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Brisbane Lions star Lachie Neale has been heavily criticised by former AFL coach Rodney Eade for not having a conversation with the club over his potential request for a trade.
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Neale joined the Lions in 2018 from the Fremantle Dockers, going on to sign a five-year agreement in 2019 which has two years remaining.
The 28-year-old went from being an elite midfielder with the Dockers to one of the best players in the game in Brisbane, culminating in his 2020 Brownlow Medal win.
However the rumours he wanted out of Brisbane, so he and his pregnant wife could start their family closer to home, have not been well received.
Speaking on RSN Radio, former Sydney Swans and Bulldogs coach Eade said it was poor form for the club to find out about Neale's feelings through the media, before they had had a chance to speak.
“Everyone’s saying it’s on compassionate grounds, but he signed a five-year deal. He would have known, signing a five-year deal, that at some stage he was going to have a family,” Eade said.
“I’m really struggling to have compassion for him. If I was Brisbane, I’d be playing really hard-ball.”
Neale met with Lions officials, including head coach Chris Fagan, on Monday, with the end result being a clarified desire from Neale that he and his wife are merely “weighing up where they would like to raise their family”.
The potential trade request has dominated AFL discussions this week, with the potential departure of Neale certain to have a significant impact on Brisbane's premiership aspirations.
The Lions have been among the most consistent teams in the past few seasons, however the Finals have proved to be a problem with a record of 1-5 under Fagan.
Lachie Neale labelled 'manipulator' in AFL trade request saga
Veteran AFL reporter Damian Barrett was also unimpressed with the manner in which the news broke, saying it had all been orchestrated by Neale.
Barrett claimed on the AFL Daily podcast that it had been a calculated move to put pressure on the Lions.
“I’m yet to come across anyone who can admit that they knew about it connected to the Brisbane Lions,” Barrett said.
“That’s the playing ranks, that’s the official ranks, the board ranks and even people around him. They had no line of sight on it until it was made public and that for me says something about Lachie Neale.
“He’s obviously a negotiator, a manipulator when it comes to things he wants done a certain way and it’s not the first time he’s done it. He walked out of a contract in Fremantle and he’s now doing it again at the Brisbane Lions.
“It’s stage managed by Lachie himself. It’s not the first time he’s done that to get out of a footy club contract.”
Neale played 135 games for the Dockers before seeking out the Lions for a fresh start at the end of 2018.
The reigning Brownlow medallist's three seasons at Brisbane have been nothing short of brilliant, but captain Dayne Zorko says the Lions are strong enough to remain in premiership contention if Neale does depart.
The Lions managed to win all seven games Neale missed due to injury and illness this year, including thumping victories over finalists Port Adelaide and GWS.
"It would be extremely disappointing (if Neale left)," Zorko told the Seven Network.
"But I think we've seen at times this year the resilience in our group; when someone's gone out of the team we've been able to fill that void.
"We've got a great young crop of players coming through, that Lachie's certainly helped develop, which is really important for us and we've called on them plenty of times.
"If a trade does happen, then I'm sure we'll get something great in return and our younger guys would get an opportunity."
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