ESSENDON captain Jobe Watson's best-on-ground effort against Richmond on Saturday night was "as good a leadership performance" as James Hird has seen in football, the coach has declared.  
Watson won the Yiooken Award as best afield in the Dreamtime at the 'G clash, finishing with 28 possessions and three goals as the Bombers won by 29 points.
Hird said the Brownlow medallist's ability to deliver for his team after a particularly trying week at Windy Hill added significance to his performance.
"He's abnormal to a certain extent with what he's been able to do with his players," Hird said post-match.
"You don't expect that from normal people.
"Right from the first bounce, the way he started the game and the way he led his team when they came back at us, he was the one who drove us forward.
"It was as good a leadership performance as I've seen in football considering what's going on around him.
"When everything finishes, when everything's washed up, I think the person he is will rise even further because of what he's done to get his team to where it's got to."

Hird said the Bombers were hopeful key forward Michael Hurley, who suffered another ankle injury on Saturday night, would be fit to face the Sydney Swans at the SCG next Saturday.
Hurley was substituted at half-time with a medial ligament injury to the same ankle that kept him out of the Anzac Day clash one month ago.
"He rolled his ankle against GWS in the NAB Cup and could have played the next week and we think it's very similar to that," Hird said.
"We've certainly got players who can come in but we really hope Michael's fit and ready to go."
Essendon's frenetic defensive pressure was a feature of Saturday night's win, with the Bombers out-tackling the Tigers 60-49 and keeping them to their lowest score for the season. 
Hird said it was an area of the Bombers' game that had come a long way.
"I thought the second quarter was as good as I've seen an Essendon team defend in a long, long time," he said.  
"The defensive side of the game, and particularly the tackling, is something we were very proud of at the end of the game."
With a 7-2 record, the Bombers' place in the top four appears secure for now, but Hird said the team had learned "you never know what the year can throw at you" after last year's fadeout.
"We probably know that better than anyone, but you'd have to think that the teams we've played and the way we've played this year is better than last year," he said.
"Right now sitting here tonight I couldn't be prouder of that group of players.
"What they've done over the last 10 weeks, but particularly tonight, is incredible."
Nathan Schmook is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nathan