Big Freeze put on ice but MND fight continues
Ailing AFL legend Neale Daniher has thanked Australians for keeping "vulnerable people" like himself safe through the COVID-19 pandemic, as he cancels his popular Big Freeze event.
As terminal motor neurone disease tightens its grip on the footy great, Daniher told the Sunday Herald Sun while the Big Freeze would not be held this year, his epic battle to find a cure for MND would continue.
"The Big Freeze won't go on but the fight still goes on. MND hasn't taken a spell, it's still out there killing people," the former Essendon champ and Melbourne coach said.
People could still buy a fundraising beanie or donate to Fight MND, he said.
Usually held mid-year, the Big Freeze sees AFL players and identities dress up and slide into a freezing pool, and is much-loved by footy fans.
Daniher, who revealed he had been diagnosed with the degenerative and deadly MND in 2014, said he wanted to thank his fellow Australians for sticking to COVID-19 restrictions and, in doing so, protecting sick people like himself.
"Vulnerable people like me really appreciate the efforts of the community in coming together to try and keep other Australians safe. It's amazing what you can do when everyone aligns to a purpose … we appreciate the sacrifices people have had to make and we thank them," he said.
While Daniher, 59, is still able to walk, he has lost most of his upper body strength, struggles to talk and needs help to dress and wash.
"My legs haven't let me down yet, for which I am grateful … but I have to be very careful because if I fall I've got no way of bracing myself," he said.
"But I feel fortunate to still be around because the average lifespan from diagnosis is only about three years."
The "doting grandad" said, as much as he loved footy, it was the right decision to suspend the game.
"I love my footy, as everyone knows, and so many people do, but you've got to keep everything in perspective. There are people out there dying with COVID and people who are sick … people whose businesses are failing and a lot of people going through economic pain, so I think we have to keep football in perspective. We'll have it back soon enough but it's more important that we can continue to beat COVID … football is just a part of that," Daniher said.
He added Australians could look forward to a "fun" Big Freeze alternative being rolled out before the Queens's birthday weekend.
Fight MND beanies are $20 and available at fightmnd.org.au. All proceeds go directly to MND research.
Originally published as Big Freeze put on ice but MND fight continues