People have been thanking Edna and Jim Daniher for their four sons for decades, but never was the gratitude more evident than in Ungarie over the weekend.
Thousands gathered in the small Riverina town to pay tribute to one of AFL’s finest families and raise money for a good cause.
Terry, Neale, Chris and Anthony made a name for themselves, playing for Essendon in the 1980s and 1990s.
Between them, they played a whopping 752 AFL games.
Neale Daniher was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2013. In the last five years, he has helped raise millions of dollars for MND research.
The weekend served also served as a fundraiser for MND research, topping $23,000 on Saturday alone.
The big day out kicked off with the unveiling of Ungarie’s ‘big sherrin,’ followed by a match that saw the Daniher famiky take on an all-star team.
Chris Daniher played 124 games for Essendon and now runs the family farm in Ungarie. He says the support of family and the community had been incredible.
“We’ve just got the final figure of more than $23,000 to fight MND and it’s a great feeling,” he said.
“It’s also been good to have us come together as a family. There’s probably over 60 relatives here today – both immediate and extended family – so it’s become a real family get together.”
We’ve also had some great support from the wider community. People have come from all over. It’s really special and it’s something we’ll all remember for a very long time.”
The Daniher's weren’t the only famous faces in town on Saturday. They were joined by Essendon’s Stephen Carey, Paul Hamilton, Garry Foulds, Bryan Wood and Browlow Medallist Paul Kelly for the all-star game.
The event was hosted by former North Melbourne Chairman James Brayshaw and Geelong great Billy Brownless.
The hotly contested match saw Terry and Chris Daniher join in the fun and lead their side to victory over the all-stars.
Former Sydney Swans Captain Paul Kelly took to the field in black-and-white with his son to face off against the Daniher clan.
While the loyal Swan felt he “wasn’t wearing the right colours” he said he felt honoured to have been asked to participate.
“It was good fun and a good game of footy. It’s all for a great cause and it’s just good to get out here,” he said.
“I have some family around here and I was born in West Wyalong. It’s been a great day with some good people.”
Coaching the losing side was newly-elected Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack.
“We were a bit of a rag-tag team today but we gave it a great shot. We only lost by three points,” he said.
“The Daniher family are not just a great sporting family, but they’re a great Australian story. This is one of Ungarie’s proudest days.”
The coach took to the field himself in the fourth quarter, even managing to snag a goal.
We’ve also had some great support from the wider community. People have come from all over. It’s really special and it’s something we’ll all remember for a very long time.Chris Daniher
With it, he says, come serious bragging rights.
“I hope someone has it on film. I’ll be getting it, framing it and sticking it the parliamentary office. Quite frankly, my colleagues will never hear the end of it.
All for a good cause
In the years since Neale Daniher’s diagnosis, he has become one of Australia’s most prominent MND campaigners.
The former Melbourne Demons coach has been partnering with the AFL each year since 2015 for the Big Freeze at the G. The event raised more than $2 million last year.
He’s also championed local efforts to fight against the condition.
With over $20,000 raised on Saturday, Riverina’s fundraising efforts are just beginning. Sunday sees the kick off of Pedalcure4MND.
The route will see around 30 riders travel from Ungarie to Melbourne to raise money for research into a cure.
Griffith’s Ruth Browne is pretty sure she’s the oldest rider doing the entire 700 kilometre trek. In just a few weeks she will celebrate her 78th birthday.
“It’s been a privilege to be part of the whole weekend. I’m looking forward to getting on the road. I’m ready to get on the road,” she said.
In a few short weeks, Mrs Browne has raised over $9,000.
She said the festivities in Ungarie made her even more determined to help out in any way she could.
“Just being in the presence of the Danihers and everything they’ve done for the cause is enough to make you realise it’s so worthwhile. Meeting Jim and Edna today has been lovely,” she said.
Cyclists leave Ungarie on March 11, travelling through Ariah Park, Coolamon, Lockhart, Corowa, Benalla, Seymour and Kilmore before arriving in Melbourne on March 18.
Community comes together
The idea for the big sherrin came about when Kerry Keatley was trying to came up with an idea to showcase Ungarie’s connection to the Daniher family.
Addressing the crowd at the unveiling, he said the idea came came to him around Jim and Edna’s table one afternoon.
“I said ‘how about a big fibreglass football up on a post?’ That’ll draw the attention to come to the park and read about the boys and that got the nod of approval,” he said.
Aaron Wilkinson was contracted to make the dream a reality. He’s not a football fan, but had heard about Neale Daniher’s ongoing fight against MND.
“When the opportunity came up I couldn’t turn it down. When I heard Neale’s story and all the good work he’s done I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.
Family’s lasting legacy
The unveiling of the big sherrin serves as a lasting legacy. James "Jim" Daniher and Edna Daniher brought up 11 children – four boys and seven girls – on the family farm.
The talented family have been heavily involved in sport for a long time.
The Deputy Prime Minister speculated that if the Daniher girls had the women’s competition in it’s current form, they would have given the boys a run for their money.
West Wyalong Mayor Tony Lord said the Daniher family had been a staple of the community over multiple generations.
“Not only have they made a huge contribution to Ungarie, they’ve made it to the entire area. I can remember having the Danihers around when I was a kid. They’re great,” he said.