Neale Daniher

Image DOB: February 15 1961

First game as coach: Round 1, 1998 vs Fremantle at Subiaco
Last game as coach: Round 13, 2007 vs Essendon at Docklands

Life Member - 2007


One of the four Daniher brothers at Essendon, Neale's career was destroyed by injuries and he played his football in three separate phases. He debuted in 1979, won the Bombers best and fairest in 1981 and was named captain for 1982 before suffering a serious knee injury which kept him out of the game until 1985. Upon returning that year his knee was injured again and he didn't return until 1989 before retiring at the end of 1990. In twelve seasons at Windy Hill he managed just 82 games for 32 goals. He finished his playing career at Werribee in the VFA.

After his retirement he worked as an assistant coach for Essendon in 1993-94 and Fremantle from 1995-97. He was coach of the Allies in State of Origin 1996, before being appointed Melbourne coach in September 1997 to take over for the 1998 season.

Replacing Neale Balme, and caretaker Greg Hutchison at the reigning wooden spooners steady improvement was expected in 1998. He had beaten Hutchinson, Peter Schwab and Damian Drum to the job.

Star signing Jeff White followed him to Melbourne from the Dockers, and Jamie Shanahan joined from St. Kilda in the pre-season draft. Other than number one draft pick Travis Johnstone the side was effectively the same which had won just four games the year before.

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.

Image Comprehensive wins against Adelaide and St. Kilda put them into a preliminary final against a North Melbourne side who had played in two consecutive grand finals. The Kangaroos were too good but Melbourne had significantly exceeded the football world's expectations and were expected to be amongst the better sides again in 1999. Initially signed until the end of '99, Daniher's first season was rewarded with a contract extension until the end of 2000.

The next season, however, finished disasterously with nine straight losses to end the season and it appeared that the 1998 campaign had been a 'one hit wonder'. It was, then, even more of a surprise that they bounced back the next year to play in a Grand Final. David Neitz, Russell Robertson, David Schwarz and Jeff Farmer had formed a formibable forward line 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 route to the 2000 Grand Final. Having pushed the dominant Bombers, who lost just one game, closer than most sides through the year the Demons were considered an outside chance of ending their premiership drought but suffered a heavy defeat.

Again a good season was followed by a disappointment. An 11th place finish in 2001 flattered a side who won three of their last four to get that close to the 8. Robertson won the goalkicking with more than 30 goals less than Farmer had managed in 2000.

The see-saw continued again in 2002 when the form of the last month of the previous season carried over into the year. 4-1 after the first five rounds the Demons had a drop off midseason but still finished sixth and qualified for the finals. An Elimination Final victory over North Melbourne threw them up against Adelaide in the Semi Final, but 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 it away in the last quarter.

By now Melbourne fans were tiring of the rollercoaster and expected more after the disappointment of the Adelaide final. Wins against Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs in the first three rounds seemed to build a platform for a successful 2003 campaign, but nine losses in a row ended their year and for the first time Daniher's position was coming under scrutiny. Two consecutive wins in the middle of the year eased the pressure somewhat, but another eight straight losses at the end of the year sent the fanbase into a frenzy. With another year left on his contract most expected that 2004 would be his last season with the Demons - speculation had been that he would have been sacked in 2003 had he not been contracted for '04 with an option for '05, leaving the financially crippled Demons with a seven figure payout to sack him. As long as 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 role Daniher took on more promotional work from the start of 2004. It was then that he earned the nickname "The Reverend". Even with the two top 5 draft picks (Colin Sylvia and Brock McLean), a semi-final finish in the pre-season cup and the club's recent record for following a bad season with a good one and vice versa most expected the Demons to struggle in 2004. A round one loss to the Hawks was followed by six straight wins and once again the Dees were on the up. After beating Hawthorn in the Round 18 return fixture Melbourne was top of the ladder for the first time in Daniher's reign as coach. Four straight losses then saw them tumble out of the top four and a narrow finals loss to Essendon ended a season which promised so much.

At the end of the season Daniher agreed an extension to his contract to take him through to the end of the 2007 season.

Having not strung together two winning seasons since 1990/91 many felt that the 2005 Demons would be more like the 99/01/03 sides than the 98/00/02/04 variety, but finally Daniher managed to craft a second consecutive finals appearance. It was not without some tension though, as seven straight losses in the middle of the season left them needing to win all three of their remaining games to qualify. Thrilling wins over Geelong, Western Bulldogs and Essendon saw them slide into the finals in 7th but they were thrashed by Geelong in the Elimination Final.

2006 again found Melbourne in the finals, but once more it wasn't without some tense moments. Three straight losses to open the season put them behind the eight ball, and a fourth loss to Sydney at the SCG in round 4 might very well have been fatal for both Melbourne's season and Daniher's job. A thrilling win against the Swans was one of 11 of the next 12, but once again they weren't consistent enough to earn the double chance and were forced into an elimination final, this time against St. Kilda. At half-time it seemed they were on their way out of the finals, but a slashing second half delivered victory and sent the Demons to Perth to play the Fremantle Dockers, with the prize for the winner a trip to Sydney for a preliminary final against Sydney. The Demons were in touch at three-quarter time but suffered a 28 point loss.

With three seasons of finals behind them it appeared that the good season/bad season curse had finally been lifted and Melbourne were duly installed as 2007 premiership contenders by most judges. 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.

Image A second straight win in the Queen's Birthday clash momentarily took the heat off, but a disappointing loss against fellow cellar-dwellars Richmond in Round 12 saw the club fall into meltdown. The club announced that Daniher would be forced to reapply for his position at the end of the year, and on the next Wednesday he announced that he was resigning as coach. At first it was announced that he'd see the year through, but Daniher then named 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.

Mark Riley became caretaker coach for the rest of the season.

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.

Later became a campaigner for awareness of Motor Neuron Disease after being diagnosed with the illness.

Life Members

Age - 11/09/1997
Age - 03/10/2004

Wikipedia profile

Created by Supermercado. Last Modification: Tuesday 24 March 2020 15:48:38 AEDT by Supermercado. (Version 25)

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