Even Lachie Neale admitted he was surprised to win the Brownlow Medal on Monday night, amid controversy over whether the Brisbane Lions star actually deserved the top gong. Neale became the 16th player to win multiple Brownlows, polling 31 votes to edge Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli (29) and Collingwood superstar Nick Daicos (28).
However fans and commentators are crying foul about a number of dubious votes that swung the count in Neale's favour, with many believing Bontempelli and Daicos were robbed. Most notably, Neale garnered three votes from the umpires for a game in which he had just seven kicks against GWS in round seven.
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Josh Kelly had 41 disposals in the game, Stephen Coniglio had 38 and Charlie Cameron kicked seven goals. Yet Neale got the three votes for his 20 disposals, despite not receiving any coach's votes for the game.
Collingwood fans were also left fuming that Daicos didn't poll any votes in games in which he had 38 disposals and two goals (in round four against Brisbane) and 42 disposals (in round nine against GWS). Somewhat tellingly, Neale admitted the medal "didn't sit very well" with him.
"I'm sure it will sink in at a later date," he said at a function in Brisbane with his Lions teammates. "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."
After admitting he hadn't prepared an acceptance speech, Neale paid tribute to his family and made special mention of wife Jules. "Thank you to the whole footy club. Thank you to my family. My mum, my dad. Step dad Brett. Step mum Deb. There's a few to thank but my family are such a big support for me," he said.
"My brothers and sisters. I've got too many to name. But I love you all. Thank you so much. Can't wait to see my whole family together this weekend. It will be amazing, so looking forward to that.
"To Jules, my wife. She's my rock. She puts up with way too much from me. So thank you very much. I love you. Yeah, I can't put into words what you do for me, and how well you let me do my job and support me. So thank you very much."
Lachie Neale eyeing Brownlow and grand final double
Neale became the first player to win the Brownlow without being named in the All-Australian team since former West Coast midfielder Matt Priddis in 2014. He wasn't in attendance at the ceremony in Melbourne, instead staying in Brisbane with his teammates as they prepare for Saturday's grand final against Collingwood.
"For me now, I just recognise and appreciate the opportunity that's in front of me and the team," he said about playing in a second AFL grand final after the 2013 decider while with Fremantle. "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."
Neale will be hoping to emulate Brisbane greats Jason Akermanis and Simon Black, who won the Brownlow in 2001 and 2002 respectively before backing up with grand final victory later in the week. He wouldn't buy into whether he believed in omens or not, only eyeing off helping coach Chris Fagan and fellow co-captain Harris Andrews claim glory.
I think the umpires must have got confused giving Lachie Neale three votes in round 6. 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 🤔
— Jon Ralph (@RalphyHeraldSun) September 25, 2023
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 #BrownlowMedal
— Tom Rockliff (@rockwiz38) September 25, 2023
Its simply why The Brownlow cannot be regarded as the player who was best in a season. Neale also gets 3 votes- had 20 disposals... Charlie Cameron kicked 7 lol. Mid obsession is embarrassing. https://t.co/SryndKIqsm
— Scooter (@ScooterMcNeice) September 25, 2023
Surely no one wants Brisbane to win the flag now after that travesty #Brownlow
— Chris Scholefield (@Scoey61) September 25, 2023
Take the voting off the umpires. This was an absolute disgrace this year, someone won the Brownlow off a 20 possession performance when his teammate kicked 7 and 2 opposition players had 35+ disposals. Sort it out or scrap the award
— Soufis 🇦🇺🇬🇷 (@Soufis7) September 25, 2023
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
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