BRISBANE star Lachie Neale has won this year’s Brownlow Medal, polling 31 votes from 17 games in the shortened AFL season.
Neale was voted best-on-ground in a remarkable 10 matches during 2020, fashioning an unassailable lead in Sunday’s Brownlow count after 16 rounds of the 18-round season.
The gun midfielder, who had been backed into $1.25 favouritism, easily finished top ahead of Travis Boak (21 votes) with Christian Petracca and Jack Steele (both 20 votes) equal third in a ceremonial night that was as predictable as it was peculiar.
AFL’s night of nights was staged across venues in Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney because of COVID-19.
It meant 2019 Brownlow winner and Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe wasn’t able to physically present his former teammate the medal.
Fyfe instead gave a short speech via video link.
The highlight of Neale’s career came one day after Geelong ended his side’s campaign, ruining the Lions’ hopes of reaching their first grand final since 2004 – at their Gabba home.
But Sunday night was Neale’s night, when he joined Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis and Simon Black as the only Brisbane players to collect the sport’s most prestigious individual honour.
The South Australian Neale is the latest player to embarrass recruiters across the country, having struggled to impress clubs during his junior career before being recruited by the Dockers with pick No.58 in the 2011 draft.
Neale, who grew up in the small town of Kybybolite on the SA-Victoria border, took his game to another level during his second season at the Lions and was always going to be hard to stop.
Port Adelaide veteran Boak was voted best-on-ground in his side’s season-opening win over Gold Coast and led the count after three rounds, having tallied eight votes at that stage.
Neale made his move with four consecutive three-vote performances, a streak that started in round two.
He became the joint leader after four rounds, sitting alongside Suns youngster Matt Rowell, then claimed the outright lead after five rounds with 12 votes.
The 27-year-old Neale failed to poll in the next two games, but remained count leader for the rest of the night.
His Brownlow medal capped an incredibly dominant 2020 campaign in which he was also judged this season’s best player by the AFL Players’ Association and AFL Coaches’ Association.
Neale joins Gary Ablett Jnr (2009), Patrick Dangerfield (2016) and Dustin Martin (2017) as the only players to have been collected all three of the sport’s most coveted medals in the same season.
Carlton’s Sam Walsh won the mark-of-the-year award, while Collingwood youngster Josh Daicos won the goal of the year award.
(C) AAP 2020