By Neil Cordy
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.
“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.”