Neale an uncomfortable Brownlow favourite

·4-min read

Lachie Neale has admitted he wouldn't be entirely comfortable with a second Brownlow Medal hanging around his neck.

But to the rest of the AFL world, it would be a fitting result after a career-best campaign from Brisbane's midfield ball-magnet.

"He's had a great season," Geelong coach Chris Scott said before the Cats took down Neale's Lions in the preliminary final.

"I'd expect he'll win the Brownlow ... he certainly has to be in that conversation given the year he's had."

Neale, who won his first Brownlow Medal in the COVID-affected 2020 season, is a narrow favourite this year ahead of a pack of elite on-ballers, with the so-called "midfielder's medal" all but certain to live up to its name again.

Melbourne gun Clayton Oliver, Carlton captain Patrick Cripps, emerging Fremantle star Andrew Brayshaw and Gold Coast co-captain Touk Miller are all fancied, and were all named in the All-Australian side.

Brayshaw was named the AFLPA MVP, while Miller and Oliver shared the AFLCA player-of-the-year award.

A tight count is forecast with Demons star Christian Petracca also in the mix, while Geelong key forward Jeremy Cameron is the highest-rated non-midfielder in betting markets but will start at long odds.

If Neale does claim a second Brownlow, he will join former teammate Nat Fyfe and retired greats Gary Ablett Jnr, Adam Goodes and Chris Judd as multiple winners of the game's most prestigious individual award this century.

"I'd be pretty embarrassed and it wouldn't sit comfortably on that list but I think there's a number of guys that can win it this year," Neale said this month.

"I don't think it'll happen. Guys like Oliver, Brayshaw, Cripps - those three will be really high."

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if the Lions' main man in the midfield salutes.

One of Neale's greatest admirers, Fagan declared the diminutive star's Brownlow-winning campaign in 2020 a "pretty special year".

But he said Neale had reached new heights after battling injuries last season.

"Probably he has played better (than ever in 2022) because he gets more attention now," Fagan said.

"He's got to play at a high level with an opponent sweating on him. His actions inspire."

Neale admitted his 2021 campaign "didn't go as planned" but said there was no secret to his return to top form.

"I was always really confident if I got a good pre-season in I could get back to a high level of footy," Neale said.

"I had absolute confidence in the work I put in. It is cliche but if you put in then it's going to yield results.

"It's a funny one. For me I have an inner belief when I'm playing my best footy I'm the best out there and you've got to have that at times.

"But in this environment (in front of the media) or at home on the couch and someone says you're the Brownlow favourite, I think, 'Far out.'

"It doesn't seem real to me."

Neale and a handful of Brisbane teammates will stay in Melbourne to attend Sunday night's Brownlow Medal count, following their preliminary final defeat to Geelong.

As was the case in 2020, a Neale win on Brownlow night would be some consolation for the Lions after crashing out of the premiership race at the hands of the Cats.

"It would be awesome for him to get some reward for the awesome year that he's had," Brisbane defender Harris Andrews said.

"He's one of the great team players and he'll be absolutely hurting (from the finals defeat) but I'm sure the boys will get around him if he does win it, regardless.

"It would be pretty awesome to see him become a two-time Brownlow (medallist)."

The Brownlow Medal count, which was brought forward one day because of a clash with the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, will be held at Melbourne's Crown Palladium for the first time since 2019.