‘He brings joy’ – Smokin’ Joe recovers from ‘smart’ brain fade with second-half heroics as Lions claim victory

Things could have turned out very differently on Saturday night for Joe Daniher.

The Brisbane Lions star’s brain fades on the stroke of half-time – where he took a superb pack mark near goal, only to hand the ball to a team-mate as the siren sounded – can at a another moment in his career seeing his head drop, his body language plummet and his team stumble to victory.

Indeed, former great Dermott Brereton was scathing about Daniher’s blunder, chastising the ex-bomber for his “smart” behavior.

“We’re pretty late to say that – he’s a smart ass,” Brereton said on fox foot at halftime.

“Just kick the goal!” You took a commanding mark, send the goal back over the head of the guy you took the point on and look him in the eye and say, “That was pretty good, wasn’t it?”

Instead, Daniher picked himself up, dusted himself off and proved the difference in a scrappy game, scoring three second-half goals and four for the game in the Lions 11.14 (80) victory at 10.9 (69).

Trailing 15 points heading into the final quarter after a dominating third term by the Power, it was Daniher who breathed life into the Lions, scoring two goals in quick succession as the Lions ran away with the game late.

Brereton was so impressed with Daniher’s recovery that he even deigned to award the 28-year-old as one of his best on the pitch, alongside Power stars Travis Boak (32 touches and a goal) and Dan Houston (36 and two).

“My top three, in no particular order… Boak, Houston and Daniher,” Brereton said after the game.

“I don’t want to give voice to Daniher, because of this cerebral discoloration at halftime! I thought he was a smartypants.

“But you take four contested marks in the first half, and you hit four – which was probably really a five! – it’s a big night in a team kicking off at 11.”

After the match, a candid Daniher admitted he’d like to “get that one back”, but defended his own selflessness in being ready to pass a likely goal.

“It’s the way I try to play,” Daniher told Channel 7 immediately after the final siren.

“I don’t think the coach will be too worried about it because we got the four points, but a bit more awareness of the game would have been nice.”

According to fellow presenter and former AFL player Tony Armstrong, the moment epitomized Daniher’s career – both for better and for worse.

“If you wanted to sum it up as a footballer, it’s those five seconds of play before halftime,” Armstrong said.

“He takes the big hanger, then he doesn’t really think where he is for a second, gives the ball away, the siren goes off!

“He brings a lot of joy to everyone, with the way he plays and the smile he has on his face.”

Brereton agreed, saying Daniher’s mercurial nature brought much-needed “theatre” to the sport.

“You’re on the edge of your seat thinking, what’s he going to do brilliantly next, what’s he going to do brilliantly next?” Brereton burst out laughing.

“He gives you all the emotions in an afternoon, an evening of football.”

Joe Daniher celebrates a goal during the AFL Premier League match between the Brisbane Lions and Port Adelaide Power. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Daniher’s heroism was the shining light in a rambling opener for two of last year’s top sides, played in hot, greasy conditions at the Gabba.

Admittedly, time played its part in Daniher’s torrid affair.

“It wasn’t pretty for both sides, I think…it was going to be a tussle and it was,” he said.

“The boys just got up, probably got more comfortable with the pace of the game. It was very hot early, and it took some getting used to.

A whopping 136 clangers were committed by the two teams combined, despite the relatively low number of possessions (Port 357, Lions 329), and saw several players set up by so-called “hospital passes” throughout the night.

According to Brereton, the first half in particular resembled that of two sides closer to the bottom of the ladder than the top.

“At half-time I thought the level of play was right for two teams in the bottom six. They looked really, really rusty,” he said.

“They kept trying to chip it inside, we were upstairs grimacing and they kept missing targets.

“The Lions finally won the victory, but it [coach Chris Fagan] would like to rid them of rust.

Few players exceeded the norm, although Lachie Neale’s poise and clean hands in midfield proved key in the Lions’ final-quarter push; while ahead, Lincoln McCarthy was a constant threat.

For Armstrong, it was the kind of match Fagan will want to take off the record and move on.

“I think that’s one of those where he’ll go, ‘Okay, we’ve got our four points, thank goodness for that, but damn it, we can really go to so many more levels, thank goodness, we got away with that one,'” Armstrong said.

Both sides will have to count the cost of the hard-fought clash, with the Lions losing captain Dayne Zorko for much of the second half as his troublesome Achilles, who had doubts about his fitness ahead of the match, got is inflamed. Daniel Rich also worked his hip flexor in the second quarter, but played the game.

Madman Mitch Robinson could also find himself in conflict with match review officer Michael Christian, after a high bump saw Port youngster Xavier Duursma suffer a suspected collarbone injury which saw him replaced shortly after.

For the Power, alongside Duursma, defender Trent McKenzie suffered the most serious injury of the night, grabbing his knee in the final period and stretching.

Sports Grp2

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