Brisbane Lions star Lachie Neale has taken out this year’s Brownlow medal after being voted best on ground in more than half of the AFL games he played.
His dad, Robbie, who can recite the last 40 Brownlow medallists by heart “might have a tear in his eye” doing it now, Neale said after polling 31 votes from 17 games to top Sunday night’s count.
“He loves his footy. I learned the love of the game from him,” the 27-year-old said.
Neale beat Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak who polled 21 votes, the biggest gap between first and second place in the history of the Brownlow.
He has also become the first-ever AFL player to get 25 votes in 12 rounds.
Two-time Brownlow winner Nat Fyfe was the only other player to have come this close, with 23 votes after round 12.
Footy’s night of nights, which went virtual for the first time, was largely criticised for forcing players to hand themselves their own awards.
Meanwhile, Seven copped heat for not streaming the event online.
Robbie was among the influential figures that Neale thanked in his acceptance speech, noting “our relationship has grown and developed every year and I can honestly say now he is one of my best mates”.
The gun midfielder, dubbed Lion King, was voted best on ground in 10 of the 17 matches he played this season.
He joins a prestigious list of Brownlow medallists that includes his childhood hero and 1993 winner Gavin Wanganeen.
“People remember Brownlow medallists, what they achieve and whatnot. For me to be in that category, it doesn’t really sit well,” Neale said.
“Because I just admire so many players who have won them, they’re greats of the game. It’s incredibly humbling.”
His win came a night after Geelong defeated Brisbane by 40 points in their preliminary-final at the Gabba, with Neale admitting he was still terribly flat after the loss.
But he has put his Brisbane side “on the hook” and vowed not to stop until the next box is ticked – winning a premiership.
“That’s what I want, what I crave and I don’t think we’re going to stop until we get there.
“I’m willing to put us on the hook; this group can have a really sustained successful period and I look forward to being a part of it,” Neale said.
The Lions have gone from five-win seasons in 2017 and 2018 to second place regular-season finishes in the two years since Neale has joined the club.
“We know we’ve got to put in the work every summer, every off-season, otherwise teams will go past us.”
Streaming from the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast where the majority of players were, the virtual event was slammed by some AFL fans as “cringeworthy” and “excruciating” to watch.
Neale’s former Fremantle teammate Fyfe presented him with the Brownlow medal but Neale had to pick it up and place it around his own neck.
Meanwhile, Mark of the Year winner Sam Walsh and Goal of the Year winner Josh Daicos were asked to hand themselves their awards, which fans say was bizarre and unnecessary.
Sports broadcaster Sam McInnes tweeted: “Sam Walsh had to present himself the “Mark of the Year” award. Surely someone in the room could‘ve passed it to him!”
Sydney Morning Herald sports reporter Andrew Wu tweeted: “Why couldn’t someone present the medal to Lachie Neale? Surely not because of social distancing, or even the optics of it. What else is the point of having an indoor gathering for a vote count?”
Seven was also criticised for not streaming the event online.
“So let get me this straight, first ever online Brownlow and you can‘t watch it online nor see a tracker online?” 2011 Brownlow winner Dane Swan wrote.
The black-tie dress code went out the window last night but this did not stop attendees from going all out.
Despite there being no Crown entrance, Neale’s wife Julie, like many other players’ partners, wore a floor-length gown.
And all players came suited up to the small team functions which took place in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.
Some looks from the night
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BROWNLOW • A pleasure working with Julie Neale this year for tonight’s #aflbrownlowmedal – Good luck @lachieneale . A huge thank you to @sarah.m.mccarthy of @spherebridalgallery who styled Julie in @chosenbyoneday , with Covid restrictions you made this possible. Gown – @chosenbyoneday Stylist @sarah.m.mccarthy Jewellery @natashaschweitzer Hair @mikkiauldhair Make up @makeupbytihanna #brownlowmedal #brownlowredcarpet #brownlowmedal2020
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