Josh Dunkley has revealed how Lachie Neale immediately took the focus off his Brownlow Medal triumph and turned the Lions' attention to Saturday's AFL grand final against Collingwood. Neale was a controversial winner of the AFL's most prestigious individual honour, with many of the belief that Magpies young gun Nick Daicos or Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempwelli were more deserving.
It marked Neale's second Brownlow triumph, but the Lions co-captain was in no mood to bask in the glory when he returned to training on Tuesday. Speaking at the AFL grand final parade on Friday, Dunkley revealed how Neale immediately switched the focus towards the task at hand.
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"The next day he addressed the group and said, 'it's not about me this week, boys, it's about us'," Dunkley said. "(He said), 'why not have a crack at it, it's the best opportunity for it'.
"He's obviously had an outstanding year and we're pumped for him that he's got that award, but he wants to celebrate something as a group. That's what we're looking forward to doing."
Collingwood fans still hadn't gotten over the Brownlow controversy on Saturday, loudly booing Neale during the parade. AFL fans described the treatment as 'disgusting' considering Neale was there with his young daughter.
Neale is a three-time All-Australian, five-time club best-and-fairest and a winner of both the AFL coaches' and players' associations player-of-the-year awards. But for all the individual accolades, the 254-game veteran is still without a premiership.
Neale played in the 2013 grand final as a 20-year-old with Fremantle, but the Dockers went down to Hawthorn. "Winning two Brownlow medals and being in the position that he's in, he's still never got ahead of himself," Dunkley said.
"He's always doing the hard yards and doing the little things behind the scenes that make him such a great player. He's had a great year, he's had a great career and he's always stood up in those big games. We're really looking forward to him playing his best footy tomorrow, and the rest of the group too."
Lachie Neale misses out on Brownlow-premiership double
Neale fell short of emulating Brisbane greats Jason Akermanis and Simon Black, who did the Brownlow-grand final double in 2001 and 2002 respectively. Neale and the Lions fell agonisingly short in an epic 12.18 (90) to 13.8 (86) decider.
"For me now, I just recognise and appreciate the opportunity that's in front of me and the team," Neale said earlier this week before the Lions went down by two points on Saturday. "I'm going to savour every second of this week and every second that I'm on the hallowed turf of the MCG on Saturday afternoon, because who knows when we might get that opportunity again? It might not ever happen. I'm just going to try to soak up this week, enjoy every moment and see what happens on Saturday."
For all the uproar over Neale's Brownlow victory, he actually paid a classy tribute to Daicos and said the 20-year-old definitely would have won the gong if not for his late-season knee injury. “I want to give a shout out to Nick Daicos,” Neale said on Tuesday. “He‘s had such an amazing season so far and it hasn’t finished for him yet either.
“If it wasn’t for his injury, I think the medal would have been his and he would have been a thoroughly deserving winner. I feel for Nick. He’s had so much pressure and intensity and scrutiny on him this year. The way that he‘s performed this year has been amazing to watch.”
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