The coach spray that turned a 'fat little forward' into the AFL's best

Riley Morgan
·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
Lachie Neale (pictured) winning the AFL's Brownlow Medal.
Lachie Neale (pictured) polled 31 votes from 17 games to win the AFL's most prestigious individual award. (Getty Images)

Record-breaking Brownlow Medalist Lachie Neale has revealed the all-time spray that kick-started his rise to the top of the AFL.

Neale polled 31 votes from 17 games to win the AFL's most prestigious individual award, rising to greatness after being warned he risked becoming a "fat little forward pocket" on the AFL scrapheap.

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But it was that warning from former Fremantle coach Ross Lyon that sparked him into life and have the ambition to become the best.

Neale was No.58 pick in the 2011 draft for Fremantle, but realised he had some work to do after his first season at the club.

And it was the threat of being a state-league level ‘forward pocket’, which lit a fire in his belly.

“I think that was part of it. That was my first off-season, I had so much to learn,” Neale said.

“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 at 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.

Ross Lyon (pictured middle) talks with Lachie Neale (pictured centre left) back in 2018.
Ross Lyon (pictured middle) talks with Lachie Neale (pictured centre left) back in 2018.(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

“Those were the things that really drove me and I‘m glad I responded well to them. I think that Ross knew that would drive me, so yeah, full credit to Ross.”

He even mentioned how once he wore a tracking device, while on his motorbike, to record a running session and tricked the club he had completed the task.

While he claimed he was not proud of the moment, Neale would undoubtedly be over the moon at running away with the Brownlow.

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Neale, who grew up in the small town of Kybybolite on the SA-Victoria border, took his game to another level during his second season at the Lions and was always going to be hard to stop.

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.

The highlight of Neale's career came one day after Geelong ended his side's campaign, ruining the Lions' hopes of reaching their first grand final since 2004 - at their Gabba home.

"I've felt pretty flat and I wasn't really excited or anything for tonight until the count started," he told reporters.

"I wanted to win a premiership this year, that was my main focus."

with AAP

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