Lachie Neale named Brisbane Lions Club Champion for 2020


Lachie Neale had added another medal to his 2020 haul after being named the Brisbane Lions Club Champion for the second successive season.

Neale’s latest Merrett-Murray Medal is his second individual honour of the week after winning the Brownlow Medal on Sunday night for the being the AFL’s player of the season.

The star midfielder also won this year’s Leigh Matthews Trophy for being the AFL Players Association’s MVP, and the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player award.

He was also co-winner of the Lions best finals player award with young gun Hugh McCluggage.

Neale was given the Merrett-Murray Medal on Wednesday night at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre by Brisbane Bears legend Roger Merrett, Lions chairman Andrew Wellington and senior coach Chris Fagan.

Fitzroy team of the century captain Kevin Murray was unable to attend the function due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Neale, who averaged 27.5 disposals in the shortened 2020 contests and was the league’s highest possession winner, tallied 305 votes from 19 games.

Fellow midfielder Jarryd Lyons received the Nigel Lappin Trophy for runner up with 269 votes, while McCluggage’s 237 votes earnt him third place and the Alastair Lynch Trophy.

Ruckman Oscar McInerny finish fourth with 212 votes, while captain and four-time winner Dayne Zorko was fifth with 206 votes.

McInerney also won players’ player of the year, and the Shaun Hart Trademark player of the year, while defender Harris Andrew won the Marcus Ashcroft Award for being the most professional player.

Defender Brandon Starcevich was named rookie of the year.

Veteran Allen Christensen also confirmed to the Lions that he would be retiring after 133 games over 11 seasons.

The 29-year-old played 65 games for Geelong reaching the pinnacle with the 2011 premiership in just his second season before joining the Lions where injuries curtailed the later stages of his career.

“Obviously the flag is something I will look back on with great fondness but it happened so long ago and I was so young and at the time I guess I was just thinking about continuously trying to get better and better,’’ Christensen said.

“Now it is all over I can say I’m very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had, I played at two big Clubs and enjoyed some success.



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Former Melbourne Demons staff ‘lament’ call to overlook Lachie Neale


But for Prendergast, Melbourne’s recruiting chief at the time, the call not to select Neale is one of particular lament.

The Demons had two third-round picks (52 and 54) before the Dockers snaffled Neale. At pick 52 they went for medium-sized defender Josh Tynan from Gippsland Power. At pick 53, Hawthorn chose midfielder Alex Woodward. Two selections later Melbourne handed a second AFL life to versatile tall James Sellar, who had been delisted by Adelaide at the end of 2011 following 21 matches for the Crows in five seasons.

Richmond took Matthew Arnott at pick 55, Greater Western Sydney selected big man Tom Downie at pick 56, the Western Bulldogs chose mature-age and eventual premiership player Tory Dickson at 57 before Neale was selected at 58.

Prendergast said on Monday that Sellar hadn’t been a player of interest for the Demons until a few days before the draft, and that he had been keen to draft Neale.

“James Sellar wasn’t on our radar,” Prendergast said on Monday.

Prendergast was quoted at the time suggesting that ex-Crows coach Neil Craig and ex-Adelaide assistant Todd Viney, both working for Melbourne at the time, had both vouched for Sellar, having worked with him at the Crows.

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Contacted on Monday, Neeld said he went back to his notes from a list management meeting just before the draft, suggesting that the consensus amongst the group was that the Dees should take a midfielder and a relatively experienced tall across those third-round selections.

“I’ve written down a summary. ‘We have two picks close together. The general feeling of the group is to draft a young mid and a mature-age key position player with those two picks,'” Neeld said.

While stressing that history was littered with these sorts of stories, Prendergast said the call to draft Sellar over Neale was regrettable. His recollection differs to that of Neeld, with Prendergast saying that several of the Dees’ recruiters would have taken Neale if not for Sellar, regardless of the tall-small mix.

“That’s one we do lament,” Prendergast said.

“If we weren’t picking Sellar, he was the one we definitely would have picked.

“We walked away really impressed with him. He was small without a lot of speed, but he could really play football.

“I think there would have been a lot of recruiting staff that would have liked Lachie Neale. It would have been the size, and it would have been the speed factor.”

Sellar would ultimately play 23 matches for the Dees before being delisted at the end of 2013. Tynan played two AFL games in 2012 before being delisted at the end of the following season. As it turned out, both outlasted Neeld who was sacked midway through his second season in charge.

Prendergast left Melbourne weeks after the 2011 draft to join Carlton. He has since worked for North Melbourne as well but is no longer in the AFL system.

After claiming two best and fairests with the Dockers, Neale was sensationally traded to Brisbane at the end of 2018 where he has only enhanced his reputation as one of the league’s best midfielders.

Former Adelaide recruiter Matt Rendell said on Open Mike last month that Neale was “the one that got away” from the Crows.

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Kybybolite roars as former Tiger Lachie Neale wins Brownlow Medal with Lions


Growing up in the tiny farming town of Kybybolite, near South Australia’s border with Victoria, the young Lachie Neale was “always a little sports-mad boy”.

“He was very young when he pulled on his first pair of boots,” his mum Amanda Taylor said.

“He was certainly kicking the football or bouncing the basketball or bowling the cricket ball around the house and the garden.”

His dad Robbie Neale remembers his son “was never much help in the sheep yard”.

“He’s had a footy in his hand for quite a while.”

Lachie Neale (centre) in action against the Adelaide Crows in June.(AAP: Darren England)

Last night, Neale was honoured with the AFL’s top individual honour, the Brownlow Medal — much to the delight of the Kybybolite community.

The Brisbane Lions midfielder played junior football for the Kybybolite Tigers, winning a premiership in 2004, and about 100 locals watched last night’s count together at the clubrooms.

“I did say, at the end of the count, once Lachie was crowned the Brownlow Medallist, that everyone in the room would remember where they were on October 18 to celebrate that little bit of history,” club president Jamie Tidy said.

A sign next to a gate opening onto a football oval reads "Welcome to Kybybolite Memorial Sports Club, home of the Kyby Tigers"
The Kyby Tigers are hoping Neale’s success can expire them to a long-awaited premiership.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

“Our club has had some rough times but that’s up there with some of the more special things that can happen at a little country footy club.

‘They’d all love to have him home’

Ms Taylor said her son was lucky to be in a job he loved, but had worked hard to get there.

“It’s his passion and he’s always wanted to play football in the AFL,” she said.

An older man and woman hugging a young man wearing a suit and tie on a deck
Lachie Neale with stepfather Brett Shepherd and mother Amanda Taylor at last year’s Brisbane Lions best and fairest awards.(Supplied)

She said she was closely watching the Brownlow count, but became less stressed towards the end.

“I was doing the maths around [round] 10 onwards trying to work out, so about round 14–15 I was quietly confident, as long as he polled in one more game.”

Ms Taylor has received messages of support from Kybybolite locals wishing Neale well over the past couple of weeks.

Lachie Neale smiles while holding up his Brownlow Medal
Lachie Neale holds up the coveted Brownlow Medal.(AAP: Darren England)

Mr Tidy said the club had been lucky with its juniors, with five junior colt premierships in a row when Neale was in the team, alongside former AFL footballers Jack Trengove and Alex Forster.

“We’ve got a very long and proud history of good coaches and good juniors,” he said.

He said he hoped Neale’s win would inspire the club to make a little bit more history.

“Unfortunately, it’s been 46 years since our last A-grade [premiership], which I believe is the longest premiership drought in South Australian country football,” he said.



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Julie Neale rejected Lachie Neale, Brownlow Medal, relationship, WAG


Brownlow Medal night belonged to Brisbane Lions midfielder Lachie Neale — but the spotlight soon shifted to his better half.

Neale polled a staggering 31 votes from only 17 games played this season, and in doing so etched his name into the AFL record books.

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He equalled the biggest winning margin in AFL history since the introduction of the 3-2-1 voting system, joining Roy Wright from 1954 after finishing 10 votes clear of Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak.

But it was during his acceptance speech where Neale paid a moving tribute to the woman who has been by his side through it all — his wife Julie.

“My wife Jules, she’s an amazing human being,” Neale said.

“Not many people probably know but she owned a salon in Perth before we decided to move to Brisbane. She had to sell that to come over here and follow my dreams.

“She was doing very well for herself over there but she always puts me ahead of herself when she shouldn’t have to.

“She’s the most selfless person I know and my biggest support, so thank you very much Jules, I love you.”

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Julie was overcome with emotion when in round 16 it became evident Neale couldn’t be caught as the award winner, wiping away tears as she celebrated her man’s awesome achievement.

However, things didn’t exactly get off to a rosy start for the pair as Julie brutally rejected Neale’s advances when they first met.

After being scooped up by Fremantle with pick 58 in the 2011 National Draft, an 18-year-old Neale asked Dockers teammate Matthew Pavlich to introduce the two.

But a then-21-year-old Julie had no interest.

“The first time I met Jules I was 18 and I asked Pav to introduce me to her,” Neale told Perth Now last year.

“He came back and said, ‘She’s not interested in an 18-year-old Harry Styles looking kid’.”

But Neale recovered from that One Direction insult and a few years later, he and Julie reconnected and sparks flew between the pair.

In June 2017, Neale popped the question to his stunning partner with a custom-designed diamond ring, while out for dinner in South Fremantle.

Neale, then 24, shared the news with his Instagram followers with the caption: “One very happy, lucky guy.”

Julie posted on social media: “How bloody lucky am I. @lachieneale you are one in a million. Cannot wait to marry you x.”

The pair tied the knot in 2018 at the end of the AFL season. The nuptials came a matter of weeks after Neale’s trade request had been granted and saw him sent from Fremantle to join the Lions.

The move was a big deal for Neale, but it was an even bigger shift for Julie, who had to sell her well established salon in Perth.

Located in Mosman Park, Studio Luxe Hair was where Julie made her mark after building the business up from scratch. But then love came along and Julie, as Neale said, put him first as the pair moved across the country.

“She’s sort of left everything behind,” Neale told The Age in 2018.

Julie currently works at Mikki Auld Hairdressing in Brisbane, where she’s described in her profile as “our beauty queen, girl next door, classy AF yet so down to earth, angel babe”.

“With a love for lived in colour and balayage, she’s the best in the biz when it comes to blonde and seamless colour,” her bio says. “Jules also shares our love for 70s style fringes and effortless, waterfall waves.

“She’s a big fan of almond croissants and is a self-confessed Francophile, oui!”

Despite never wanting the limelight, Neale has gone from strength to strength since becoming a Lion.

It culminated in a stellar 2020 when he sizzled his way through the entire season and captured the full allotment of three Brownlow votes in 10 games — just one less than Dustin Martin’s record of 11, which he polled in the full 2017 season.

Neale’s historic night would have shattered Martin’s 36-vote record if the 2020 season wasn’t shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now the AFL’s new power couple won’t be able to escape the limelight after the 27-year-old star’s blistering night.



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AFL news, partners, wives, WAGS, Julie Neale


The red carpet may have gathered dust this Brownlow ceremony with socially distanced events taking place around the country, but it didn’t stop players and WAGs from bringing the glitz and glam.

While the paparazzi weren’t out getting pics, footy stars showed they can still scrub up pretty well.

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The AFL’s night of nights had a much different feeling in 2020, conducted virtually because of COVID-19, but one WAG always seems to rise above the pack and this year it was the wife of 2020 Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale.

Wearing a sheer dress with the slit all the way up her thigh and making a glamorous entrance on the arm of the Brisbane Lions star, who would go on to win a record victory in the medal count, Julie Neale was overcome with emotion as her husband rose to the top.

After the announcement Neale had been crowned the AFL’s best player in 2020, Julie was seen wiping away tears of pride, while Lachie also earned plenty of brownie points with his speech.

“I want to thank my family, want to thank my wife Jules obviously. She is an amazing human being,” he said to vision of her wiping away tears in the background.

“Not many people probably know, but she owned a salon in Perth before we decided to move to Brisbane and she had to sell that to come over here and follow my dreams.

“She was doing very well for herself over there, but she always puts me ahead of herself when she shouldn’t have to, and she is the most selfless person I know. Thank you very much Jules. I love you.”

The Neales weren’t the only ones looking sharp with plenty more players and their better halves adding some normality to proceedings.

The 2020 Brownlow Medal had a very different look with the virtual ceremony a long way away from the usual Crown Casino extravaganza.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan read the votes from the Gold Coast, but he was one of the limited few in the room at Metricon Stadium.

Players also attended the Seven studio in Melbourne, the Gabba, Adelaide Oval and Optus Stadium in Perth.

It was reported that around eighty players and their partners were scattered across the six venues.



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Dad may have tear in eye: Lachie Neale


Robbie Neale can add a familiar name to his masterful memory of Brownlow medallists in the AFL era after son Lachie topped Sunday’s count in remarkable fashion.

Brisbane star Lachie Neale polled 31 votes from 17 games to win the 2020 Brownlow medal.

If Neale averaged the same number of votes per match in a regular 22-game season then he would have tallied 40 votes, comfortably a league record.

It was a sweet night for Neale – if not soured a little by the fact it came after the Lions’ preliminary-final loss – and indeed his dad.

“This is something I’ve looked up to ever since I was a kid,” Lachie Neale told reporters.

“My dad can reel off the last 40 Brownlow medallists I think.

“He might have a tear in his eye (doing it now).

“He loves his footy. I learned the love of the game from him.

“From all reports he was a very good player, played a lot of country football … he said his one regret is he didn’t stick it out (and stay in Adelaide for more than one season).”

Robbie Neale was among the influential figures that Lachie thanked in his acceptance speech, noting “our relationship has grown and developed every year and I can honestly say now he is one of my best mates.”

“I’m lucky to have such great family members on both sides, my mum and dad’s side. They have been awesome for me,” he added.

Lachie told reporters he was still wrapping his head around the idea of becoming a Brownlow medallist, joining a prestigious list that includes childhood hero and 1993 winner Gavin Wanganeen.

“People remember Brownlow medallists, what they achieve and whatnot. For me to be in that category, it doesn’t really sit well,” Neale said.

“Because I just admire so many players who have won them, they’re greats of the game. It’s incredibly humbling.”

Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis and Simon Black are the only other Brisbane players to have won a Brownlow medal.

“If I was in the team with those three I’d be on the bench most games,” Neale said.

“They’re amazing players and it was such a golden era.”





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Profile of 2020 Brownlow medallist Neale


PROFILE OF BROWNLOW MEDAL WINNER LACHIE NEALE

Age: 27

Club: Brisbane

AFL games: 178

Drafted: By Fremantle with the 58th overall selection in 2011 national draft

Traded: To Brisbane in 2018 (along with pick No.30) in exchange for picks No.6, No.19 and No.55

Debut: 2012

HONOURS

Brownlow Medal: 2020

AFL Players’ Association MVP (Leigh Matthews trophy): 2020

AFL Coaches’ Association champion player of the year: 2020

Club best and fairest: 2016, 2018 (Fremantle), 2019 (Brisbane)

All-Australian: 2019, 2020

BRISBANE PLAYERS TO WIN BROWNLOW MEDAL

* Michael Voss (1996)

* Jason Akermanis (2001)

* Simon Black (2002)

* Lachie Neale (2020)





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Brownlow Medal 2020 | Brisbane Lion Lachie Neale reflects on journey, now that his name won’t be forgotten


Neale knew he was the raging favourite, but had been able to sideline the count ahead of Saturday night’s game. I think last year [when he polled equal third] I learned from that experience that I can’t control what’s going to happen tonight.”

But as he shot out to an almost unassailable lead, polling the maximum three votes in six of the first nine games, he knew he was a chance. By round 12, he was on 25 and all but untouchable.

That game was against North Melbourne, a match in which he hadn’t expected to poll. “That’s when I thought, I might be a big chance here.”

Neale hoped to return to his boyhood home base in South Australia’s south east during the off season, where he played junior footy in the tiny community of Kybybolite. After being drafted to Fremantle in 2011, he has missed seeing his younger brother and sisters grow up.

He said was aware of the impact of Covid on grassroots footy. “I can only talk for Kyby and my local town, but they had to combine the leagues this year, so there was only about eight to 10 teams from around the south-east, there’s usually about four leagues.

“So a lot of clubs didn’t play senior footy this year … I feel for those kids and communities that have missed out on a year of footy, because I know how much it would have killed me not to play.”

As a child, Neale said, it was footy or bust. “It was just something that I wanted so badly that I almost willed it to happen, in a way. That was my dream, and I’m very fortunate that that’s come to life.

“I don’t consider what I do work, I love training, I love playing, and I love the environment of a footy club. It’s the best workplace you could have, I would have thought.”

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Asked what it meant to him to win the award, Neale showed his only hint of discomfort. “I’m so humbled, it’s an incredible award, it’s something ever since I was a kid I’ve looked up to. My dad, I think, can reel off the last 40 Brownlow medallists.

“I think people remember Brownlow medallists and what they achieve. For me to be in that category now doesn’t really sit well with me, because I just admire so many players that have won them. They’re greats of the game.”

Now, whether he feels he belongs or not, he has joined them.

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Fans slam coverage, virtual ceremony, Zoom meeting, Lachie Neale wins


AFL fans have taken aim at the Brownlow Medal ceremony after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league’s night of nights into the virtual realm for the first time.

The Brisbane Lions’ Lachie Neale took out the 2020 Brownlow by 10 votes to Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak in a stunning result with the 27-year-old delivering a sweet moment where he paid tribute to the sacrifice of his wife Julie.

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But with six sites around the country hosting the awards as the count was beamed in from a socially distanced Gillon McLachlan at the Gold Coast function, it was a keen reminder of the bizarreness of the 2020 season.

Despite a historic season suspension, Footy Frenzy weeks to get the 18-rounds in, hub life and an ever growing list of things that have made 2020 the craziest footy season in memory, the Brownlow proved to be peak 2020.

Even after Neale’s win, the award was presented by 2019 winner and former Fremantle teammate Nat Fyfe.

Beaming in from Perth and despite Neale being in a room full of people, Fyfe finished his tribute to the star by saying “it’s my great pleasure to now ask you to present yourself with the 2020 Brownlow Medal.”

He wasn’t the only one with Mark of the Year winner Sam Walsh and Goal of the Year winner Josh Daicos also asked to present themselves their awards.

Only Bachar Houli, who won the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award had his prize before the event.

3AW and 6PR sports broadcaster Sam McInnes tweeted: “Sam Walsh had to present himself the “Mark of the Year” award. Surely someone in the room could‘ve passed it to him!”

Similarly, SMH’s Andrew Wu was perplexed for the main award.

“Why couldn’t someone present the medal to Lachie Neale? Surely not because of social distancing, or even the optics of it. What else is the point of having an indoor gathering for a vote count?” he tweeted.

Having taken over the Sportsbet Twitter account for the awards, 2011 Brownlow winner Dane Swan posted: “A bloke presenting himself his own Brownlow is the most 2020 thing ever”.

Similarly, the Seven coverage wasn’t streamed online, with Swan also roasting that decision.

“So let get me this straight, first ever online Brownlow and you can‘t watch it online nor see a tracker online?” he wrote.

But there were plenty more issues fans had with the coverage, including ABC News presenter Mary Gearin arguing the Brownlow was another example of a Zoom meeting that could have been done much quicker and more efficiently as an email.

“I’ve always thought the #BrownlowMedal should be a media release – maybe a media conference – and nothing more. This was the year to make it happen. But clearly not even an interminable pandemic can stop the appetite for an interminable vote count”.

And she wasn’t the only one.

But while the night could have been shorter with a break after every two rounds, the final announcement that Neale took out the game’s top award also delivered one of the sweetest moments of the season, when he paid tribute to his wife’s sacrifice to help his football career when he traded to the Lions.

“Not many people probably know, but she owned a salon in Perth before we decided to move to Brisbane and she had to sell that to come over here and follow my dreams,” he said as she wiped away tears. “She was doing very well for herself over there, but she always puts me ahead of herself when she shouldn’t have to, and she is the most selfless person I know. Thank you very much Jules. I love you.”

And isn’t two and a half hours of counting worth the sweet moments?

Former 10 Sports presenter Tim Gossage took aim at the naysayers.

“Drives me bonkers people criticising @7AFL #BrownlowMedal coverage … I enjoy it and like the mix of season reviews and interviews. It’s for TV entertainment not just a footy club vote count.”



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Lachie Neale dominates the field to win 2020 Brownlow Medal


A four point lead in the count in round eight extended to a lead of seven votes (round nine), nine votes (round 11) and 11 votes (round 12), Neale winning the medal with two rounds to spare.

Neale polled three votes in consecutive games from rounds two to five, then again in round eight, nine, 11, 12, 16 and 18.

Fairest and best: 2020 Brownlow Medal winner Lachie Neale on the run for Brisbane during the Lions’ preliminary final loss to the Cats on Saturday night.Credit:Getty Images

He was an integral ingredient in Brisbane’s run to the preliminary final, the club’s first since 2004.

Born in tiny Kybybolite in South Australia near the Victorian border, Neale played his junior footy at the local club. He then played for Glenelg in the SANFL before being drafted to Fremantle at pick 58 in the 2011 draft.

That surprisingly lowly position in the draft was so because recruiters considered him small and a little slow to go higher.

Neale requested a trade from Fremantle to Brisbane at the end of 2018 and got there for pick six, 19 and 55, with Freo’s pick 30 and Neale heading to the Lions.

Soaking up the atmosphere: Lachie Neale (left) speaks to Rory Laird of the Crows during the 2020 Brownlow Medal count in Brisbane.

Soaking up the atmosphere: Lachie Neale (left) speaks to Rory Laird of the Crows during the 2020 Brownlow Medal count in Brisbane. Credit:Getty Images

“It’s unbelievable,” Neale said. “I feel really humbled to be in this position and to be amongst some of those names [former winners] is still pretty crazy to me.”

Neale reflected on the fact he wasn’t a certainty to get picked in his draft year.

“I can’t control what people say or think about me,” he said. “In my draft year I thought I was playing pretty good footy and felt like I wasn’t getting recognised much and didn’t think I’d get drafted.”

He praised the role Ross Lyon played in his early days at Fremantle, while also thanking current coach Chris Fagan and his family and teammates.

Cheers: Brownlow Medal presenter Hamish McLachlan and virtual attendees toast winner Lachie Neale during the 2020 Count at NEP Studios in Southbank, Melbourne.

Cheers: Brownlow Medal presenter Hamish McLachlan and virtual attendees toast winner Lachie Neale during the 2020 Count at NEP Studios in Southbank, Melbourne.Credit:Getty Images

“Ross was a great influence on me and he really drove me to become a better player and I couldn’t thank him enough for the work that he did with me and my time at Fremantle.

“We had a couple of really stern conversations early on in my career, he basically told me when I came back from my first off season that if I came back like this again I’d be a fat little forward pocket at Glenelg pretty soon and play my 20 or 30 games and be out of the system.”

Such is the need to social distance in the pandemic, this count also missed the traditional moment where last year’s winner puts the medal around the neck of the current winner.

So Neale’s former teammate Nat Fyfe told the Lion on video link that he wished he could hug him, and left the 2020 winner to awkwardly place the medal around his own neck.

Glitz and glamour: Lachie Neale and his wife Julie arrive at The Gabba stadium in Brisbane for the AFL's virtual best and fairest count.

Glitz and glamour: Lachie Neale and his wife Julie arrive at The Gabba stadium in Brisbane for the AFL’s virtual best and fairest count.Credit:Getty Images

His 31 vote tally was remarkable given it was only a 17 game season. His 2020 haul would have won the medal 13 times in other years this century, which were all 22 round seasons.

Meanwhile, if anyone needed anymore of a reminder of the precocious talent that is Matt Rowell, they got it on Sunday night.

The 2019 no.1 draft pick from the Gold Coast Suns polled three votes in his second, third and fourth games to lead the race tied with Lachie Neale.

He was injured in round five and missed the rest of the season.

Credit:

The count, conducted at Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium by AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan, was unusual given the pandemic.

McLachlan and the AFL opted to avoid a gala evening on the Gold Coast with the majority of the league, instead just grand final teams Richmond and Geelong were there, as well as a few Gold Coast and St Kilda players.

Other players gathered at the Gabba, where Neale was, and Optus Stadium in Perth, Adelaide Oval, the Sydney Cricket Ground and television studios in Melbourne.

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