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The Danihers - The Footy

BTV: The Danihers - The Footy We reflect on the playing careers of the Daniher brothers.

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.

The Danihers first experience of Melbourne came via the annual family holiday. Jim Daniher was on the local footy board and among the perks were tickets to the MCG during the VFL finals series. The kids had a great time but they concede ‘Mum wasn’t that excited about holidays’.

The taste of Melbourne in their tender years gave the Daniher brothers some insight into life in the big city but for Anthony at least, there was a period of adjustment when the move became more permanent in his teenage years. “I came across my first tram, which I didn’t know you had to stop for and I nearly wiped out 15 people getting off a tram on Flemington Road, so it was a hard way to learn but you learnt pretty quickly,” he said. 

Terry was the first Daniher to arrive in Melbourne and started his VFL career with South Melbourne, but after two seasons he was put up for trade.

“While I was disappointed and didn’t understand why … it’s all a learning curve and that’s how it is in footy and how lucky was I to get another opportunity where I had two clubs come knocking on the door,” he said.

“I’d virtually signed with Fitzroy … they came to me with a contract, I had it in my hand and I said ‘I’ll take it home’. I met the coach, met the players and I said ‘this is the club for me’.

“The next day after I’d already signed the contract to take it back to Fitzroy, I got a call out of the blue from the Essendon Football Club. In the end I had a bit more of a think about it and Neale and myself came here and joined the Bombers.”

Terry Daniher in action for the Bombers in 1985 against Fitzroy - a team he nearly joined.

Neale joined Terry at the Bombers and moved in with the Bateman family – a couple he remains friends with to this day.

Terry played his first game for Essendon in 1978 and Neale made his debut under Barry Davis a year later. He hardly missed a game in the first three seasons.

In 1982 he was made Captain. No one could have predicted he would miss the next three seasons with injury.

As Terry lifted the premiership cup in 1984 and 1985, Neale was sidelined with persistent knee problems. He thought it was time to take up coaching.

“I would have loved to have been out there but I wasn’t dealt that hand, but that’s ok,” Neale said of the back-to-back premiership triumphs. “Kevin [Sheedy] thought give it one more go and I was happy to give it a go.”

Neale played five games in 1985, four in 1989 and seven in his final season in 1990. “But I was never able to have the athleticism to really be a good player,” Neale said. “But it was fun. To spend time with my brothers at the Football Club, looking back now, it was a special time.”

Essendon fans and his family were left to wonder what might have been had Neale had an injury free run.

“For him to come back was a great story,” Anthony said. “He’s just resilient … all of those challenges help shape what you’re going to be in future years. He went into the coaching ranks and was extremely successful and ahead of his time. Even when he played he was ahead of his time. If he’d played 200 games who knows what Essendon would have done. Footy can be cruel on some people, it’s a tough caper.”

Neale Daniher playing for the Bombers against Melbourne in 1990.

Neale's final game was against St Kilda in round 22 of the 1990 season. His three brothers played that day too as the Danihers created history. The Bombers won by 35 points with Neale kicking three goals.

A month later he watched his three brothers play in the Grand Final against Collingwood. The Bombers were well beaten and for Anthony it was his first and last chance on football’s biggest stage. “Footy is a funny thing - it’s a game and I always treated it as a game even though it was professional,” Anthony said. “You go out, you play on Saturday and you move on. You get your chances and you’ve got to take them. We didn’t take them in ’90, ’89 we probably didn’t take them because we were good enough, but we got knocked off in the preliminary final. That’s just the way footy goes sometimes.”

But the Bombers did take their chances in 1993. Terry had retired a year earlier and Anthony was left out after the Qualifying Final as the Bombers went on to beat Carton in the Grand Final.

“In ’93 the knee was playing up and young ‘Fletch’ [Dustin Fletcher] got the gig at full-back which was just fantastic but Chris got a gig as well and I was rapt for Chris,” Anthony said.

“I’d had 15 years in the system full of fabulous opportunities. We had great success in different times, we didn’t measure them in Grand Finals unfortunately for me, but they’re hard to win and you just say ‘ok, I’ve had a pretty good run’. It was great to see Terry win a couple, Chris won one which was brilliant and poor Neale didn’t even get close because of injury. But you continue to count your blessings and say ‘I did pretty well’.”

Chris Daniher started on the bench against the Blues in '93 but finished the day with 10 possessions and a goal as the Bombers won by 44 points. “That was really special and this is what people don’t realise today is that back then when we started at Essendon it was just like a local football club,” Chris said. “So to share it with people who had been around the place, the supporters and just the Essendon Football Club was really special.”

Chris played until the end of 1997. 

Essendon started the 1998 season without a Daniher on its list for the first time in 20 years.

Together, the four brothers from Ungarie appeared in 752 VFL/AFL games.

But their greatest contribution to the game, and the nation, was still to come.

Stay tuned for part three as we detail the legacy of the Danihers.

Click here to view part one.