Brisbane icon, Jonathan Brown lavished praise on vital forwards Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood, for their exceptional performance on the field, despite facing sharp disapproval at the start of the season.
The skilled lefthanders, who played all rounds this season, scored 96 goals cumulatively, an outstanding rebound from the heavy scrutiny they faced following a disheartening round 3 defeat to the Western Bulldogs.
During this distinct round, Hipwood secured just 1.1 while Daniher managed a notorious 0.4, raising grave doubts in Brown’s mind about the duo’s capability to compete in premiership teams. The multi-faceted player questioned the pair’s reliability and predictability, citing them as essential traits for any key players.
Yet, Hipwood, aged 26, turned the tide by rattling the nets 40 times, a career-best for him. Daniher, by scoring 56 goals, marked his most fruitful season with the Lions and carved a place for himself in the All-Australian squad.
Brown attributed the duo’s adept response to criticism as a significant contributor to Brisbane’s journey to another preliminary final. Responding positively to the intense criticism received after the demoralising loss against the Bulldogs, the pair proved their mettle on the field as key players.
This has been an exemplary year for Daniher, who has shown consistency in impacting games, aided by his increased on-field time as a ruck. Being a forward, it’s a challenging position if the ball isn’t passed frequently to him; but Daniher has managed to immerse himself in the games, playing a bit more in the ruck.
His remarkable performance in the qualifying finals, scoring five goals, has undoubtedly boosted his confidence. He now knows he can deliver when it counts the most. His off-season shoulder fix certainly contributed to his dazzling performances, especially as a ruck.
On the other hand, the anxious anticipation and pressure are the realities of the finals, more so for a goal kicker. Melbourne has been labelled as a team that crumbled under the weight of such pressure, hence not making it this far.
In this unfolding narrative, Brown expresses his joy over his former triple-premiership teammates, Michael Voss and Craig McRae, leading their respective sides in the preliminary Finals. He emphasises the Matthews legacy, with four of its senior coaches in AFL. Midway through the year, ‘sack Voss’ was a ubiquitous headline, making his journey to this stage a poignant redemption.
During a recent conversation with Voss, Brown sensed an air of dissatisfaction. Having tasted victory in two finals, Voss is eager to clinch the ultimate prize. This is crucial as Carlton faces an uphill challenge to bounce back from the euphoria of Friday’s win and prepare for a formidable opposition on Saturday.