The AFL had to make the best of a bad situation with the coronavirus pandemic creating a season like no other, but one crucial decision at the Brownlow Medal has come under scrutiny.
The medal presentation had to be held virtually for the first time ever due to continued border restrictions across the country, with Brisbane midfielder Lachie Neale the runaway winner.
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With all the teams spread out across multiple venues around the country, the actual medal presentation became something of an awkward moment.
Typically the previous year’s winner presents the medal to the new winner - however with Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe in Western Australia and Neale on Queensland, the Lions star was left to present the medal to himself.
Discussing the vote count on Channel 9 program Footy Classified, veteran journalist Caroline Wilson said the AFL should have come up with a more elegant solution than leaving Neale to present the medal to himself.
“Look so many things were difficult about this night but fair dinkum, trying to find the person who had the idea that Lachie Neale would present the medal to himself is tougher than trying to find out who was responsible for hotel quarantine here in Victoria. No one is owning this,” Wilson said.
“The closest I’ve got is ‘oh, it was someone in events’.”
Co-host Craig Hutchison suggested coronavirus protocols might have prevented someone else from doing the presentation, but Wilson brushed off that suggestion, describing the scenario as a ‘horrible’ look.
Wilson went on to suggest Lions coach Chris Fagan, club legend Simon Black or club president Andrew Wellington, all of whom were on hand at the ceremony, could have made the presentation to Neale.
"One of the great stuff ups of this year."
Caroline Wilson wants to know why Lachie Neale had to present the medal to himself, when the likes of Simon Black and Chris Fagan were in the room.#9FootyClassified | Watch @Channel9 pic.twitter.com/IRlGwyfBNQ
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) October 19, 2020
“Chris Fagan almost had him in a bearhug,” she said.
“Simon Black was in the room and is a Brownlow medallist. Andrew Wellington could have done it.
“I don’t want to make too much of this but I’m going to because being given the Brownlow Medal is one of the most wonderful things you see in a football year.
“Why didn’t they think of it? And no one is putting their hand up today to one of the great stuff-ups of this year...symbolically it was horrible.”
Lachie Neale claims runaway Brownlow Medal win
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 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 give his former teammate a "big hug and put the medal around" his neck in Brisbane.
Fyfe instead gave a short speech via video link before Neale presented himself with the medal, emotionally thanking his wife for moving with him to Brisbane in 2018.
The South Australian is the latest player to embarrass recruiters across the country, having struggled to impress clubs during his junior career before the Dockers drafted him with pick No.58 in 2011.
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