Lachie Neale caught in Brownlow Medal controversy as AFL world rips 'absolute joke'

AFL fans and journalists are questioning whether the Brisbane Lions star was the deserving winner.

Lachie Neale, Marcus Bontempelli and Nick Daicos at the Brownlow Medal.
Lachie Neale (centre) was a controversial Brownlow winner over Marcus Bontempelli (L) and Nick Daicos (R). Image: Getty

AFL fans are questioning the validity of the Brownlow Medal voting system after Lachie Neale scored a controversial win over Marcus Bontempelli and Nick Daicos on Monday night. The Brisbane Lions star polled 31 votes to win his second Brownlow from Bontempelli (29) and Daicos (28).

Neale, who also won the medal in 2020, stormed home with three-vote games in the final two rounds. He is the first two-time winner since former Fremantle teammate Nat Fyfe in 2015 and 2019, and just the 16th player to win multiple Brownlow Medals.

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But questions are being asked as to whether he really deserved it this year, with some dubious voting raising eyebrows. Neale was given three votes by the umpires in Brisbane's round six win over GWS, in a game in which he had just seven kicks and 20 disposals.

Josh Kelly had 41 disposals in the game, while Stephen Coniglio had 38 and Charlie Cameron kicked seven goals. Yet the three votes went to Neale, despite him not receiving any coach's votes for the game.

"I think the umpires must have got confused giving Lachie Neale three votes in round 6," tweeted journo Jon Ralph. "Just watched every possession. 7 kicks, 13 handballs. One clanger, five ineffective touches. No coaches votes. Not horrible, but not one eye catching moment. Charlie Cameron seven goals."

Lachie Neale and wife Julie, pictured here with the Brownlow Medal.
Lachie Neale and wife Julie pose with the Brownlow Medal. (Photo by Albert Perez/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Collingwood fans were also crying foul that Daicos didn't poll any votes in round four and round nine, despite racking up 38 disposals and kicking two goals against Brisbane, before another 42 disposals against GWS. Jason Horne-Francis was also the shock recipient of three votes in a game against Geelong.

Former Port Adelaide and Brisbane player Tom Rockliff wrote on social media: "If one thing has become clear tonight it’s that the Brownlow medal can no longer be done by the umpires..some of these votes are insane. Neale 3 vs Giants was a bit how you going but Horne Francis 3 vs Cats is mind blowing."

Fans flocked to social media to blast the 'embarrassing' farce, with many pointing out that Neale didn't even make the All-Australian side this year. He is the first player to win the top award without being named in the All-Australian team since former West Coast midfielder Matt Priddis in 2014. Many described it as a 'joke' that Bontempelli and Daicos missed out.

Lachie Neale shocked to win Brownlow Medal

Neale, who averaged 27.4 disposals, 8.1 clearances and 13.9 contested possessions throughout the regular season, admitted he was surprised to win the Brownlow. The midfielder wasn't at the Brownlow ceremony at Melbourne's Crown Palladium and was instead at a function in Brisbane with his Lions teammates as they prepare for Saturday's grand final against Collingwood.

"Yeah it doesn't sit very well at the moment," a shocked Neale said after coach Chris Fagan presented him with the medal. "I'm sure it will sink in at a later date. I'm pretty rattled to be honest. So apologies if this (interview) doesn't go too well.

"I did not expect this, and to be amongst some of those names that have won two is unbelievable. To be in Brisbane, preparing for a grand final, is amazing. I haven't been involved in this week for a decade, so I'm excited."

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Errol Gulden of the Swans and Port Adelaide young gun Zak Butters rounded out the top five with 27 votes apiece. Daicos was a red-hot favourite for most of the season, but missed the final three rounds after suffering a hairline fracture in his knee in round 21.

Remarkably, the 20-year-old led on 28 votes after round 18 and still held that lead until round 23, despite not polling any votes in that time. Bontempelli, who was also runner-up to Ollie Wines in 2021, claimed three votes in his final game, but was leapfrogged by Neale's best-on-ground performance against St Kilda.

Brownlow Medal top five vote-getters:

  • Lachie Neale (Brisbane) - 31

  • Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs) - 29

  • Nick Daicos (Collingwood) - 28

  • Errol Gulden (Sydney) - 27

  • Zak Butters (Port Adelaide) - 27

with AAP

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