhere near the quality of football he produced two seasons ago.

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Daniher was far from outstanding, but the key elements of the 25-year-old's much-admired game were there from the get-go.

He gleefully shook Robbie Tarrant – benefiting from a Jake Stringer block – then clutched a slick Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti pass over an outsized Ben Cunnington in the opening minutes.

That set shot missed, but we soon found out how his body was feeling.

A long ball came in and Daniher didn't mark it, but he outpointed Scott Thompson at ground level to gather, then wrong-footed him and snapped truly.

It's the type of play the agile 200cm forward produces with regularity at his best.

The next genuine highlight didn't come until seven minutes into the final term, when Daniher crushed the Sherrin about 60m for his second goal of the afternoon.

The celebration was just as good, capped by leaping into Bellchambers' waiting arms.

Daniher had a modest 10 disposals and five marks to go with that scoreboard impact by the final siren, and he wasn't a significant factor in the 58-point triumph.

But this was a significant day for a once under-pressure Essendon, which moved ahead of the win-loss ledger through five rounds and regained its greatest weapon.

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