NSW Origin Hero – Anthony Daniher

By Neil Cordy 

Ants Daniher (pictured right) celebrates NSW’s win over Victoria 

 When you’re third in line in one of the game’s greatest footy families it’s hard to get recognition but Anthony Daniher certainly deserves some. 

His role in New South Wales historic run of victories over Western Australia (1988), Victoria (1990) and Queensland (1992), the latter two at the SCG, was pivotal.  

It was a golden run and “Ants” played in all of them. In the last two he put the clamps on one of the best forwards ever, Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall.  

The 1990 win over the Vics at the SCG was a special one for the Danihers’ with all four brothers Terry (Captain), Neale, Anthony and Chris all playing together for the first time.  

It was especially enjoyable for the boys’ father and proud New South Welshman Jim Daniher who’d made the trip from West Wyalong to the SCG with his wife Edna.  

Jim was no slouch as a footballer himself scoring two tries against Great Britain in the Riverina’s 1954 (36-26) win at Wagga. He also had a distinguished footy career at Ungarie. Despite his prowess in Rugby League footy was his first love and the NSW v Victoria clash featuring his four sons stood apart from all others. 

“It was dad’s favourite game of footy,” Ant’s said.  

                   Jim Daniher

“He’s watched about 4,000 but that was his number one.” 

“4,000” games is a lot of footy so Jim and Edna knew their stuff.  

One of their biggest worries going into the match was the potency of Victoria’s forward line which featured one of the best one two punches in modern football, Dermott Brereton at centre half forward and Dunstall at full forward.  

But their prayers were answered when Brereton was blanketed by Corowa and Collingwood stopper Mick Gayfer and Anthony who did the job on Dunstall.  

“Jason (Dunstall) was a super player but the bloke I had trouble with that night was Paul Salmon,” Ant’s said.  

“Being a team mate at Essendon I never played on him. Fish’s reach was so long and he was super mobile. Fortunately for us he tweaked his hammy and had to go off. I actually found Jason easier to play on than Paul.”  

Two years later Ant’s was again pitted against Dunstall at the SCG this time Jason was lining up for his home state of Queensland. Again he held him in check as NSW smashed the Queenslanders by 93 points (22-9.141 to 6-12.48).  

The northerners didn’t leave empty handed though with Queensland winning the curtain raiser between the state leagues by 17 points (14.18.102 to 12.13.85). The NSW team featured former Swans Grant Bartholomeaus, Matt Lloyd, Robbie Kerr and Paul Hawke and coached by Greg Harris.  

It wasn’t just winning footy matches that pleased Ant’s he loved the whole experience of playing alongside the state’s best.  

“The great thing about playing rep footy is you were able to mix with other players you never crossed paths with,” Ant’s said.  

“It was the calibre of the players as well. In training the ball never hit the ground. I always thought it was a privilege to be part of that group.  

“The other thing I enjoyed was playing under a new coach. You get to experience different ideas and approaches. We were also very competitive which helps. I also got to play under Tommy Hafey and Allan Jeans which was a privilege. Their motivation, passion and engagement with players were extraordinary.”  

He didn’t realise it at the time but Anthony was playing in the last games of State of Origin footy. 30 years on, he cherishes every moment.  

“We lived in an era where we were lucky to be able to represent our state,” Daniher said.  

“I feel sorry for players of the current generation who don’t get a chance to do that. Those games were magic.”  

Ants retired in 1994 after 118 games for Essendon and 115 for Sydney. He’s now lived in Victoria longer than he did in his home state but says he’ll always be a New South Welshman.  

“We bought a farm in Moama so I’m in the right post code,” Anthony said.  

“I’m proud of where I come from and love the fact NSW now pick an annual state team. It’s a great way to capture history.”  

While he finished his time in football as a Bomber Ants still has a soft spot for the club that gave him his start.

“They’ve still got a big place in my heart,” Anthony said.

“What the Swans have done has been outstanding. They’re a great club.  

I still have a lot of good friends in Sydney. Tony Morwood is my brother in law and Joe (Anthony’s son) was very close to going to the Swans recently but he’s very happy in Brisbane now, it was the right fit for him.” 

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Robertson Oval is now the HQ for Australian Football in Wagga.

Society vice-president Dr Rod Gillett continues the series on famous football grounds in NSW with a brief history of Robertson Oval in Wagga Wagga.

Robertson Oval is now the headquarters for football in Wagga, again.

This followed an extensive revamp of the well-known old ground in 2012 that involved extending the length of the field, a complete re-turf, upgraded change rooms and installation of lights to meet the requirements for staging AFL fixtures.

Prior to the upgrade, Robertson Oval had shared the premier fixtures for football with Maher Oval, the ground at the Riverina Australian Football Club in south Wagga that was established in 1971.

It remains the home-ground for the Wagga Tigers footy club, which has played on the ground since 1911, when the club was known as Federals (formed in 1887).

Robertson Oval is an enclosed ground located in the Bolton Park sporting complex where it was previously known as No. 1 Oval. A grass embankment runs around three-quarters of the oval with a 350-seat grandstand and social club on western side of the ground. The ground now has a capacity of 12,000.

The ground was named after prominent Wagga businessman Cameron McLean Robertson, who was the president of the Community Advancement Fund, that donated funds to the Wagga City Council for redevelopment of the ground and the construction of a grandstand. He was the father-in-law of ex Tigers player and football benefactor John Braid. It was named Robertson Oval in 1963.

The ground has a rich sporting history having also hosted international cricket and international rugby league matches.

Cricket goes all the way back to 1878 when a Wagga Wagga team comprised of 22 players played an Australian XI that was preparing for the tour of England. Australia was led by Dave Gregory and included the Bannerman brothers, wicket-keeper J.M. Blackham, and W.L. Murdoch who made 93 runs. The visitors won by an innings and 117 runs.

Touring cricket teams from England, New Zealand and India have played Southern NSW teams at Robertson Oval over the years. Colin Cowdrey took 2-9 and Derek Underwood 2-15 when the MCC beat Southern NSW by 6 wickets in a one-day game in January 1971.

Local skipper Stan Dasey dismissed both openers, Geoff Boycott (76) and Brian Luckhurst (62), stumped by Albury’s Steve “Stumper” Rixon, who, of course, later went onto to play for NSW and Australia.

A spinner, Dacey at one stage had 1/12 off three balls – the first two balls were hit out of the ground and landed on the bowling greens of the neighbouring South Wagga Bowling Club.

The crowd record is 11,000 which attended the rugby league international between France and the Riverina – won by the French 25-14 in 1960. In 1954 a crowd of 10,732 attended a match between Great Britain and Riverina won by the Poms, 36-26. Jim Daniher, father of Essendon’s Terry, Anthony, Neale and Chris, scored two tries for Riverina.

Terry Daniher was the “Emperor” of Robertson Oval when he led Wagga Tigers to five premierships in six years in the Riverina Football League in the nineties after finishing his illustrious VFL/AFL career with the Bombers.

The most decorated player from Wagga Tigers is Paul Kelly who had a highly distinguished career at the Sydney Swans where he won the 1995 Brownlow medal and led the Swans into the 1996 AFL Grand Final.

Daniher and Kelly are two of the many great players to have played at Robertson Oval for Wagga Tigers. Others include St Kilda goalkicking great Bill Mohr, John Pitura (Swans/Richmond), Paul Hawke (Swans/Collingwood), Harry Lampe (who played in South Melbourne’s 1899 grand final team), local 418 game champion Gerald Peiper, as well as current AFL player Isaac Smith.

Previous matches involving VFL teams played at Robertson Oval included a combined Wagga team v Hawthorn in 1952 and an Albury & District (forerunner to the Farrer League) representative team took on North Melbourne in 1954.

In recent years, NAB Cup Challenge matches have been played at the venue; last year, 2020, the GWS Giants beat Richmond. Previous matches include the Giants against St Kilda (2013) and North Melbourne and Collingwood (2016).

The Farrer League hosts its grand final at Robertson Oval each season, and the final of the Carroll Cup for the secondary schoolboys’ competition is also played under lights at the ground and attracts crowds of up to1500 spectators.

Where the Bloody Hell is Lake Burgooney?

By Dr Rodney Gillett

1963 Lake Burgooney – Premiers

“Where is Lake Burgooney?”

“Its not a place, it’s a football club!”

This was the conversation I had with long-time Northern Riverina Australian Football League official and historian Keith Rees when I was doing research on the league’s grand final in 1960.

In 1960 the Burgooney football club, that had been a foundation club of the Northern Riverina Association in 1924, decided to move into Lake Cargelligo. The Lake Cargelligo club had folded at the end of the 1955 season; it had also been an original club but had fallen on hard times.

Burgooney was a district with a post-office, a railway siding and a football ground surrounded by wheat and sheep farms about half-way between Tullibigeal and Lake Cargelligo in the district north-west of West Wyalong when the footy team moved into the “Lake”. Nowadays these are all closed except for the railway siding for the harvest.

The club became known as “Lake Burgooney” and adopted the Burgooney colours of a black guernsey and yellow vee made their new home-ground at the Lake Cargelligo Recreation ground.

According to club legend Bob Sanson, who spoke to me in an interview for this piece in a break during harvesting, the move of Burgooney into the Lake was a “perfect match”.

“The Lake no longer had a team, the Recreation ground was well maintained and watered; it was much better than playing in a paddock out at Burgooney!”, he told me.

The newly minted Lake Tigers started the season in fine form winning the first seven games after finishing bottom of the ladder the previous season and finished half-a-game ahead of Ungarie at the top of the ladder.

They defeated Ungarie in the 2nd semi final at Tullibigeal, 11-7 (73) to 7-16 (58). The Magpies earned another crack at the Tigers by beating Four Corners in the preliminary final.

Ungarie proved too strong for Lake Burgooney in the grand final and established a comfortable 22-point lead at half-time. The Tigers made a late run in the final term and got to within 13 points but half-forward Ian Keane sealed the win for Ungarie with a late goal.

Final scores: Ungarie 10-9 (69) d Lake Burgooney 7-8 (50).

Best players for Ungarie were centreman Leo Daniher, centre-half forward Jim Daniher, backman Brian Brewer, and winger Ron Fixter while for Burgooney the best were ruckman  “Blue” Ridley, captain-coach John Booth, and fullback Keith Delahunty.

Lake Burgooney finally broke through for a premiership in 1962 when they beat Milby at Four Corners for their first flag in twenty-three years and their first as a merged entity.

The Tigers went onto to win four premierships in a row, 1962-65 with the Sanson brothers, Bob and Harry playing together in all four premierships and joined by Don (1962) and Ross for the 64-65 triumphs. Then again from 1969-71, 1973 & 1976 in the club’s most dominant period, thus validating the move into Lake Cargelligo.

The club changed its name to Lake Cargelligo in 1972, but became known as the Lake Tigers when a new club, Lake Swans, was formed in 1978 based at the Lake Cargelligo Golf Club oval. However, the Lake Swans were short-lived and failed to form for the 1987 season.

The Sanson brothers, all had successful careers playing football in the northern Riverina. Bob Sanson played from the age of 14 in 1955 until he was 44,  thirty years later. Bob led the Tigers to premiership wins in 1973 and 1976.

Harry played in ten premierships in the Northern Riverina League – nine with the Lake and one with Ungarie, who he coached to the premiership in 1974. He won the competition best and fairest award in 1967. Harry was outstanding at both codes of football; he represented Riverina against South Melbourne in 1972, and against Great Britain in rugby league in 1974.

Don played in seven premiership teams for the Lake along with his youngest brother, Ross, the father of Tim, Mark, Paul, and Brett, who all made their mark at Lavington in the Ovens and Murray league. Tim coached Lavington to premierships in 2001 and 2005 and is a member of the O & M Hall of Fame. Both Tim and Mark played at the Sydney Swans.

Bob has fond memories of the family going to the footy at Burgooney in the fifties when his father Roley played for the Tigers. Bob made his debut in 1955 alongside his father, who was a full-forward with a prodigious torpedo punt kick.

Roley retired at 43 at half time in a game against Milby in 1958 when he came off and proclaimed, “I’ve kicked seven goals and had 3 ‘blues’. I’ve had enough!”

His father ran the boundary and his mother ran the canteen when the boys played. “When we were sowing at the start of the season, Dad would stay on the tractor and I had to fill the seed boxes before I left for the game and come home straight after to take over from Dad and work through the night”, Bob recalled.

At this point of the interview Bob got a call to bring more fuel down to the paddock to keep the header going, “We’re having our best harvest ever, we’re getting 14-15 bags per acre”.

I hung up, knowing a lot more about Lake Burgooney, the footy team, not the place.

Source: Keith Rees, Northern Riverina Australian Football League, 90 Years, 1924-2014. West Wyalong Advocate. 2015.

Have a Red Hot Go – Terry Daniher

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.

To commemorate, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Neil Cordy and Rod Gillett profile the nominees:

Terry Daniher

When Terry Daniher was traded to Essendon for Neville Fields in 1978, the Bombers had little idea what a bargain they had.

At the time Terry had played just 19 games in two years for South Melbourne. The Swans even threw in his brother Neale, who hadn’t played a game, as a sweetener.

Fast forward to 1992 and the Bombers could reflect on one of the deals and steals of the century.

In his 15 seasons at Windy Hill the easy going bloke from Ungarie added another 294 games to his tally, booted 469 goals, won the best and fairest (82’), the goalkicking (79’ and 83’) and All Australian honours (83’, 85’ and 88’ (captain).

But the stellar statistics only tell part of Terry’s story, arguably his biggest contribution was an intangible – leadership.

The pinnacle came in 1984 and 1985 when he captained Essendon to back to back premierships. When the Bombers named their 25 greatest players in 2002 Terry was listed at 11. No mean feat in a line-up that included names like John Coleman, Dick Reynolds, James Hird, Bill Hutchison and Tim Watson.

National selectors also recognised his talents as a leader when they appointed him as All Australian captain at the Bicentennial Carnival in Adelaide (1988) after leading NSW to victory over WA and pushing hosts SA close. He also captained the Sky Blues in their upset win over Victoria in 1990.

Terry was a skipper players loved to play alongside. His relaxed and knock about demeanour hid a fierce competitive spirit. He was strong, versatile and aggressive. When the pressure was on he was a man who could rally his team and lead from the front.

It wasn’t hard to where these traits came from. Terry is the eldest brother in football’s favourite family, the Danihers. He set the standard and Neale, Anthony and Chris followed in fine style. But football people from the Riverina know these attributes weren’t confined to the brothers, with the Danihers it was generational.

Terry’s grandfather Jim Snr was a champion footballer and helped establish the Ungarie football club in the 1920’s.

Terry’s father Jim Jnr was also an outstanding talent. He played Aussie Rules and Rugby League for

Chris & Terry Daniher in their Ungarie jumpers

Ungarie for more than a decade. His league skills were so good he attracted attention and offers from Sydney clubs including Manly-Warringah. The highlight came when he scored two tries representing Riverina against reigning world champions Great Britain in Wagga Wagga in 1954.

Three years after his heroics with the Steeden, Jim and Edna celebrated Terry’s birth and it didn’t take long to realise the apple hadn’t fallen too far from the tree. Terry took to footy like the proverbial duck to water winning several League best and fairest awards playing for Ungarie.

In 1975, the year before he was picked up by South Melbourne, he played for Ariah Park-Mirrool in the South West District Football League under former Swans captain and coach Rick Quade.

After 17 years in the VFL Terry returned to the Riverina as captain-coach of the Wagga Tigers, he led them to five premierships and six grand finals. He also coached NSW against Victoria at the MCG in 1993.

He then returned to Essendon as an assistant coach taking the reserves to a premiership in 1999 and was an assistant coach in the Bombers 2000 premiership. He then worked at an assistant at Collingwood (03’), St Kilda (04’ & 05’) and Carlton (06’ & 07’).

In 1998 he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and was named on the half-forward flank in Essendon’s Team of the Century.

Terry was selected on the half-forward flank NSW Greatest Team named last year at the Carbine Club function in Sydney.

This induction earnt him a nomination under the category of Elite Player for the AFL NSW Hall of Fame as part of the celebrations for the 140th year of Australian Football in NSW in 2020.

When Did the Daniher Brothers First Play Together

l-r: Anthony, Terry, Neale & Chris

If you answered at Essendon you’d be wrong.

If you said at Ungarie you’d also be wrong. Although Terry did play with his father Jim at Ungarie.

The first time the four brothers –Terry, Neale, Anthony & Chris played football together on the one team was for New South Wales in a State-of-Origin match against Victoria at the SCG on Tuesday 22 May 1990 at the SCG.

It was the first time a quartet of brothers had played together in a State game.

And in one of the greatest upsets of all time in interstate football NSW beat Victoria by 10 points.

“We had blokes that just kept boring in. We had a real good crack and we just enjoyed it. It was bloody great!” Terry Daniher told Adam McNichol, the author of The Danihers: The story of Australia’s favourite family.

All four Daniher boys were nominated for the NSW Greatest Team but only Terry was included in the team. He was selected on the half-forward flank.

Neale, who had lengthy period coaching the Melbourne Football Club (1998-2007) was named as assistant coach to Allan Jeans.

The Daniher dynasty started when the boys’ grandfather Jim Snr, moved to Ungarie from Euroa where he played in their 1913 premiership team to take up a 740 acre allotment under the NSW Closer Settlement Scheme.

Jim Snr was instrumental in the formation of the Ungarie footy club according to Adam McNichol, the author of The Danihers. He ensured the newly formed club adopted the black and white colours of Euroa for its guernseys.

Jim Daniher Snr proved to be one of Ungarie’s best players in the club’s formative years. He was captain of the 1923 premiership team. The Northern Riverina Football League official history rates him as the best player in the northern Riverina in this period.

According to Adam McNicol, Jim Snr “occupied various positions in the club for many years, including that of patron”. This was also something that Jim Jnr did as well as his son, Chris, who is still actively involved with the club having been coach, and more recently president.

Jim Daniher

Jim Daniher Jnr was an outstanding footballer, both in Australian football and in rugby league. He played both codes for Ungarie for many years. After representing Riverina against Great Britain in Wagga in 1954 and scoring two tries against the reigning world champions, Jim received offers from a number of Sydney-based clubs including Manly-Warringah, but Aussie Rules football was Jim’s passion.

Jim Jnr won three competition best and fairest awards in the Northern Riverina Football League – 1949, 1956, and 1959. He led the Ungarie Magpies for over a decade, the highlight being five premierships, 1950, 1956 and 1959-1961. He was well supported by his two brothers, Jack and Leo, who were integral to Ungarie’s success in this period. Leo won the competition award in 1951.

The three brothers married three sisters. They produced more footballers for Ungarie. Jack’s sons, Mick, Peter (better known as Po) and John, who made their names at Turvey Park in the South-West league, and Mark, Pat and Rodney, sons of Leo. Pat also played in Coolamon’s 1983 premiership team.

Terry Daniher had a celebrated career in football after going to play for South Melbourne in 1976 under the VFL country zoning rules after a season at Ariah Park-Mirrool under Rick Quade.

He played a total of 313 games in the VFL/AFL (19 for South Melbourne and 294 for Essendon) and booted 469 goals. He captained Essendon to the 1984-85 premierships during his period as captain from 1983-88. He played 15 State games (11 for Victoria and 4 for NSW). He was named All-Australian captain at the Bicentennial Carnival in Adelaide after leading NSW to victory over WA and a close loss to South Australia. He also coached NSW against Victoria at the MCG in 1993.

Terry was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1998 and was named on a half-forward flank in Essendon’s Team of the Century.

After Essendon, Terry coached Wagga Tigers in the Riverina Football league to five premierships. He won the RFL best and fairest Quinn Medal in 1994.

Named as captain of Essendon in 1982, Neale Daniher became the Bombers’ youngest-ever captain in their history but he had badly injured his knee in round 21 against South Melbourne. He underwent reconstructive surgery during grand final week. He was not to play a senior game again until round 9 1985. He never really fully recovered from the injury for which he had multiple operations.

However, he did recover sufficiently to join his brothers in the NSW Origin team that beat Victoria in 1991 and to play more games for Essendon including one game with all his brothers.

Neale played 82 games for Essendon in two stints punctuated by injury, 1979-85 and 1989-90. He represented Victoria twice and NSW just that one time. He won Essendon’s best and fairest in 1981.

After a stint as an assistant and Reserves coach at Essendon, Neale was appointed coach of the Melbourne Football Club in 1998. In 2000 he got the Demons into the grand final but were beaten by Essendon led by his old coach Kevin Sheedy. He coached the Dees until 2007 securing 108 wins from 223 games.

He is currently waging a courageous campaign against Motor-Neurone Disease (MND) and has been instrumental in fund-raising efforts that have raised millions of dollars for research into the disease.

Anthony Daniher, better known as “Ants” (never Tony as the Melbourne media called him) has the unique distinction of playing over one hundred games for two VFL/AFL clubs: South Melbourne/Sydney Swans (115) and Essendon (118).

“Ants” went to the Swans under the zoning rules in 1981 after stints at Ungarie, Turvey Park (when he moved to Wagga to do a wool-classing course) and Ganmain, then under former Carlton player and 1961 Coleman medallist, “Turkey” Tom Carroll.

He transferred to Essendon in 1987 where he consolidated his position as a key defender and was named the All-Australian full-back in 1991. He played in the Bombers grand final team that lost to Collingwood in the first-ever AFL grand final in 1990. He played five State games for NSW.

Like his antecedents Anthony also became highly involved in football at the local level and became a junior coach at the Aberfeldie footy club in Melbourne’s north-west suburbs after retiring in 1994. Two of his sons, Darcy and Joe have played with Essendon under the father-son rule.

The youngest brother, Chris, went to Essendon in 1987 and played 124 games and kicked 40 goals in a ten-year stay. He was a member of the famous “Baby Bombers” premiership team in 1993.

He played four games for NSW including Origin wins over Victoria and Queensland.

After finishing his AFL career, Chris returned to the family farm, and to play again for Ungarie. He led the Magpies to premierships in 2000-2001 and just like his father Jim and his brother Terry (1974) won Northern Riverina FL competition best and fairest awards in 2000-2002, and again in 2004.

As well, Chris coached Temora and Mangoplah-Cookardinia United in local competitions. But his primary focus has been the Ungarie footy club where he has served in various roles both on and off the field.

“I want to keep it going so my kids can play footy at home rather than folding and having to drive another half-hour to play with someone else”, he told the author of The Danihers.

In 2019 Ungarie are still a constituent member of the Northern Riverina Football League. Chris retired at the end of last season. His youngest son, Logan, is currently playing in the Under 13s, while eldest son, Harvey, is expected to return home for next season.

POST-SCRIPT:

The NSW AFL History Society expresses its condolences to the Daniher family on the passing of Jim Jnr in May this year. He was secretary of the Northern Riverina Football league for many years and was the delegate to the NSW Country AFL where he developed an association with our president Ian Granland (then Executive Officer of the country body) and vice-president Rod Gillett (who was President at that time).