The AFL’s man of the moment Lachie Neale is adamant Brisbane can finally end the league’s longest current winning streak, even if he thinks Richmond will be “happy to play them” in next Friday’s qualifying final.
The midfielder was voted into his second-straight All-Australian team on Thursday night, but was also crowned the season’s most outstanding player by his peers and the 18 AFL coaches.
Teammate Harris Andrews won his second-straight Australian blazer and trained well on Friday before declaring himself “ready to go” for an early return to face the Tigers at the Gabba.
Neale remembers the missed opportunities in the identical clash last season, the Lions then losing to Greater Western Sydney in a finals fade that soured their brilliant surge up the ladder.
“It’s been a while and they’re probably pretty happy they’re playing us,” Neale said of the Tigers’ 15-game unbeaten run that stretches back to 2009.
“But we’re excited and know our best footy can beat anyone in the comp.
“There’s no fears there; we’ve missed a lot of opportunities in the last couple of times and the scoreboard probably doesn’t feel like it reflects how we’ve matched up against them.”
Likewise, Andrews says Brisbane are ready to seize the big moments and expects to lead the way despite initial fears he would be out of action until the preliminary final.
“We did a lot of reflecting last year after those finals and came away thinking about moments in games,” he said.
“We had our opportunities, we weren’t able to capitalise.”
Richmond will hope key forward and Andrews’ direct opponent Tom Lynch bounces back from his own hamstring injury, while Brisbane will be looking to Neale to continue his dream season.
“It’s funny when I’m standing here, talking about it and reflecting on it doesn’t feel right,” he said of being regarded as the AFL’s best player.
“But when I’m playing I have full confidence in my ability and feel like I’m in that top echelon.”
A Brownlow Medal would give him the awards cleansweep, but there is no sense of complacency as he eyes a happier outcome this season.
“He’s extremely humble; getting all the awards and credit he deserves, but comes in as humble as ever and ready to work hard,” Andrews said.
“I’m excited to be fit and fresh for hopefully a big couple of weeks (alongside him).”