27 June 2023

Blue beanies, the AFL and a man from West Wyalong: The importance of the Big Freeze

| Jarryd Rowley
Start the conversation
young man wearing charity's beanie

Fight MND’s Big Freeze charity event has risen in popularity over the past nine years. Region Riverina’s own Jarryd Rowley has collected the now-iconic beanies every year since 2015. Photo: Chris Roe.

The Big Freeze initiative is becoming one of the most influential and applauded charity events in Australia.

It seems everywhere you look, someone in town is wearing the instantly recognisable blue beanie with the Big Freeze logo on the front with a number assigned next to it.

Personally, I have collected each of the beanies since 2015. It’s an easy yet unique way to support a charity that is linked to my favourite sport (AFL).

For those who are unaware of the importance of the beanies, the Fight MND foundation that launched the Big Freeze campaign or its link to the AFL, it’s all quite special.

READ ALSO Murrumbidgee Health District celebrates quiet achievers who are Making a Difference

Put simply, the beanies help raise funds for Fight MND’s motor neurone disease research.

MND is a rare condition that attacks and damages the nervous system in the body, and the man leading Fight MND’s campaign is AFL legend Neale Daniher.

Daniher was born and raised in West Wyalong and played for the Ungarie Magpies in the Northern Riverina Football Netball League.

In 1978, he was signed to the Essendon Bombers, where he played 82 games and kicked 32 goals, until 1990. He was then recruited as the head coach for the Melbourne Demons in 1998, a position he held until 2007.

Unfortunately, Daniher was diagnosed with MND in 2013.

man being applauded at AFL game

Neale Daniher leaves the MCG field during the recent Big Freeze match between the Melbourne Demons and the Collingwood Magpies. Photo: AFL Photos.

The much-loved figure of the AFL then co-founded the charity Fight MND and began the yearly event called the Big Freeze.

Since 2015, the AFL has held a match between the Melbourne Demons and the Collingwood Magpies on the King’s Birthday public holiday, which serves as a celebration of Daniher’s charity work while also supporting the Fight MND cause.

Arguably, the biggest highlight of the game is the prematch Big Freeze slide. The slide sees eight to 10 Australian celebrities dress up in costume, make their way down a slide and plunge into a pool of ice: the Big Freeze.

This event has become a much-anticipated event on the AFL calendar and one I look forward to each year.

Now in its ninth year, Big Freeze beanies are as popular as ever, the work of Daniher and Fight MND is receiving more and more support each year, and if the sales of the beanies are anything to go by, Wagga Wagga is one of the event’s biggest supporters.


The Big Freeze campaign by Freeze MND has just wrapped up its ninth year, with Wagga Wagga one of its biggest NSW supporters. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

According to figures released by Coles, the supermarket that sells the beanies, Wagga Wagga sits within the top-five purchasers of the beanies in the state. Raising $11,575 across the two months that the beanies were on sale, Wagga Wagga sits behind only Albury ($15,692), Lavington ($17,102), Deniliquin ($29,887) and Broken Hill ($31,885) for the most money raised for Fight MND.

This is an impressive feat for Wagga for a couple of reasons. Wagga isn’t a city that is obsessed with AFL, it is an NRL town. Compared with the likes of Albury, Lavington and Broken Hill, which recognise AFL as their primary sport, it is a huge effort.

READ ALSO Content creators called to craft the Riverina’s digital media future

As a mad collector of beanies and a devoted Port Adelaide supporter, I love and enjoy the Big Freeze. Since returning to Wagga in March this year, I’m overjoyed that other members of the Wagga community have also seen the importance and enjoyment to be had in a simple blue beanie.

Big Freeze 9 has been a large and successful event. However, in 2024, the 10th edition of the charity event, I would like nothing more than to see an overabundance of blue beanies on a majority of people in Wagga Wagga.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.