Brisbane Lions star Lachie Neale has officially put to bed the nearly week-long saga around his reported desire to move back to Western Australia.
The reigning Brownlow Medallist reaffirmed his commitment to the Lions in a video posted to the club's website on Thursday morning.
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Rumours had swirled around the 28-year-old after it emerged that he and his wife Julie were weighing up whether or not to return to WA to be closer to family, with the couple expecting their first child.
It was reported Neale was considering requesting a trade less than 48 hours after the Lions were heartbreakingly sent packing from the AFL finals after a one-point loss to the Western Bulldogs.
Neale was heavily criticised over the timing of the rumour, but it was ultimately all for nought after he made the decision to stay for at least the final two remaining years of his five-year deal with the Lions.
"I'm committed and staying at the footy club," Neale said.
"It's been a whirlwind few days and everything has gotten a bit out of hand."
Neale is contracted for another two seasons with the Lions after signing a five-year deal upon leaving Fremantle at the end of 2018.
He played 135 games for the Dockers before seeking out the Lions for a fresh start.
"I'm committed and staying at the footy club" - Lachie Neale says he is "fully committed" to remaining at Brisbane in 2022. "I'm so excited to be pushing on." @AFLcomau
— Callum Twomey (@CalTwomey) September 9, 2021
Neale admitted he and his family had spoken about moving back to Perth, with Western Australia's tough border restrictions making the last 18 months difficult for Jules.
"(She's) got a lot of family and support networks and friends in WA," Neale said.
"Behind the scenes we had a couple of conversations about how that looked moving forward.
"Obviously with the COVID situation over the last couple of years it's been really hard.
"But after sitting down and talking through it with our family and our friends and with the club, it became pretty clear after a couple of days that this was where the best place for us to be, here at Brisbane.
"We believe we can get the support network around us that we need."
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Former players Dale Thomas and Leigh Montagna have both argued the response to the initial reports Neale wanted out was completely overblown.
The pair discussed the situation on Triple M prior to the news Neale would be staying in Brisbnane.
Thomas, a former Collingwood and Carlton star, said certain pundits were “genuinely teeing off on him (Neale) for the reason”.
“I can’t believe the commentary around the reason why,” he said.
“Yes the timing, and we all admit the timing’s not great and how it’s come out but if you want to go home for family reasons, whatever they are, in this day and age and with the times that we’re in with Covid — I cannot believe how archaic the views are of some of these people.
“Heavily pregnant, first child, needing support — it just blows my mind how dumb some people’s views are.”
Former St Kilda star Montagna was of a similar mind, saying Neale had no way of knowing the coronavirus pandemic would impact everyone's ability to travel and see family when he initially signed the five year deal.
“I’ve been staggered by the lack of compassion and empathy in this situation,” he told Triple M.
“I get that he’s breaking a contract but when he signed this contract three years ago, he did not know we’d be living in a pandemic where essentially his wife’s been locked out of going to her own home state to visit her family and friends.
“I thought in this day and age that we took people’s welfare and all those sorts of things first and if it’s for family reasons, to have your first child around your family and friends when you haven’t been able to see them for two years, I would have thought we’d be understanding."
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