What if Joe Daniher had chosen Sydney?

Not even Joe Daniher’s parents knew what he would do, when he jumped in the car after Christmas four years ago, heading from Temora back to Melbourne with his older brother Darcy. “By the time I get home I’ll have made my decision,” he told his mother, and the rest of the family spent the next six hours wondering whether he would choose Essendon or Sydney, taking bets until he called back as promised, mind made up. “Mum,” he said, “I’m going to be a Bomber.”

It made sense, but Daniher was a thoughtful, thorough teenager in a unique position at the end of 2010, able not only to choose between two clubs under the father-son rule, but to sign on almost two full years before he was old enough to be drafted. He was only 16, but he wanted to make his own decision. He kept his thoughts to himself but his choice was not an easy one, or anything near clear cut. It was also a call that has had implications, in a “what if?” kind of way, for him, other players and both clubs.

Would the Swans still have pursued Kurt Tippett had they known Daniher was coming at the end of 2012? Probably, but they wouldn’t have had a first-round pick to offer Adelaide for him, so would they have traded players to the Crows instead? If so, who? Had that happened, and the deal been pushed through easily, would Adelaide’s secretive salary cap deals with Tippett ever have come to light? Would the Crows have been punished as they were? If Sydney’s offer had never happened, would Tippett have ended up on the Gold Coast or with Brisbane instead?

There are other hypotheticals. Had the Swans brought in both Tippett and Daniher, they probably wouldn’t have drafted young forward Tim Membrey, who would have relied on another club to call his name and would be starting his career at another club, in another state. They certainly wouldn’t have Dean Towers, the player picked with the first-round choice they would have had to use on Daniher. And the next question is: with Tippett, Sam Reid and the promising Daniher on board, would the club have thrown so much at Lance Franklin, or would he be playing for the Giants? Or the Hawks?

“It’s an interesting one. I’m not sure what we would have done,” said Sydney chief executive Andrew Ireland. “Joe’s a really talented player and we would love to have him, but you talk to all sorts of players over the journey. If they make their mind up not to come, you move on to the next decision.”

The Bombers would have had to look elsewhere for their next big, young forward, had Daniher chosen the other team. They might, in that case, have had more money for Stewart Crameri last year. They might have tried to convince Scott Gumbleton to stick around one more year, or held onto Josh Jenkins. The club had pick 19 in 2011 and chose midfielder Elliott Kavanagh, with Richmond recruit Todd Elton and West Coast’s Fraser McInnes the only other tall forwards taken in that part of the draft. Had they waited another year, Brodie Grundy may well have headed their way.

But back to Daniher, who was seriously wooed by both clubs and who needed to make his mind up early because the rules surrounding the 17-year-olds that Greater Western Sydney could trade away at the end of 2011 were wishy-washy. Committing to Sydney or Essendon, where his father Anthony’s 233 games were almost evenly split, meant not getting caught up in that.

The Bombers had watched Daniher grow up: at 12, he’d played on the same indoor soccer team as list manager Adrian Dodoro’s son. His family was Essendon. He lived just a few minutes from Windy Hill and the club knew his brother well; though that didn’t necessarily help: Darcy’s long run of injury and subsequent struggles had exposed him and his family to the darker side of football.

A crew of campaigners landed on the Danihers’ doorstep every now and then, a combination of Dodoro, recruiting manager Merv Keane, chief executive Ian Robson and coach Matthew Knights. The Bombers planned a conditioning program for Joe, and told him where they saw him fitting in to the team of the not too distant future. But in the end it was another person who made sure they got what they wanted: James Hird, who called not long after he was appointed coach late in 2010, telling Joey his first important job was to make sure he got him to Essendon.

The Swans worked just as hard, and came very, very close. They flew Daniher to Sydney a few times, showed him around the facilities, took him to games and invited him to the best-and-fairest night. He went out for dinner with Adam Goodes, got to know the players and listened to John Longmire outline his plans for him. The coach-to-be would drop by when he was in Melbourne, and stick around for dinner.

As tightly as his family was tied to Essendon, Joe also had strong links to Sydney. His mother’s sister is married to Tony Morwood, the Swans’ Melbourne manager; and the club’s football and welfare managers Dean Moore and Dennis Carroll are good friends of his parents. Player personnel manager Kinnear Beatson and chief executive Andrew Ireland also played a big part in pushing the Swans’ case. The Swans have always been the Danihers’ second favourite club; they have friends there, and a dog named after Brett Kirk.

“I remember after one meeting that we flew home, and waiting for us was a massive bunch of flowers, a contract offer for us to pore over and a bottle of red wine,” said Daniher’s mother Jo. “The same thing happened with the Bombers – the flowers and the envelope. No wine from the Bombers though!”

Daniher made his mind up on the second last day of 2010, and called both clubs to let them know. The Swans had believed they were a huge chance, but lost a little hope after Hird signed on. The Bombers landed perhaps thekey part of their future, and Daniher was ready to get started.

“They’ve looked after my family for so many years,” he said when he became a Bomber for real, at the end of 2012. “I’m looking to repay them for what they’ve done for my family and what they’ve done for me.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 老域名.