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The Footy Family Isn't Always Functional, But The Love Is Real

Somewhere, among the angst and outrage, lies a big heart that's as powerful as any community in the country.

09/06/2017 1:52 PM AEST | Updated 09/06/2017 1:53 PM AEST
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Bomber's legend Neale Daniher (R) gets a hug from nephew Joe Daniher after a cheque presentation to fight MND at the Essendon Football Club on June 5, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.

Sometimes we need to be inspired to show the best of ourselves.

That's exactly what Neale Daniher has done for the football world this week, just as he has since he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2013. This week he's been out and about, raising money wherever he goes to help fight what he describes as 'The Beast'.

Inspired by his courage, the AFL world has responded, showing just how spirited and generous it can be.

And it's a timely reminder.

The AFL world can be brutal. Too often fans and others working within the industry spend their time point scoring, criticising and complaining. One minute we're applauding individuals for their generosity or bravery and the next we're kicking someone until they're down.

Just last week the football community praised Collingwood forward Alex Fasolo for putting his hand up to declare he needed time away from the game to deal with depression. They called for a gentler, kinder world and asked for the public to be more considerate about the pressures and scrutiny AFL players' face.

Not long after, those same people were up in arms, outraged by football columnist Mark Robinson for an ill-considered tweet about Fasolo's return to the training track. Many called for Robinson to be sacked or suspended. He apologised and discussed his mistake on radio. But this was not enough for some within the unforgiving football world, who seemingly don't take well to other people making mistakes.

The tweet was stupid and hurtful, but the response, from many, was hardly forgiving.

Then there was Essendon's passionate, feisty Brendon Goddard. Goddard played his 300th game last weekend and, in the lead up, was praised for the time he'd spent with 15-year-old Will Murray, who injured his spinal cord jumping off a pier at Half Moon Bay in Black Rock last year.

Murray joined Goddard in the rooms to meet several of the Essendon players and celebrate Goddard's milestone match.

However, by half time, the tide of sentiment had turned against Goddard. Frustrated with the way his team finished the first half, Goddard stormed out of a player meeting and vigorously pushed a bowl of pretzels off a table to show all and sundry just how annoyed he was.

It was a move that was caught on camera and replayed over and over. Typically, those who have obviously never been frustrated before gave it to him. Some on social media likened him to a spoiled brat while others declared they couldn't play with someone so petulant.

For Goddard, it was a case of applauded one minute, damned the next. It's a familiar tale in the often petty, fickle football world.

But Neale Daniher triumphs all that. In the face of adversity his fight inspires and unites us all. Daniher is doing everything he can, with all that he has left, to raise awareness of the disease that will eventually wear him down, and importantly, raise enough money to research for a cure.

He wants to ensure those diagnosed after him don't suffer the same painstakingly cruel fate that awaits him. He played for Essendon and coached Melbourne, but all 18 clubs and their fans stand behind him.

Daniher started his 'Big Freeze' campaign three years ago, and has raised more than $15 million for the cause.

It's times like these that we're reminded of just how generous, kind and spirited the football world can be. Somewhere, in amongst the angst and outrage, lies a big heart that's as powerful as any community in the country.

Neale Daniher has shown as that. I just wish we saw it more often.

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