Daniher brothers: unique family in footy by Richard Jones


A poster in Inside Football September 1990

When did the Daniher brothers first play together? If your answer was ‘at Essendon’ you’d be wrong.

If you said at Ungarie in central west NSW you’d also be incorrect although Terry did play with Dad Jim at their home club. But not the other three. The first time the four brothers – Terry, Anthony, Neale and Chris – played together on the one team was for NSW in a State of Origin match against Victoria at the SCG in May 1990. And in one of the great upsets in interstate football NSW beat Victoria by 10 points. It was the first time a quartet of brothers had played together in the one side in a State fixture.

Dad Jim, who died at the age of 90 following a farm accident last April, followed in his father’s wake. Jim snr had moved to Ungarie from Euroa, where he’d played in the 1913 premiership team, and took up a 740-acre allotment. This transfer led Jim snr to help with the formation of the Ungarie Football Club insisting that its players wear the black and white colours of his old club, Euroa. Jim Daniher snr was to prove to be one of Ungarie’s best players during its formative seasons. He captained the 1923 premiership team.

In its official history the Northern Riverina Football League rated Jim Daniher snr as “the best player in the northern Riverina during this period.”

And when his playing days were over and he’d hung up his boots Jim snr served the Ungarie club in a variety of roles, including being ‘patron’ for a period. He continued on with these tasks after he’d finishing playing just as his grandson Chris does nowadays.

Chris had served as coach, as president and is still busy at Ungarie. He went to Essendon back in 1987 and played 124 games, nailing 40 goals during his 10-year stay. Chris was a member of the storied ‘Baby Bombers’ AFL premiership team of 1993 and among his four state games for NSW was the incredible victory over Victoria and another against Queensland. He returned to the family farm and turned out for Ungarie, leading the Magpies to premierships in 2000-2001 and taking home the Northern Riverina FL’s fairest and best awards in 2000, 2002 and again in 2004. Chris also coached Temora and Mangoplah-Cookardinia United in local competititions before returning to Ungarie where he’s served in various roles on and off-the-field.

Brother Anthony, better known in the family as “Ants” (never Tony as incorrectly assigned to him by the Melbourne media) played more than 100 games for two VFL clubs: South Melbourne/Sydney Swans (115) and Essendon (118). “Ants” went to the Swans under the 1981 zoning rules after shorter careers at Ungarie, Turvey Park (when he moved to Wagga to undergo a wool-classing course) and Ganmain. Ganmain was then coached by former Carlton star forward “Turkey” Tom Carroll who had won the 1961 VFL Coleman Medal. “Ants” transferred to Essendon in 1987, consolidating his spot as a key defender and getting top accreditation when named the All-Australian full-back in 1991. He played in the Bombers “Last Saturday in September” side which went down to Collingwood in the inaugural AFL grand final in 1990 and also represented NSW five times. Like the rest of the family Ants became very involved in footy at the local level and became a junior coach at Aberfeldie in Melbourne’s north-west. And of course two of his sons – Darcy and Joe – have played with the Bombers under the father-son rule.

Neale played 82 games for Essendon in two stints. Those stints were interrupted by injury, but they took in 1979-85 and again in 1989-90. After winning the Bombers’ best and fairest in 1981 when Neale’s playing days were over he took up a role as a senior assistant and reserves coach at Essendon. Eventually he was named Melbourne’s senior coach in 1998 and two seasons later took the Demons to the grand final. But they were beaten in 2000’s big game by Neale’s former coach Kevin Sheedy, the head of Neale’s old club, Essendon. Neale continued as senior coach with Melbourne until 2007 (108 wins from 223 games) and is currently waging a courageous battle against motor neurone disease (MND). He’s been pivotal in numerous substantial fund-raising efforts, collecting  millions of dollars for ongoing MND research.

Which brings us to Terry, perhaps the most storied of the Daniher brothers. He went to South Melbourne in 1976 under the then country zoning rules and went on to complete a fine career of 313 games in VFL/AFL footy. That total encapsulated 19 games with the Bloods and 294 for Essendon. Terry nailed 469 goals captaining the Bombers to the 1985-85 premierships during his time as skipper between 1983 to 1988. He played 15 State games (11 for the Vics and 4 for NSW) and went on to be named All-Australian skipper at the Bi-Centennial carnival in Adelaide. He led NSW to a win over SA although a close loss to Western Australia followed. Terry Daniher was inducted into the Australian football Hall of Fame in 1998 and was named on a half-forward flank (just as he was in NSW’s Greatest Ever side in 2019) in Essendon’s Team of The Century. After his service to the Bombers was over Terry coached Wagga Tigers in the Riverina FL taking them to five premierships in all and on a personal note won the RFL fairest and best Quinn Medal in 1994.

With thanks to the New South Wales Australian Football History Society’s December 2019 journal and to regular footy e-mail correspondent Dr. ‘Rocket’ Rodney Gillett.

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