Neale Daniher will be elevated to Essendon Hall of Fame Legend later this month. (Photo: AFL Photos)

'Play on'.

That's the motto for the heroic Neale Daniher, who has pushed through devastating adversity in life and football to build a legacy that will transcend far beyond the football field.

And it's only fitting that the former Essendon champion, who turns 61 today, will this month be elevated to Legend status in the club's prestigious Hall of Fame.

Part of football's favourite family, Daniher made his Bombers debut one season after his older brother Terry in 1979, with younger brothers Anthony and Chris donning the sash in 1987 to complete the quartet.

The Riverina-born Danihers combined for 752 VFL/AFL games, making history on September 1, 1990 as the first quartet of brothers to play in a League game together.

(L-R) The famous Daniher brothers: Chris, Terry, Neale and Anthony. (Photo: AFL Photos)

That landmark day against St Kilda at Moorabbin Oval marked the 82nd and last match for Neale Daniher, who might just have been the best of the Daniher lot if not for significant knee injuries.

Bursting on to the scene in 1979 at the tender age of 18, Daniher played every game under then-coach Barry Davis to win the Bombers' best first-year player award and VFL recruit of the year.

In 1981, under new coach Kevin Sheedy, Daniher cemented himself as one of the League's best defenders, starring with his pace, skills, smarts and aerial prowess to claim the club's best and fairest.


Daniher was one of the driving forces behind the Bombers' 15-game winning streak in 1981, until tragedy struck against South Melbourne at Windy Hill in round 21.

A serious knee injury saw the football world robbed of one of its most promising rising stars, with Daniher managing just 16 matches after that ill-fated day as his troublesome knee continually broke down and required three reconstructions.

In a mark of the regard Daniher was held in, he was still appointed the club's youngest captain at just 21 in 1982, but never got the opportunity to lead his beloved Bombers on the field.

In another cruel twist of fate, Daniher could only watch on as Essendon savoured back-to-back premierships under Sheedy in 1984 and '85.

Post-retirement, Daniher's sharp football brain saw him move into coaching, where he helped steer the Bombers to their third flag under Sheedy and 15th overall in 1993 as an assistant coach, before helming Melbourne as senior coach from 1998 to 2007.

While Daniher dealt with enormous challenges on the football field, the beast of all of them has come off it.

Diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2013, Daniher has been at the mercy of the terminal disease which has seen his body fade away, but his human spirit grow to legendary.

Rather than dwell in darkness, the 2019 Victorian of the Year has led a crusade to find a cure for the disease he terms 'The Beast', raising nearly $50 million through his charity FightMND.

Neale Daniher with daughter Bec during this year's seventh Big Freeze fundraising event. (Photo: AFL Photos)

His continued determination to live life to the fullest and face challenges with humour, bravery and a selfless drive to help prevent the fate of future MND sufferers, has been colossal.

Daniher's elevation to Essendon Hall of Fame Legend will be celebrated at the club's 2022 Hall of Fame event on Thursday, February 24, with Gavin Wanganeen, Dustin Fletcher and the late Dr Bruce Reid also being elevated to Legend status.

Want to be there for one of the Bombers' most special nights?

Click here for full details and to purchase your ticket for the prestigious Essendon Hall of Fame event, which will be proudly presented by Liberty Free-Thinking Loans.