Victorian sides join forces to FightMND

If the Daniher family’s football story is among the game’s most famous, then the existence of a strong netball link is less well-known.

Neale Daniher’s wife Jan and daughters Lauren and Bec, all former State League players, have had a long involvement with Victorian netball and the Boroondara Netball Association in particular. So it is that this year’s fifth annual “Big Freeze” at the MCG will have a new Queen’s Birthday partner helping the cause FightMND.

Having been shifted from the opening Suncorp Super Netball weekend to round seven, the much-anticipated first instalment of ‘The Battle’ between the Melbourne Vixens and the rival Magpies will also be played at the special time of noon.

Jan Daniher will surely not be the only person set to make the short dash from Melbourne Arena to the MCG for the Collingwood-Melbourne game after the inaugural initiative supported by both SSN clubs and designed to raise awareness and funds to find a cure for Motor Neurone Disease.

“The footy community know a lot about FightMND now, but probably not so much the netball community,’’ said Daniher. “So we’ll sell beanies, and we’ll do a bit of tin rattling, but it’s also getting the awareness out to a new group of people, so there will some videos on the big screens, be face-painting of ice blocks or snow flakes on the kids’ faces, and a few things like that.

“I’m so passionate about netball, and it’s so exciting to have this support to expand FightMND to this level of netball. It’s just a start, but it’s fantastic they’ve come on board, and we’re hoping it will grow bigger each year.

“I’d love to see it become an annual event, and see the netball side of it grow, just like the footy side has grown.’’

Netball’s connection with the FightMND cause had its genesis at Boroondara, where Jan – who also spent three years as the team operations manager for the West Coast Fever before Neale’s diagnosis prompted the family’s return to Melbourne in 2014 – is a founding member, long-time coach, and current VNL committee member.

In a different way, Neale Daniher played an important role, too, by using his profile as an AFL coach to help lobby the local council back in 2003 to build the courts that are currently used by 4000 players each week.

In the past four years, the association has donated around $18,000 to FightMND and this Saturday will host a major fundraiser, with everything from blue cupcakes to a raffle and a silent auction that includes courtside seats to “The Battle” and family tickets at the MCG next to the famous Big Freeze slide that will deliver the likes of Bianca Chatfield, Dane Swan and Brendan Fevola into the icy water below.

“Hopefully the community will support us as much as they have in the past, by buying a beanie and donating,’’ says Jan Daniher. “All the money goes into research and trying to find a solution to this ‘beast’ of a disease, as Neale calls it. But there have been steps forward, and it’s great to see, with all the new trials that have been funded by FightMND.

“It’s perfect timing, and scheduling, on Queen’s Birthday. Anyone who’s been at the netball can then head over to the footy if they want a full day of sport.’’

And a full day supporting FightMND. What a fine idea.

Netball supporters can support FightMND by going to the website, and donating or purchasing a beanie.