By Jon Pierik
Brisbane Lions star Lachie Neale joined an exclusive club of those who’ve won multiple Brownlow Medals after edging Marcus Bontempelli to claim the sport’s highest individual honour in an extraordinary count on Monday night.
Neale, who was in Brisbane with his Lions teammates preparing for Saturday’s grand final against Collingwood, added to his 2020 medal by polling 31 votes, ahead of Bontempelli (29) and Nick Daicos (28). Sydney dynamo Errol Gulden (27) stormed home, while Port Adelaide’s Zak Butters (27) also had a strong finish to the season.
Lachie Neale couldn’t quite believe he’d won a second Brownlow Medal.Credit: AFL Photos
Already the fourth Brisbane Lion to win the league’s best and fairest, in 2020, Neale, the Lions’ co-captain, became the 16th player to have claimed multiple medals, and the first since Nat Fyfe tasted success in 2015 and 2019.
Neale is a proven vote-getter with 156 to his credit through his strong career, finishing runner-up last year, and equal third in 2019. He finished with seven best on grounds to win this year’s count.
“I am pretty rattled to be honest, I didn’t expect this. To be among those who have won two, I didn’t expect this,” Neale said.
“I am exhausted. I can’t wait to get to bed.”
His victory came after an exciting final round of voting. He and Daicos were locked on 28 votes each after round 23, with Christian Petracca, Bontempelli and Gulden two behind.
FINAL BROWNLOW MEDAL LEADERBOARD
Bontempelli had the lead when he polled the maximum three votes against Carlton, but Neale regained the outright advantage when his votes for a best-on-ground effort against St Kilda were read aloud by AFL chief Gillon McLachlan.
Gulden received only one vote against Melbourne in round 24, while Petracca did not poll. Gulden had a stunning finish, with six best on grounds from round 15.
Emerging Gold Coast star Noah Anderson had also been in contention before falling away after round 18.
It was heartache for Daicos, whose superb season came to a close with a hairline fracture of his knee against Hawthorn in round 21, leaving him the vote leader on 28, the most votes by a second-year player ever.
Neale shows off his prized medal after picking up a Brownlow for a second time.Credit: Getty Images
“That’s amazing, super humbling. Very cool,” Daicos said when interviewed after round 21.
He didn’t give himself much hope of retaining the lead, as he tipped Bontempelli to finish strongly. At this point, he led Petracca by two and Bontempelli and Neale by four. Gulden (23) and Anderson (22) remained close.
Neale had a best on ground against Collingwood in round 23 to tie with Daicos, before taking the top award for the second time. He averaged 27 disposals per game this season, his thoughts now turning to Saturday’s grand final against Collingwood.
Brownlow host Hamish McLachlan interviews winner Neale, who watched the count from Brisbane with his Lions preparing for the weekend’s grand final.Credit: AFL Photos / Getty Images
There was an early logjam at the top of the leaderboard, with Daicos, Petracca, Bontempelli and Neale making an impression.
Daicos stole the show in the opening two rounds with five votes. Bontempelli got his count going with best on ground against Brisbane in round three, while Petracca’s three votes in round four against West Coast gave him eight after four rounds.
After five rounds, Daicos had regained the lead, his three votes for a season-high 42 touches against St Kilda leaving him with 10 votes, ahead of Petracca (nine) and Neale (seven), the latter polling in four straight rounds.
Butters had a slow start, his three votes against the Western Bulldogs after a game-high 17 contested possessions in round five his introduction to the count.
The top five on the Brownlow leaderboard.Credit: The Age
Daicos had his third best-on-ground when he was the Anzac Day medallist after 40 disposals against Essendon, but Bontempelli and Neale also enjoyed maximum votes in round six.
Petracca had his third best-on-ground for his 35 disposals against North Melbourne in round seven, while Neale had two votes against Fremantle, the pair a vote behind leader Daicos after seven rounds.
Petracca grabbed the lead with three votes against Gold Coast in round eight, Adelaide skipper Jordan Dawson also starring with a best on ground against Geelong. Having reached double digits in votes, Dawson’s surge continued when he had three votes for 33 disposals against St Kilda in round nine, taking his tally to 13.
Errol Gulden was one of the Brownlow vote count’s biggest surprise packets.Credit: AFL Photos
The steady Neale was again in the thick of the action with two votes against Essendon, Petracca retaining the lead. Butters had his second bag of three votes, but had much ground to make up.
He did that with 41 disposals, and three votes, against Melbourne in round 10, but Petracca polled a vote. Neale, meanwhile, had three votes against Gold Coast, the eighth time he had polled votes in 10 rounds, to replace Petracca at the top of the leaderboard.
“I reckon Lachie has got it in the bag,” Petracca said after round 11.
Anderson, the surprise of the evening, vaulted into second spot for his three votes against Adelaide in round 12, but Petracca, with three votes against Carlton, regained the lead. Daicos, with two votes against West Coast, also remained in contention.
Neale, dominant against Sydney, polled three votes in round 14 to return to the top of the leaderboard. Bontempelli’s best on ground against North Melbourne produced his first votes in six rounds, while Butters, with two votes, taking his tally to 14, was within striking distance.
Anderson’s eye-opening run continued, with three votes against Hawthorn in round 15, while Daicos also had a best on ground, against Adelaide, to join Anderson and Petracca in equal second (19 votes) behind Neale (20).
The big names got moving in round 16. Neale, Bontempelli and Daicos all had polled three votes each, while Petracca had two. Daicos had another best on ground a week later to regain the lead, and when a further three came against Fremantle – his fourth best-on-ground in a row – he had regained the lead, and had the most votes (28) ever by a second year player. Anderson and Petracca also earned the maximum votes, Petracca three behind Daicos, and Anderson six behind. Neale, on 24, was still within striking distance.
Man on a mission: Collingwood star Nick Daicos was one of the favourites heading into the Brownlow Medal count.Credit: Getty Images
There was a different vibe between the tables. While St Kilda and Sydney were a touch rowdy and celebrated every vote, there was a lot of nervous energy around Collingwood.
The tables featuring Geelong and Carlton were relaxed, while Butters’ mum was a vision of pride each time her son polled a vote.
Brisbane rookie Will Ashcroft won goal of the year for his mid-air effort from the pocket against Fremantle in round seven, while Greater Western Sydney tall Harry Himmelberg won mark of the year for his huge leap against Adelaide in round one.
Carlton’s Sam Docherty claimed the Jim Stynes Community Award.
Keep up to date with the best AFL coverage in the country. Sign up for the Real Footy newsletter.