Clown Prince to Lion King?

It takes a bit to sway me once I form an opinion of a player.

For a while, I watched Joe Daniher play footy with my face contorted. Not because I had trouble seeing the screen, or due to some sort of intestinal discomfort, but due to the fact that Joe, in my eyes at least, played footy like a puppy amongst older dogs.

Have you ever watched a puppy in an environment like that? Full of beans, running around and yapping, never sitting still, and trying to do things the older dogs wouldn’t both with.

On the field, Daniher has always had some semblance of youthful enthusiasm about him. He has retained the playfulness of that puppy, despite being one of the league’s big dogs, himself. Even as he reached the ripe old age of 29 (what I would give to be that age again!) the way he goes about his game can make him so fun to watch… and made him so infuriating to watch, as well.

If there is a pack that is already four-deep, Joe will happily make it five, sometimes launching into some poor bloke’s back just for fun. If there is an unrealistic attempt to mark that he didn’t fancy, I haven’t seen it. And he has done most of it with a bit of a smile on his dial.

In many ways, he is still the kid living out his dream, and it is evident in the way he goes about his footy.

However, with the business side of footy so damn serious at this time of year, there has been a change in the Daniher demeanour and I have to say it is a welcome one – it is one of a man that is perhaps realising that this ride, this life as an AFL star (and he is a genuine star) doesn’t last forever.

Buddy Franklin limped off Marvel Stadium in Round 20. A calf issue, they said.

And just like that, he was done. No farewell game. No big moment to top it all off. No last moments of glory as the Swans made a charge at the finals. Just a great player out of the game. Suddenly and without heroics.

It’s enough to make someone about to turn thirty perhaps start questioning his own footy mortality. And perhaps it is enough for that same player to start taking things a little more seriously.


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