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The Danihers - The Legacy

BTV: The Danihers - The Legacy In the third and final instalment, the Daniher brothers reflect on their time in the football community.

At each home game this season, Essendon will celebrate a Comeback Hero – a former champion who overcame adversity to deliver many happy moments for the Essendon faithful. For this Sunday's match against Melbourne, Our Comeback Heroes are the Danihers.

Terry Daniher was back on the Grand Final stage in 1992.  But this time he was playing in the curtain raiser to the main event.  Essendon’s reserves side had progressed to the decider. Daniher, a veteran of four VFL/AFL Grand Finals, led a team of young Bombers - including future premiership players Joe Misiti, James Hird, Mark Mercuri and Steve Alessio - to victory. “There is a big future there for some of those boys,” he said after the game.

When the final siren rang Daniher still didn’t know what his future held. In an a post match interview with Channel Seven boundary rider Tim Watson, Daniher was non-committal about whether he intended to play on.  Ironically, it was Watson who would wear the Essendon colours next season, while Daniher began life in retirement.

Between them, the four Daniher brothers played 752 AFL/VFL games.

Terry retired after 313 games, two premierships, a Crichton Medal and two All-Australians. “They’ve (Essendon) been very good to me personally and I’m sure Neale and the other boys would say the same thing,” Terry said.

Neale played 82 games, won a best and fairest and was appointed Essendon Captain.  “I spent time with my brothers at the football club, looking back now it was a special time,” he said.

Anthony played 233 games, played in the 1990 Grand Final and was named in the All-Australian side in 1991. “To come to an established Club like Essendon was just terrific and under a Legend Coach like Kevin Sheedy and to be with my two brothers, and eventually Chris – that was a dream come true,” he said.

Chris played 124 games, represented New South Wales and played in the 1993 premiership side.  “I had a wonderful time.  I had opportunities to play in two Grand Finals and a couple of night ones … to be around the football club and to be a part of that football club was an honour.  It was a really special 11 years of my life,” he said.

After their playing days, Terry and Anthony put their energy into establishing a cleaning business.  Daniher Facility Management is celebrating its 30th year this year.  “That’s been pretty good for Anthony and myself – it keeps us pretty busy during the day,” Terry said.

Neale Daniher says goodbye after his last game as Melbourne Coach.

After dabbling in coaching in 1985, Neale fully immersed himself in the job after his playing days came to an end.  He joined Fremantle as an Assistant was appointed Senior Coach of Melbourne ahead of the 1998 season.  In his third year, the Demons made the Grand Final where Daniher matched wits with an Essendon Coaching box featuring his old mentor Kevin Sheedy and his brother Terry, who was one of Sheedy’s assistants.

“I took over Melbourne when they were wooden spooners and we got to play off in a Grand Final,” Neale said. “We had a tremendous year and just to be involved with the Grand Final atmosphere and for our Melbourne boys to play off in a Grand Final … lots of friends, lots of great memories and they were great times.”

Neale's final game as Senior Coach was also against Essendon in 2007.  The Bombers won by two points.

Chris returned to the family farm in Ungarie. “I have five kids and they’re all growing up now … I’m enjoying life, life’s good,” he said.

Chris Daniher runs the family farm in Ungarie.

Parents, Jim and Edna are there too. At 90, Jim keeps abreast of the latest footy news and political developments on his iPad.  He also goes to watch the local footy side play down the road.

Edna is known for making the best scones north of the border.

The Daniher name re-entered the AFL playing ranks when Darcy Daniher (Anthony’s son) joined the Bombers at the end of 2007.  He played six games between 2008 and 2011. A year later in the 2012 National Draft, the Bombers picked up Darcy's younger brother Joe, under the father-son rule.  At 23, Joe is a member of Essendon’s Leadership group, a three-time leading goal kicker for the Club and an ANZAC Day medal winner.  “All you want is for your kids to be happy and healthy – whether they’re playing footy or they’re a dentist, a school teacher or a farmer,” Joe’s father Anthony said.  It’s his workspace and he’s got to deal with it on his terms."

For all their achievements in football and professional life, the Danihers biggest contribution has been to a cause far greater.

In 2013, Neale Daniher was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.  He has since dedicated his life, with the support of his family, to finding a cure.  “We’re pretty proud of what Neale has done,” Terry said.  “It’s still a work in motion, we still haven’t found a cure.”

Last week, Neale announced $13 million in funding would be distributed across a range of research institutions in the hope of finding a cure. The money was raised through the foundation's annual Big Freeze campaign, donors and government funding.

“That is just who Neale is,” Anthony said. “He’s an incredibly passionate, articulate, dedicated person. He loves a challenge and that’s to beat MND … to find a cure.  He didn’t choose this challenge, it chose him.  But the way he just said ‘I’ll take this head on’ has been fabulous.  It’s a huge inspiration but it doesn’t surprise us one bit, that’s just who he is.”

Joe Daniher and Kevin Sheedy are among the thousands of Australians who have supported Neale's campaign.

More than 2,000 Australians are currently living with MND. The disease causes the nerve cells controlling movement, speech, breathing and swallowing to slowly die. Thanks to the work of the Danihers, two new drug trials have commenced and another two are scheduled to begin later this year.

“I remember him being so nervous at the first Freeze campaign … but typically the way Neale is, it has been a great success,” Chris said. “He’s fighting the fight.  We hope and pray that he’s around for a while and he can raise lots of money and they can find a cure.”

The Big Freeze 3 will be held on Monday June 12 (Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday).

“I hope the Bomber supporters can get behind our Foundation, every dollar counts, we’ve got a really big campaign again and it should be fun,” Neale said.

More details on The Big Freeze 3 can be found here.

Part One - The Upbringing

Part Two - The Footy