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More light has been shed on what went on behind the scenes during the trade saga involving Brisbane star Lachie Neale, which ended on Thursday when he opted to stay with the Lions.
Talk of Neale's potential desire to return to Western Australia, where he'd have played for the Fremantle Dockers, dominated headlines in the wake of Brisbane's one-point semi-final loss to the Western Bulldogs.
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It ultimately came to nothing when Neale reaffirmed his desire to see out the final two seasons of the five year deal he signed with the Lions before the 2019 season.
The trade rumours were sparked by a rumoured desire of Neale and his wife to potentially start their family closer to family in WA.
In a video posted to the club's website on Thursday morning, Neale said 'everything has gotten a bit out of hand' throughout the week and that the prospect of leaving the Lions was never seriously on the table.
Veteran football writer Jon Ralph reported in the Herald Sun that both the Lions and Neale were blindsided when the news leaked in the wake of the semi-final loss.
The rumours prompted a meeting between Neale and club officials on Monday, before the 28-year-old later publicly stated he was staying put.
Ralph reported Neale and his wife Julie had sought more support from the club amid concerns travelling between WA and Queensland could be compromised amid the coronavirus pandemic and associated travel restrictions.
Neale admitted he and his family had spoken about leaving Brisbane, with Western Australia's tough border restrictions making the last 18 months difficult for Jules.
— Brisbane Lions (@brisbanelions) September 9, 2021
"(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 is to be at Brisbane."
However, fellow AFL reporter Damian Barrett speculated Neale had 'gotten spooked' by the fierce criticism.
“I read it that he wasn’t able to do the legwork on the potential transaction behind the scenes long enough,” Barrett said.
“He got spooked by the public element to it.
“He would have ideally been able to have these conversations without it being public, as it was for a week, and without it then needing an answer pretty quickly.
“These are the sorts of things that could have been done, in Lachie’s best interests, on the day of trade period starting. That’s when some of these big moves have happened in the past.”
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In three seasons with the Lions, Neale has won two best-and-fairest awards, been named an All Australian twice and last year collected the league's highest individual honour when he finished 10 votes clear of Port Adelaide's Travis Boak in the Brownlow Medal count.
Neale's commitment to the club is a huge relief for the Lions, who are reeling following a heartbreaking one-point semi-final defeat against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night.
It was the second time in three seasons the Lions had crashed out of the finals in straight sets, with Fagan's post-season coaching record now sitting at 1-5.
This year, Neale was down on his stellar form of 2019 and 2020 due to a number of injuries, including back, ankle and shoulder issues, but did manage to break the all-time record for possessions in a finals game.
"I think one of the biggest things is I've got unfinished business here (at the Lions)," Neale said.
"I want to be holding up the cup in a Lions jersey and that's what I'll be working towards."
Neale's father said earlier in the week the circus surrounding his sonwas 'bordering on horrific' in an illuminating radio interview.
“They need a bit of support. It’s been bordering on horrific,” he said.
“They’ve got paparazzi following them around and camped outside the house. This is not how it should have been.
"It should have been a nice quiet conversation with Brisbane and then through his management group to make the right decision and if a request was to come, fair enough, then it becomes a headline.
"It’s far from that at this stage.”
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