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Our Comeback Heroes: The Danihers

BTV: The Danihers - The Upbringing This week we are honouring the contribution of the Daniher family to the Essendon Football Club.

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.

Motorists driving north along the Newell Highway come to a fork in the road when they reach West Wyalong in country New South Wales. Heading northeast is the popular route, particularly for Victorians hoping to catch some sun in Queensland. Head northwest and you’ll be in Ungarie in about 20 minutes.

Ungarie is a town that will be etched in annals of football history for centuries to come. But locals are the first to admit the town has seen better days. The main street is lined with shops that have closed down. The pub is still operating though. The owner, Ben, ‘does a great job’ according to his patrons. Ben is welcoming and despite his burgeoning business interests, still finds the time to have a kick with the local side. He even played in a premiership with one of the Daniher brothers.

‘Chris was a jet’, Ben remembers. Photos of the four Daniher brothers proudly line the walls of his pub.

Everyone has a story about the Danihers in Ungarie.  

When you head over the creek, past the footy ground and along a dusty road, you reach the farm that was, and still is, the site for so many of the Daniher brothers best memories.

Before they found fame on the football fields of Melbourne, they found fun and freedom on the family farm in Ungarie.

Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris, along with their seven sisters were raised on the farm by parents, Jim and Edna Daniher. “We were just a humble farming family,” Neale said.  "I’ve got great memories of being in bare feet running around and having lots of fun.  We had two loving parents, a great community that looked after us and only fond memories."

The seeds of a work ethic that would see each of the four boys reach the top of their chosen sport were sown early in their childhood. They all had their jobs to do around the farm. “The old man – he worked pretty hard but we all got our chores, so we all had to chip in with milking the cows and cutting the wood,” Anthony said. “When it was busy – haymaking, harvest – we all got a job.”

When it was time for tools down, sport became the priority and with 5,000 acres on which to roam, there was never a fear about kicking the ball over the back fence.

Footy, League, Union, Tennis, cricket, swimming in the dam and climbing trees would pass the time until the sun went down.

“Sport was a pretty key ingredient for people to get out and mix and catch up, so that was sort of embedded in you pretty early in the piece,” Terry said. “All of the local towns got together and you play against each other, then after it all you’d sit down and have a beer. We were all encouraged to get involved in sport, so we’ve got a lot to thank Mum and Dad for.”

Neale, Anthony, Chris and Terry Daniher with parents Edna and Jim Daniher.

While the kids played, Mum took care of the housework and with 11 kids; there was plenty of it. “She is a superstar, a saint,” Anthony said. “Washing would take all day on Saturday but she would cook her heart out. Dad always complained about wearing the stove out. She’d find a way to feed us all but you look back on it and just go ‘what an effort’.”

When the boys returned home from playing junior footy, Edna was on hand with the boiling water. With no hot water system, the kids knew it was best to get in first. “The jug was a great invention,” Terry said. “We had many a time you had to get in there early to get good, clean water … if you were third of fourth it was starting to get a bit grey… but that was just a sign of the times. It was hard work but you just did it.”

One by one the brothers left the family farm to pursue their football dreams.  “Terry made the grade and he blazed the trail for all of us,” Neale said. “I joke that we said ‘if he can make it, we can’.”

Stay tuned for part two as the Daniher brothers make their name in the VFL.