FOR BEN DE JONG, there isn’t a greater inspiration than Neale Daniher.

He’s like many in admiring the selfless attitude, optimistic nature and cheeky grin that Neale is known for.

He’s like many in appreciating the work that Neale does in rallying the football community each year, to fight.

He’s like many in answering Neale’s calls, pulling on a famous blue beanie to support FightMND’s cause.

And he’s like many – two Australians every day in fact – to have received a motor neurone disease diagnosis.

For Ben, while he was served the news that he had MND only 10 months ago, he knew something wasn’t quite right for a little while.

His day-to-day had become slightly more difficult and he had started noticing changes in his ability at work.

“I knew something was wrong around Christmas time in 2019,” Ben said.

“It took me a while to be diagnosed, because living in the country, it was hard to get an appointment with a neurologist.

“There was no one locally and I had to try about three times to get a referral, so I wasn’t diagnosed until August 2020.”

When he was eventually dealt the devastating blow, it took its toll.

Being told there was no cure, no treatment and, as Neale deems it, ‘The Beast’ will eventually get the better of him was unbearable.

But as a lifelong Melbourne supporter, he didn’t have to look far for a guiding light.  

“Neale is just a great ambassador for trying to find a cure for MND,” Ben said.

He’s the face of fighting this terrible disease.

"I’m just one of the little guys and I haven’t got that profile, but I have to tip my hat to him for what he’s doing.

“This disease has been around for a long time, but we’re really only at square one of finding a cure.

“And that’s what we really need to do – find something that can help people with MND.

“When they tell you the diagnosis and tell you that there’s no cure and that there’s nothing they can do for you, the bottom falls out of your world.

“We really need to find some way to help.”

Having suffered a fall earlier this year, Ben has spent the past few months in various hospitals, awaiting renovations to his home back in the country.

He has not been able to walk, and since his diagnosis, his body has been slowly deteriorating – as has his hope.

If there’s one thing that has brought him joy in recent weeks though, it’s the Demons.

“Since I’ve had MND, I’ve had to sort of re-evaluate what I can and can’t do, and watching the football is something I can do,” Ben said.

The way that Melbourne is going at the moment is really encouraging, and I can scream at the telly – it’s just been great.

With Ben struggling, his brother Josh contacted Melbourne ahead of the annual Queen’s Birthday match, which is dedicated to Neale and his FightMND team.

After hearing his story, the Demons reached out to thank Ben for all his support, with vice-captain Jack Viney sending a special video message.

It was an “awesome surprise” and just the thing to keep his spirits up.

With Melbourne’s weekly match being the highlight of Ben’s week, the Queen’s Birthday clash against the Pies can’t come quick enough.

And with his Big Freeze beanie – as well as his lucky Gawny socks – in tow, Ben will be cheering hard.

For the Demons, for Neale and for a cure.