Ash Barty and other Australian stars take the plunge at the AFL’s Big Freeze event in Melbourne


Ash Barty takes the plunge at the AFL’s Big Freeze with Hamish Blake, Eddie Betts and Justin Langer as stars help raise more than $2million to beat motor neurone disease

  • The annual Big Freeze raised more than $2million for motor neurone disease 
  • A host of Aussie athletes and entertainers took the icy plunge
  • Started by AFL legend Neale Daniher, the event has been going for seven years
  • The MCG was a sea of blue as fans adorned their FightMND beanies 

AFL legend Neale Daniher’s brave fight against motor neurone disease (MND) took centre stage on Monday afternoon for the annual Big Freeze event, in which stars such as Ash Barty took the icy plunge.

Daniher, who played for Essendon before an illustrious 223-game coaching career with the Demons, was diagnosed with MND in 2013, and he has dedicated the last eight years to raising awareness and money for the disease.

The Big Freeze has become a grand tradition on the annual Queens Birthday clash between the Magpies and Demons, and this year featured stars such as Barty, Hamish Blake, Justin Langer and Eddie Betts.

Daniher’s FightMND organisation, who are behind the Big Freeze, made a goal to raise more than $2million before half-time, and the goal was reached midway through the first quarter.

Disney lover Ash Barty went down the slide as Rafiki from The Lion King

Neale Daniher hugs Barty before she goes down the Big Freeze slide

Neale Daniher hugs Barty before she goes down the Big Freeze slide

Daniher said he was determined to make something good of being diagnosed with such an insidious disease.  

‘Life’s good, but life doesn’t promise to be fair. I was diagnosed with a disease that will kill me. No cure. Where’s the opportunity? I tell you, if you’re in the blame game … you will never find it,’ he said.

‘There’s always opportunity. My opportunity was to FightMND.’

Betts kicked things off as the Black Panther before entertainer Rhonda Burchmore provide eye-popping photos in her hilarious Poison Ivy get-up.

Former Blues and Crows great Eddie Betts slides down as the Black Panther

Former Blues and Crows great Eddie Betts slides down as the Black Panther

Entertainer Rhonda Burchmore clearly had a great time on the Big Freeze slide

Entertainer Rhonda Burchmore clearly had a great time on the Big Freeze slide

Comedian Hamish Blake made the day of young girls everywhere dressed as Elsa from Frozen, and the funnyman said he had been waiting for YEARS for his moment. 

‘It’s been a huge honour. Seven years of sending in audition tapes and cold showers, finally I get the call-up and I couldn’t be prouder. I want to say thank you to everyone at home for donating seeing the money coming across,’ he said.

Langer packed a punch as Rocky Balboa and Melbourne great David Neitz lauded Daniher as ‘an inspirational guy’. 

Comedian Hamish Blake went down the slide as Elsa from Frozen

Comedian Hamish Blake went down the slide as Elsa from Frozen

Aussie cricket great Justin Langer made a statement as Rocky Balboa

Aussie cricket great Justin Langer made a statement as Rocky Balboa

Braveheart, AKA David Neitz, salutes the Queens Birthday game crowd

Braveheart, AKA David Neitz, salutes the Queens Birthday game crowd

They saved the best for last. 

Perhaps Australia’s most-loved athlete over the past decade Ash Barty, a self-professed Disney lover, took the icy plunge as Rafiki, the baboon from the Lion King.

The costume took an impressive effort to fit into for the multi-talented athlete, who said it was a ‘dream’ to be involved. 

Ash Barty put her heart and soul into her Big Freeze slide performance

Ash Barty put her heart and soul into her Big Freeze slide performance

‘I’m a child. I’m an absolute child and turns out they don’t make adult costumes to be Rafiki, so I’m fitting into a 12-year-old’s costume,’ said Barty of the inspiration for her costume.

‘I hope I performed better on the tennis court! Neale is an incredible man and bringing awareness to this beast is important. I hope we can do our thing … get behind it, put your beanie on and what a day.’

You can donate to FightMND’s Big Freeze 8 at fightmnd.org.au. 

The MCG was a sea of blue with almost all fans wearing a FightMND beanie

The MCG was a sea of blue with almost all fans wearing a FightMND beanie

This Collingwood fan was pumped up before his side's big game against Melbourne

This Collingwood fan was pumped up before his side’s big game against Melbourne

Big Freeze sliders 

1- Carlton and Adelaide great Eddie Betts went down as the Black Panther 

2- Entertainer Rhonda Burchmore dressed as Poison Ivy from Batman 

3- AFL commentator Andy Maher went old-school, as Radar from M*A*S*H 

4-  Jakara Anthony, Winter Olympic gold medallist, slid as Katniss Everdeen 

5- Comedian Hamish Blake stole the show as Elsa from Frozen

6- Neale Daniher’s brother Terry showed his national pride as Crocodile Dundee

7-  Former Aussie coach and legendary batter Justin Langer made a statement as Rocky Balboa

8- David Neitz was the 100th ever Big Freeze slider, and paid homage to Daniher as Braveheart

9- TV presenter Rebecca Maddern was slick as Trinty from the Matrix

10- The last slider down was tennis star Ash Barty, who wore a kids Lion King costume – baboon Rafiki 



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