DOB: 15 February 1961
One of four Daniher brothers to play at Essendon, Neale's career was destroyed by injuries. His career had three phases, debuting in 1979, winning the Bombers' best and fairest in 1981 and being named captain for 1982, before suffering a serious knee injury which kept him out of the game until 1985. He hurt his knee again on return and didn't play again until 1989, retiring at the end of 1990. Injuries restricted him to just 82 games in 12 years at Windy Hill.
Daniher finished his playing career at Werribee in the VFA before joining Essendon as an assistant coach in 1993, also coaching their Reserves the same year. In 1995 he joined Fremantle, staying there as an assistant until the end of 1997. He was interviewed for the Richmond job at the end of 1995 but was unsuccessful.
In September 1997 he was appointed Melbourne coach for the 1998 season, beating Peter Schwab, Damian Drum, and caretaker Greg Hutchison. The wooden spooners were expected to improve, but with star signing Jeff White following him from the Dockers, the side that had just won a wooden spoon reached fourth on the ladder. After opening his coaching career with a loss against his old side Fremantle the Demons then embarked on a five match winning streak and played finals for the first time since 1994.
Comprehensive wins against Adelaide and St Kilda saw them play a Preliminary Final against a North Melbourne side that had made two consecutive grand finals. The Kangaroos were too good but Melbourne had significantly exceeded the football world's expectations and were expected to improve further in 1999. Originally signed for two years, Daniher was rewarded with an extension until the end of 2000.
1999 was a disappointment, with a disastrous nine straight losses to end the season. For that reason, it was even more surprising that Daniher's side bounced back to play in a Grand Final the following year. David Neitz, Russell Robertson, David Schwarz and Jeff Farmer had formed a formidable forward combination, and new players like Brad Green, Cameron Bruce and Matthew Whelan slotted seamlessly into a side which won ten of their last eleven games (and lost the other by a point) on the way to a date with Essendon, who had only lost one game for the season. Having gone closer to the Bombers than most sides during the year, Melbourne was considered an outside chance of ending their premiership drought but went down to a heavy defeat.
Once again, a good season was followed by disappointment. An 11th place finish in 2001 flattered a side who won three of their last four games. The see-saw continued again in 2002. Four wins from the first five games helped insulate Daniher's side against a mid-season dip, leaving them sixth. An Elimination Final victory over North Melbourne set up a Semi Final against Adelaide. The Demons lost a heartbreaking match which saw them turn a seven goal quarter time deficit into a 22 point three-quarter time lead before throwing the game away in the last quarter.
Two wins in the first three weeks of 2003 seemed to set the platform for another successful season, before nine consecutive losses confirmed another wasted year. For the first time Daniher's position came under scrutiny. Two wins in the middle of the year eased the pressure, but eight straight losses to end the season left most expecting 2004 to be Daniher's last year. There was speculation that he'd have been sacked in 2003 if he hadn't been contracted for '04, meaning a seven figure payout to remove him that the financially strapped Demons couldn't; afford. A contractual trigger meant that if he made the finals in 2004, Daniher would receive an automatic extension to his contract.
Recognising a need to promote the club to increase membership and to shore up his own position, Daniher took on more promotional work in 2004, earning the nickname "The Reverend". Even with top 5 draft picks (Colin Sylvia and Brock McLean), a pre-season quarter final, and a recent history in following bad seasons with good, most expected Melbourne to struggle again in 2004. A Round 1 loss to Hawthorn was followed by six straight wins and once again the Dees were on the up. A win over the Hawks in Round 18 left Melbourne on top of the ladder for the first time in Daniher's reign. Four straight losses then saw them tumble out of the top four and a narrow finals loss to Essendon prematurely ended a season which had promised so much. Daniher didn't just get the extra year on his contract that the finals finish entitled him to, he negotiated an extension until the end of 2007.
Without back-to-back winning seasons since 1990 and 1991, history was against a return to the finals. Daniher's side delivered, but not without a grandstand finish to the year. Seven straight losses left them needing to win their last three games to qualify. Thrilling wins over Geelong, Western Bulldogs and Essendon saw them slide into 7th, but they were thrashed by Geelong in the Elimination Final. 2006 was another finals season, but not before three losses to open the year left them chasing their tails. A thrilling win against Sydney in Round 4 saved the season, and perhaps Daniher's job. That was one of 11 wins from 12, not enough to earn a double chance. They played another Elimination Final, this time against St Kilda. At half-time it seemed they were on their way out of the finals, but a slashing finish delivered victory, setting up a Semi Final against Fremantle. The Demons were in touch at three-quarter time but suffered a 28 point loss.
After three seasons in the finals, Melbourne looked to have developed consistency and were described as Victoria's most likely premiership contender for 2007. The season, however, was a complete disaster and they didn't win a game until Round 10. Once again in the last year of his contract "The Reverend" saw his position once again under threat.
Two wins in a row momentarily took the heat off Daniher, but a disappointing loss to fellow cellar-dwellars Richmond in Round 12 saw the club go into meltdown. The club announced that Daniher would be forced to reapply for his position at the end of the year, prompting the coach to announce he would resign. Initially he was set to coach the year out, before naming the Round 13 match against Essendon as his last. Fittingly coaching his final game against his old mentor Kevin Sheedy, Daniher suffered a heartbreaking loss when the Demons submitted to the Bombers in the last seconds of the match.
Despite being linked to the Fremantle coaching position at the end of that year, Daniher did not seek another AFL senior position. In May 2008 he was an assistant coach for the "All-Stars" team in the AFL Hall of Fame Match, and on August 18th that year he accepted a role as General Manager of the West Coast Eagles where he remained through 2012. After being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, Daniher became a major fundraiser for fighting the disease. His 'Big Freeze' innovation saw millions raised for research.
Age - 11/09/1997
Canberra Times - 01/09/2000
Age - 03/10/2004