Neale Daniher’s battle with The Bastard motor neurone disease is a heartbreaker

OPINION: MOST people would crawl into a hole and what will be will be. Not Neale Daniher.

He will die of motor ­neurone disease, but he won’t die without a fight.

Neale is not fighting for himself, he’s fighting for the next generation afflicted with what is known as The Bastard.

Colleague Ruth Lamperd’s beautiful and heartbreaking expose last Sunday described Neale’s journey from an able-bodied man of 54 to the man we see today.

“He will be a helpless witness to his own demise,’’ she wrote. ‘’His body will fail; his mind will stay sharp. There is no cure and no treatment yet to slow this disease. A hideous medical riddle that will be solved one day, but most likely not in time for Neale.’’

It seems ridiculously cliched to say Neale was a fighter throughout his life. But he was. He came back from multiple knee operations to play the game and, outside of his marriage and the births of his children Lauren, Luke, ­Rebecca and Ben, the day at St Kilda when Neale and his three brothers played together in the one game would be one of his life’s highlights.

It wasn’t father-son, it was brother and brother and brother and brother — and it will be forever remembered in AFL history.

To be honest, it was initially confronting to see Neale Daniher talk to his great mate Tim Watson on Channel 7 a week or so ago.

The slurring words, the crippled fingers, the broken body … it was raw and real.

Tim was magnificent and his love for his mate shone through the TV screens. But if Tim was magnificent, Neale was something else.

His matter-of-fact delivery, combined with that raucous laugh, told us what Neale Daniher was made of.

How could you feel confronted when you saw what Neale was battling and heard what he was trying to do for thousands of others?

People have described him as courageous. It seems such an insipid word to describe a man, a husband, a father, who put himself on national television and laid bare what the The Bastard has done to him.

Not many others would.

Neale Daniher with the Melbourne football team.

I feel like I have known Neale for a long time. As an Essendon supporter, Neale was the great champion cut down before he could leave his mark on the game.

Then he coached. He became known as The Reverend. Yes, he was fire and brimstone, but he was also the product of his upbringing. He liked people. He laughed at people. He laughed at himself. And he laughed at his own jokes. They are great qualities.

It is why the football world is rallying around Neale.

Not many people could bring channels Seven and Nine together. Or Triple M and 3AW. And Fox Footy, The Age and the Herald Sun. Neale has.

Neale will appear on mediums over the next couple of weeks to help raise funds before the big show at the MCG on Queen’s Birthday Monday, when media people will slide into a vat of iced water.

It’s called The Big Freeze at the ’G, a celebrity challenge that will seek to raise awareness and research funding for MND.

I’m honoured to be asked to be there. It will be cold and uncomfortable, but what does that matter.

It seems such a pathetically insignificant act when you consider what Neale is battling. Still, it will be an occasion to laugh in the face of The Bastard and Neale will be laughing the hardest.

You know, sometimes football gets a bad rap. Yet it’s times likes this when football is true to itself. Footy is about families and communities and mates and helping each other in difficult times.

Do donate. Not for Neale. But for the many thousands of others who Neale is fighting for.

Source: Herald Sun
Image Source: Herald Sun

Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.

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  • Ryan Fritz

    Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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