Lachie Neale has put pen to paper, extending his time with Brisbane until the end of 2026.
The new three-year deal has put any speculation to bed, as a move back to Fremantle was flagged late last year, despite the devotion of Neale to the Lions.
The former Docker – who was traded to Brisbane at the end of 2018 – has been a super impressive player since moving to the sunshine state, being awarded with All-Australian honours (2019, 2020), Merrett-Murray Medal (best-and-fairest; 2019, 2020), AFLCA Player of the Year (2020) and the Leigh Matthews Trophy (2020).
Neale is arguably putting on a better season in 2022 then the one that saw him take home the Brownlow Medal, averaging 32 disposals, eight clearances, five tackles and seven score involvements, terrorising opposition sides.
A grand final opportunity has alluded the Lions in recent years, falling in semi-finals and preliminary finals over the last three seasons but the re-commitment of Neale may be the spark to take them over the final hurdle.
“The goal is definitely to hold up a cup in a Lions guernsey,” Neale said on the club’s website.
“The boys are really hard-working people who are trying to make themselves better and we’ve struck a really nice balance.
“The team’s will to improve and will to get better is first class and I feel like we’re set for a really sustained successful period.
“I’d love to hold up more than one (cup) but I’d happily take one. We’ve come a long way and we have a group that’s ready to go and we’ve had some experience in finals now.”
The 29-year-old is one of the favourites for the Brownlow Medal alongside Melbourne midfielder Clayton Oliver and Fremantle young gun Andrew Brayshaw.
Brisbane have arguably been the Demons’ number one rival in 2022, including stealing top position briefly, but returned to third position following a disappointing loss to the reigning premiers at the MCG in round 15.
Does Neale’s re-signing extend Brisbane’s premiership window?
The Lions sit third on the AFL ladder, winning 10 games from 14 and being labelled as the greatest offensive team, boasting a forward line of Joe Daniher, Charlie Cameron and Zac Bailey.
Aside from the disappointing Melbourne loss, Brisbane have only fallen to Geelong (10 points) at GMHBA Stadium, Hawthorn (five points) and Fremantle (14 points) at Optus Stadium.
With that said, the Lions haven’t been overly convincing in their wins, but Neale’s form throughout the season has been a constant.
The 29-year-old is in the midst of his prime, with his contract extension adding further opportunity for Brisbane to make premiership tilts for this year and beyond.
Neale’s role under coach Chris Fagan has been received well by the South Australian since crossing from Fremantle and the renewed dedication to the direction of the club can only bode well for the Lions, as they vie for premiership success for the first time since 2003.
Why didn’t Neale sign with Fremantle?
Although contracted until the end of 2023 prior to the extension, reports linked Neale with a possible trade request back to Western Australia and the Dockers, ahead of the birth of his first child late in 2021.
However, the constant badgering and speculation forced Neale’s hand, as he openly committed to the Lions and reassured fans that he wasn’t going anywhere.
To deny further comment about his future, the former Docker opted to shut down any talk that he may want to leave the sunshine state, committing to Brisbane for a further three years until 2026.
Fremantle’s rise to premiership contention and the lure of another potentially successful team could’ve been an option for Neale to lean back to his old club.
Although, the Lions are right in their premiership window, boasting a mix of youthful and experienced talent with a game style that does stand up against the best in the competition.
Neale is keen to hold the premiership cup aloft in Brisbane colours, strengthening their chance in 2022 and the near future.
Will Neale win the 2022 Brownlow?
Neale’s 2022 season is arguably better and more impactful than his 2020 Brownlow Medal winning year.
In a COVID-19 effected campaign, the Brisbane star was clearly the best player of the year, polling 31 votes in reduced games (17 games) and quarters at an average of 1.82 votes per game.
However, according to Sporting News’ AFL Experts, Neale could be in sight for another ‘Charlie’, as we’ve got him equal-top with Docker Andrew Brayshaw on 21 votes after round 15.
Historically, the 29-year-old has polled well in his career and is the favourite for this year’s medal, which could forge his name into elite company with Chris Judd, Gary Ablett Jnr, Robert Harvey and former teammate Nat Fyfe as some of the dual Brownlow Medallists.