AFL 3 years ago

The Generational Forwards

  • The Generational Forwards
  • The Generational Forwards
  • The Generational Forwards

Joe Daniher’s five-goal haul on the weekend tipped victory on the side of the Bombers, which made me think how he compares with some of Essendon’s great forwards. For the purpose of this comparison, I looked at Daniher, Matthew Lloyd and Paul Salmon. All were lauded as the future of the Essendon attack. Two out of three took on that mantle - can Joey make the grade?

The Criteria

For fairness, the statistics I’ve used cover the players’ first three years in the league sourced from While Joe still has a maximum of ten games to add to this tally, I didn’t compensate for the last portion of the season. For the most part, the three year comparison shows some interesting trends.

The Comparison

While it’s too early to tell whether Daniher will join the ranks of Salmon and Lloyd, what is clear is that the team relies heavily on him for goal-scoring. At this point his career, Daniher has already played more games than either of his two major predecessors with eight rounds to go*.

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Where he hasn’t exceeded the legends is in his goal-kicking tally. By the end of their third years, Salmon and Lloyd were edging towards a hundred career goals at senior level. Daniher is likely to finish with about 70 after three years in the league.

The combination of high games played and a lower goals total means a concurrent lower per game goal average. Where Lloyd and Salmon averaged over three goals a game by year three, Daniher is below their marks at a hair under two.

These per game averages can be misleading. The current era of football plays a different brand of defence; Lloyd and Salmon in their formative years might have similarly struggled despite their pedigree.

A comparison of Essendon’s own scoring punch for the first three years of Salmon, Lloyd and Daniher certainly shows a significant trending down. In Salmon’s first three years, the team averaged over 2500 points. The downward trend is markedly obvious with Lloyd, starting at 2400 in year one and down to 2000 by year three. For Daniher, the trend is even more bleak. In his rookie year, Essendon scored a total of 2100 points. If the trend for 2015 is projected out, Essendon’s will score just under 1600 points for the season!

Again the trend for Daniher might appear superficially unfavourable. However, when looking at his contribution to the total goals scored, the team reliance on him is comparable to Salmon and Lloyd. In 2015, just below a fifth of Essendon’s goals have come from Daniher’s boot. This isn’t too dissimilar to Lloyd in ‘97 and Salmon in ‘84 when he had a full season.

While much has been said about Daniher’s lack of accuracy at goal, he has made significant steps in 2015 to match it with the greats. After 14 games, his accuracy is now above the 60% mark, well on the way to the roughly 65% level for Salmon and Lloyd. Maybe Hird’s claims aren’t so unfounded after all.


Daniher is clearly the best and most natural forward at the Club. His enthusiasm for a goal and general exuberance makes watching him a joy. The work ethic appears to be there to improve on any shortcomings. Already the Club relies on him for scoring in the same way it had for Salmon and Lloyd.

Unfortunately, a winning forward doesn’t a winning team make. Where Salmon had the likes of Madden, Terry Daniher, Mark Thompson and Leon Baker setting the table for him, Joe Daniher doesn’t have the same luxury.

While Lloyd’s third year was a 9-win season, the players that debuted between 1993 and 1997 eventually coalesced into the formidable 2000 Premiership team.

For Joe Daniher, that table is a little more bare with only Heppell and Zach Merrett being the players of note to emerge. Time will tell whether any more can be found to elevate Daniher to a great forward or a Premiership forward like his predecessors.

*Paul Salmon might have played more games had he not wrecked his knee early in his third year in the league.

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