By Colin MacGillivray
FOOTBALL legend Neale Daniher made a special visit to his former school Assumption College Kilmore last week for the sod-turning ceremony of a multi-million-dollar sports and community facility that will bear his name.
The $5 million facility will be known as the Neale Daniher Community and Sporting Pavilion and will feature a hall, home and visitor change rooms, a grandstand, umpire area, multipurpose communal area, function centre with seating for 200 people, warm-up spaces, equipment storage facilities and plaques telling Mr Daniher’s story.
Mr Daniher is one of the college’s most famous alumni, having played football for Essendon after two years at Assumption and coached Melbourne for 10 seasons.
But he is perhaps best known for his work raising money and awareness to combat motor neurone disease, MND, with which he was diagnosed in 2014.
Mr Daniher and his brother Anthony attended the sod-turning and dedication ceremony for the new facility on Thursday.
Anthony read a statement on behalf of Neale at the ceremony and said his brother was honoured to be recognised by the college.
“Neale would like to thank the school for the honour and the recognition,” he said.
“This is such a proud event for the family, given there are so many former students and teachers whose names could easily have been on the new pavilion and who have made major contributions to society since the school has been established.
“I look forward to returning to the school to be part of the opening of the pavilion.
“It’s sure to be a great asset not only for the students, but the wider community of Kilmore for years to come.”
Assumption College principal Kate Fogarty said naming the pavilion after Mr Daniher had been an obvious choice.
“A couple of years ago when it started to become real, we starting thinking about what we were going to name it,” she said.
“While we’ve got some amazing alumni in the sporting field, in the legal field, in the medical field – pretty much any field you can think of – Neale’s name just kept coming to the top, not just because of his sporting achievements but because of his work with MND research and fundraising and awareness raising.
“It’s a beautiful building. It’s going to be tremendously useful for us here at the college, but we always intended for it to be a resource for the broader community.
“We’re looking forward to being able to welcome community groups for all sorts of different functions, because there is nothing in the community that replicates what it will be.”
Long-time Assumption College cricket and football coach Ray Carroll, a mentor of Mr Daniher’s during his school days, was a guest speaker at the ceremony. Fittingly, the new pavilion will overlook the college’s oval, which is named after Mr Carroll.
He paid tribute to Mr Daniher’s determination and fighting spirit.
“He’s inspired not only Melbourne, Victoria and the whole nation, but people on the other side of the world. His courage and spirit in the face of adversity is his hallmark,” Mr Carroll said.
Ms Fogarty said construction of the new pavilion was due to be completed in November, with the facility set to open in 2022.
“It is our privilege to name this building in [Neale’s] honour, and we look forward to opening it in November and having another big celebration then,” she said.
“We’ve raised about $1.5 million and still have various local groups, businesses and past students pledging money.
“We have a capital fund that is still receiving money, so if anyone is interested in contributing to the building, they are more than welcome to get in touch.”