Lachie Neale's steady rise through the AFL ranks led to him claiming the 2020 Brownlow Medal in a stunning runaway win. But at just 28 years of age, he has plenty more to give.
Lachie’s career is a testament to hard work, persistence, self-belief and continuous improvement.
He grew up in Kybybolite, a small town of approximately 100 people, and it was for the local team where he played his first games of football. He excelled as a junior, eventually receiving a scholarship to attend St Peters College in Adelaide.
While living in Adelaide, Neale captured the attention of Glenelg scouts, who signed him to represent Glenelg’s Under 18 team (which made a Grand Final), progressing to play several senior league games for the Tigers and representing South Australia in the Under 18 National Championships.
But Neale was far from a draft certainty – his name eventually called by Fremantle with Pick 58 in the 2011 National Draft. He arrived at the Dockers determined to make his mark, earning an early AFL debut in Round 4 of 2012.
A gifted reader of the play capable of finding the footy with apparent ease, Neale had to fight hard for his place in a strong Fremantle side in his first two seasons, managing to earn selection in Fremantle’s 2013 Grand Final line-up.
Spurred on by that narrow loss, he returned for 2014 in superb physical and mental shape, fiercely determined to take his game to the next level.
So it was no coincidence that 2014 proved to be his breakout year, as he established himself as a Fremantle regular and as one of the competition’s emerging young talents.
Neale’s 7 seasons at Fremantle were highlighted by two Best and Fairest wins in 2016 and 2018, and three Ross Glendinning Medals as Best on Ground in the Western Derby.
With 135 games to his name, Neale requested a move to Brisbane for the 2019 season, where he became entrenched as one of the competition’s elite midfielders in a rejuvenated Lions line-up, which rocketed up the ladder and returned to finals footy. On a personal level, Neale collected his first All-Australian selection, first Merrett-Murray Medal (his third club Best & Fairest) and finished 3rd in the Brownlow Medal.
His rise to the very top of the AFL culminated in a stellar 2020 season in which he dominated the competition, sweeping the game’s major individual awards in a landslide – the AFLPA MVP, Coaches MVP and the crown jewel, the Brownlow Medal, in which he polled an incredible 31 votes in 18 games to blitz the field by 10 votes.
A second All-Australian blazer and his fourth club Best & Fairest rounded out an incredible campaign, but it is the ultimate prize – premiership glory – that drives Neale on his remarkable journey of continuous improvement.
Neale’s love of the game extends beyond playing. He also enjoys working on the coaching and strategic side, analysing footage and strategies with his Brisbane Lions coaches.
While leading by example on the field, he also works with his younger teammates off the field to help them get the best out of themselves.
Away from football, Neale is married to partner Jules, who he met while living in Perth.
They have recently added a pet dog to their family, and enjoy trips back to Perth and home to Lachie’s family farms in Adelaide when they have a chance.