By Mitch Guy
THE spirit and determination of AFL legend Neale Daniher was on full display over the weekend as Daniher’s Drive hit the local region.
Since he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2013, Daniher’s positivity has not waivered and his fight has inspired the nation.
His ability to focus his attention on finding a cure for MND and raising much-needed funds has given great exposure to the debilitating and deadly disease.
More than 60 teams participated in the four-day road trip, which started in Bulleen on Thursday morning and travelled to the top of Mt Hotham then onwards to Gippsland, with stops at Yarram, Foster, Inverloch, Wonthaggi, San Remo and Cowes.
A sportsman’s night was held on Friday night at Sale, with cricketers Rodney Hogg, Merv Hughes, Essendon star and Leongatha lad Dyson Heppell, and former Demons David Neitz and Russell Robertson.
A cricket match was held on Friday afternoon, and former test cricketer Shane Watson wowed the crowd with a number of big sixes.
The drive stopped at a packed Foster Farmers’ Market on Saturday, before calling in for lunch at the Inverloch Angling Club and continuing to San Remo, where a 1920s themed event was held at the Silverwater Resort on Saturday night.
The drive’s final stop was at the Phillip Island Football Netball Club on Sunday, with presentations to participants.
As of Monday, the drive had raised an incredible $751,461 of the $800,000 goal.
Ray White Phillip Island owner Kristien Formosa was part of a Ray White team, and thoroughly enjoyed the road trip.
“It’s fantastic and a great cause. Neale and his family are so inspirational,” he said.
“It’s got the full backing of his family and also a number of former players he used to coach. A lot of Melbourne players have followed and helped out along the way as well.
“Russell Robertson has been unbelievable. He was MC at the sportsmen’s night and he played guitar for most of the night.
“There was also a fun bus which I was lucky enough to get on, which takes you from lunch to the next stop. Russell and Simon Madden were both on the guitar with singalongs, the Daniher brothers were telling stories and everything was great.
“I’d like to thank all of the local community for their support and donations.”
Leongatha’s Brett Moore was another local who participated in the drive as part of the only all-Gippsland team, alongside former Korumburra resident Darryl Nolan, Warragul’s Russell Kimm and Traralgon’s Stewart Henley.
Brett said the drive was a fantastic experience.
“To meet the Danihers and their family, and everyone else who’s taken their time to raise money to cure this disease has been great. We’re just a small little part but we’re really happy about it,” he said.
“Captain Darryl Nolan is a Bomber man and he got onto it, put the word out and the rest of us jumped aboard.”
Traralgon Holden donated a brand new Holden Colrado Ute for the team to borrow for the drive and the team raised an impressive $13,000 through sponsorships and donations.
“Everywhere we’ve been, every pub, every street we’ve been in, the people don’t think twice about donating,” Brett said.
The message from Daniher was simple – raise awareness and funds, while having fun at the same time.
And you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as he stopped off at checkpoints throughout the drive.
It’s this strong determination to make a difference during his battle that could see him become a worthy candidate for this year’s Australian of the Year.