Lachie Neale stunned the AFL when he won the Brownlow Medal in 2020, but the star showed that he may have been the tip of the iceberg.
Brisbane Lions star Lachey Neal inspired his side to 16.14 (110) to 15.6 (96) on the GWS Giants, and arguably showed better form than his record run at Brownlow.
The 2020 Brownlow Medal winner received 31 votes in just 17 games during the Covid shortened season with the most points per game in the award’s history under the 3-2-1 voting system.
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But while he’s been fantastic in 2020, even Neal thinks he’s doing better this season and his performance against the Giants showed exactly why.
Although Neal had a difficult season last year, he lost two months of footy with an ankle injury and then stopped reacting after being linked with a return to Fremantle.
But speaking to 3AW Sports Day this week, Neal said he took it to another level in 2022 and was going even better than when he took home the biggest singles award in the NFL.
“I feel like I’ve taken steps forward this year in my game, everyone knows and I know I was mediocre last year – I haven’t played well at all,” he said.
“From 2020, yes I feel like a better player than I was at the time.
“I have a long season ahead of me, but I’m happy with my start compared to last year in particular.”
He also revealed that he dropped 4-5kg during his off season, and although he lost some muscle, he said “it’s paying off at the moment”.
And the Giants felt their fury when the Lions rebounded from 30 points in the first quarter as Neil inspired his team with 39 eliminations, two goals, 19 disputed possessions, nine eliminations and 6 interventions.
Three-time Premier League winner with Lions Alastair Lynch was blown away by Neil’s form.
“He was a star,” Lynch told Fox Footy.
“Two years ago Brownlow, last year he was hit and didn’t have a pre-season, he was hit and chased his tail all year.
“I have just seen the consistency in getting him on the right track in pre-season. He is clearly playing better football than he was two years ago when he won the Brownlow title. I think he is a more damaging player, just such a clean player.”
David King agreed, adding: “Patrick Krebs is going well and will cause some problems, but 2022 is better than 2020 when he won it.”
After the surprise loss to the Hawthorns last Sunday, the Lions improved their record to 9-2 while the Giants dropped to 3-8 but lost no friends due to the way they took the fight to Brisbane throughout the afternoon.
Neil, Jarrod Perry (his career-high 33 eliminations, eight in the fifties and six passes) and Cam Rayner (career-highest of 25 disposes) were the main drivers in the hard-hit Brisbane midfield in the first quarter, but they found On Foti and Mojo bypassing the GWS with Link McCarthy, who scored four goals for the Lions.
The Lions put the pedal on metal in Season Three, scoring five goals to two to clear the tired giants. And Neil’s surprise shot in the third game of Brisbane’s advantage to 19 points to follow a wonderful goal by Dave Robertson.
A booming running goal for Brandon Starsevich that made Brisbane a 26-point lead was trimmed to 21 with the latest change.
But the Giants couldn’t cut the lead much further, and eventually went down by 14 points.
With Greg Davis, NCA Newswire
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