Jan and Neale Daniher during the Big Freeze Walk to the 'G in round 13, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

JAN DANIHER was at training with the West Coast Fever netball team in New Zealand when her phone rang, with her husband Neale, the former Essendon star and Melbourne coach, on the other end of the line. 

A process of elimination, including four months of medical tests, had left the experts with only one conclusion: that Neale had the terminal illness called motor neurone disease, or MND. 


"I'm going, 'So what does that mean', and then went back to the hotel and googled, just to get some kind of understanding," Jan recalls of that moment in 2013 on the latest episode of the Mums with Mics podcast. 

"It was horrifying to see what was going to happen to him, because at that stage he was so fit, he was training twice a day... at that stage they said it was around 27 months that he was going to live. It was devastating and it takes so long to comprehend. 

"Then of course it was (about) trying to tell people, trying to tell the kids. It was so difficult." 


Ten years on, Neale is again the face of the Big Freeze at the 'G fundraiser for the Danihers' FightMND charity, which will take place before Monday's King's Birthday clash between Collingwood and Melbourne.  


Neale Daniher addresses Melbourne players and staff on June 4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Jan Daniher told hosts Tracey McKay and Jackie De Koning that the charity work had been a source of hope for her family. 

"It's been amazing for our family because if we just lived with this disease and (were) watching now what's happening with Neale, it's like watching someone being tortured, slowly tortured," she said.

"So to be able have something we can do that's positive, and that can hopefully in the future give people hope that 'all right, you've got MND, but there's a treatment' (is important)." 

Jan Daniher on Mums with Mics. Picture: AFL Digital

Tracey and Jackie will share their insights into life growing up with promising young footballers who have turned into star AFL players, as well as talking with fellow mothers of AFL players who generously share their tales of footy, life and laughter. 

From the glamour of the Brownlow and Grand Final day, to the heartbreak of injury and retirement, and everything in between - including lost footy boots and emergency hospital trips - Mums with Mics shines a light on a family side of footy that you've never seen before. 

In this week's episode: 

  • Jan Daniher on how she met Neale, and why she had no interest in footy 
  • What is was like being the partner of a player in the 1980s
  • How Neale knew there was something wrong, and what led to his MND diagnosis
  • Why the FightMND charity has been so important for the Daniher family
  • The creation of the 'Big Freeze' concept
  • How they test the celebrity slide ahead of the Big Freeze at the 'G each year

Don't miss a minute! Subscribe to Mums with Mics NOW at Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Google or tune in every Friday on AFL.com.au or the AFL Live Official App.