Daniher's fight against MND continues 10 years on
It has been a decade since AFL great Neale Daniher was diagnosed with the beast that is motor neurone disease (MND).
The condition has robbed him of his ability to speak but Daniher's determination to battle the illness has never wavered.
"We will keep fighting," Daniher's daughter Bec said on Thursday at the launch of this year's AFL Big Freeze match.
"We will pull on this blue beanie year after year until a cure is found.
"MND may be relentless, but so are we."
Now in its ninth year, the Big Freeze has grown into one of the most significant fundraisers on the AFL calendar.
Last year's edition raised a record $20 million - including through the sale of the appeal's iconic blue beanies - towards research to find a cure for the disease.
The fight has been commemorated with a new mural of Daniher, painted in a Melbourne laneway by artist and friend Vincent Fantauzzo.
"After I met Neale the first time (close to 10 years ago), I left feeling like I could take the world on," Fantauzzo said.
"Neale has that effect on people and the way he promotes family and supportiveness and togetherness and fighting MND is just such an inspiration.
"I feel so privileged to be connected with his whole family and Neale."
Daniher said he was truly humbled and grateful for the tribute from his friend.
"The mural represents not just my journey, but the countless individuals and families impacted by MND, as well as the unwavering dedication and resilience of every person who has supported the fight," he said in a statement.
Ten years on from her dad's diagnosis, Bec Daniher reflected on the family's journey and what it has meant to them seeing the public rally behind the cause.
"We had Mum and Dad's living room filled with beanies," she said.
"We had the man from the post office giving us a few looks as we brought in crate after crate of hand-written envelopes with beanies in.
"The Big Freeze has grown into our biggest symbol of hope.
"The sea of blue beanies filling the MCG brings a spine-tingling sense of togetherness."
There are still four AFL rounds to play before next month's Big Freeze match, but Melbourne's All-Australian defender Jake Lever admits he's already got one eye on June 12's blockbuster against Collingwood.
More than 76,000 fans were at last year's fixture and another bumper crowd is expected, with the Demons and Magpies firmly in premiership contention.
"When you walk out on the ground and you look up in the crowd and there's so many blue beanies, it's so inspirational," Lever said.
"In that moment, you realise that it's more than a football game.
"As much as we want to put on a show, it's such a privilege and an honour to be able to play in that game."
Collingwood's Taylor Adams agreed.
"A day like what we see on that Monday is so much bigger than the four points that we play for," he said.
AFL chief executive-elect Andrew Dillon has been inspired by Neale Daniher's ongoing fight and determination to find a cure for the disease.
"Neale's achievements on the footy field were remarkable," Dillon said.
"However, his legacy off field in helping raise awareness and find a cure for MND is legendary."