Neale Francis Daniher AM (born 15 February 1961) is a former Australian rules footballer who played with the Essendon Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL). He was later the coach of the Melbourne Football Club between 1998 and 2007, and also held coaching positions with Essendon, Fremantle and West Coast. His brothers, Terry, Anthony and Chris, also played for Essendon. Daniher was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2013 and is now known as a prominent campaigner for medical research.
Daniher in June 2017
|Date of birth||15 February 1961|
|Place of birth||West Wyalong, New South Wales|
|Height||188 cm (6 ft 2 in)|
|Weight||84 kg (185 lb)|
|Position(s)||Half back flank|
Essendon Football Club
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
Early life and childhoodEdit
Daniher was born the third child of James "Jim" Daniher and Edna Daniher (née Erwin) on 15 February 1961 at West Wyalong Base Hospital. He attended St Joseph's Catholic School, Ungarie for his primary education before going to St Patrick's College in Goulburn and later Assumption College, Kilmore, where he finished Year 12. He then went to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, where he learned about the emerging technology of the 1980s such as computers.
It was during his childhood that Daniher showed his love for sport, namely Australian rules football, playing in the Northern Riverina Football League (NRFL) on Saturdays while playing rugby league at school carnivals. During his time in the NRFL he won several best and fairest awards before going to college, where he played both Australian rules football and rugby union. In 1978 both the South Melbourne and Essendon football clubs approached Daniher as a player. After a legal battle between the two clubs, Essendon won the right to recruit Daniher as South Melbourne had signed a contract which said that Essendon had this right due to South Melbourne trading Terry Daniher to Essendon in exchange for Neville Fields.
VFL/AFL playing careerEdit
From 1979 to 1990, Daniher played for Essendon in the VFL/AFL, playing only 82 games due to several knee injuries. He was appointed captain in 1982 but never led the side due to injury.
On 1 September 1990 Daniher, alongside his three brothers, made history when they became the first quartet of brothers to play for the same team in a single VFL/AFL game.
In the same year, the brothers also played together on 22 May 1990 in a State of Origin match for New South Wales, versus Victoria.
Retirement, coaching and beyondEdit
After his playing career was over, Daniher took up a career in coaching, with his first job coming when he became an assistant coach for the Fremantle Football Club. After his time with Fremantle, he became the senior coach of the Melbourne Football Club for 10 seasons from 1998 to 2007. At Melbourne he led the Demons to the 2000 AFL Grand Final in his third season at the club where they played against his former team, Essendon, in a match that Melbourne lost.
In the 2004 pre-season, with Melbourne struggling for memberships and requiring the competitive balance fund for survival, Daniher made a more concerted effort to be more outspoken in the media – and became known as "The Reverend" for his "preaching" skills. This helped the club's membership and public profile (a semi-final appearance in that year's Wizard Cup also helped). After making the semi-finals of the Wizard Cup, the Demons then led the AFL ladder after 18 rounds by winning 14 out of 18 games, before a 4-game losing streak saw them miss the top 4 altogether and finish 5th, where they were knocked out of the finals in the first week by Essendon.
2005 saw the Demons enjoy a similar run near the top of the ladder, but another late-season fade-out saw them temporarily lose their spot in the eight, before reclaiming their position with close wins over the Western Bulldogs and Geelong. They were comprehensively beaten by Geelong in the elimination final, which saw a second consecutive first week exit for the club. The Demons improved in 2006, making the semi-finals after losing the first 3 games of the season, then coming back but fading in the last 7 games.
On 27 June 2007, he announced that he would resign at the end of the 2007 season after the Demons started the year with nine straight defeats. They won their next two matches, but a poor showing in a 49-point loss against cellar dwellers, Richmond in Round 12 2007, put pressure on Daniher's coaching tenure.
On 29 June 2007, he officially announced that Round 13 clash against Essendon will be his last game as Melbourne Demons coach. They lost the match by 2 points. The team was coached by Mark Riley (assistant coach) until the end of the season.
After leaving coaching he became the general manager of football operations for the West Coast Eagles in the 2008 season; in September 2013 he stood down from his role due to health reasons but kept the condition private until August 2014.
In August 2014 it was revealed that he has motor neurone disease (MND), which is currently incurable. He has dedicated the remainder of his life to educating Australians about the disease. Beginning in 2015 the annual Queen's Birthday game between Melbourne and Collingwood has been partnered with the Big Freeze in raising funds for MND research.
- McClure, Geoff (6 May 2004). "Sporting Life: Bonzer - it's farmer Neale".
- Hanlon, Peter (8 June 2012). "Fields of dreams".
- Carter, Ron (16 June 1989). "Demons bring back Wilson". The Age.
- "St Kilda v Essendon, Round 22, 1990". AFL Tables.
- "State of Origin Team Lineups and Goals". Big Footy.
- Damian Barrett (6 April 1991). "Grand final action replay". Herald-Sun News-Pictorial. Melbourne, VIC. p. 67.
- Webb, Carolyn. "Football legend honoured for efforts to find a cure for deadly disease".
- "Queen's Birthday 2016 Honour List" (PDF).
- Neale Daniher, former Essendon champion and Melbourne coach has revealed his deadly battle with motor neurone disease, Herald Sun, 17 August 2014