Lions gun Lachie Neale has received the ultimate pre-finals boost with a silverware heist at the AFL awards event on Thursday night.
The disposal king was judged the competition’s best player by his peers and the coaches as he led the way for the Lions as they secured a top two finish at the completion of the home and away season for the second year in a row.
The 27-year-old was a runaway winner of Leigh Matthews Trophy as the 2020 AFL Players’ Most Valuable Player.
Neale, who finished third in last year’s MVP award, gathered a whopping 1120 votes, ahead of Port Adelaide veteran Travis Boak (419 votes) and Melbourne best and fairest Christian Petracca (398 votes).
Recently crowned Coleman Medal winner, Tom Hawkins (370 votes), and St Kilda midfielder Jack Steele (207 votes) completed the top five.
“That is an awesome one to get, I greatly respect the opinion of the players around the competition who we compete against every week and to be voted by them as the MVP is very humbling,’’ he said.
“There are some great names who have won that and none more so than Leigh Matthews himself so I will be really proud to look back on this once the season is done.
“To be voted in by your fellow players is a special feeling.’’
He was presented with the trophy by AFL Players’ Association President and the 2016 MVP winner, Patrick Dangerfield.
“Lachie has been the standout player in the competition and it’s no surprise that he’s won the vote of the players this year,” Dangerfield said.
“He’s got that balance between inside and outside play that midfielders aim to strike. He’s tough at the clinches and can also hurt teams with his ball use. He saw a former teammate in Nat Fyfe win this award a few years ago and now he’s got a Leigh Matthews Trophy of his own.”
Dual MVP winner Nathan Fyfe, a confidant and former teammate of Neale’s during their time together at Fremantle, said years of hard work was now paying off for the Lions midfielder.
“He's been incredibly consistent throughout his career and that starts with the way he applies himself with his preparation,” he said.
“Lachie goes about his business quietly behind closed doors and is always looking for avenues to improve - whether that's seeking out past players, coaching staff or anyone who might help him gain a competitive edge.
“He's always working to get his body and mind in a position to be able to execute what is required of him to the highest standard. It's very rare that you'd see him put together two quarters where he isn't at his best.”
Close friend and teammate, Lincoln McCarthy, praised Neale’s coolness under pressure on and off the field.
“He's really obsessive at wanting to make sure he's doing everything he can to be the best,” McCarthy said.
“But he’s also super measured and there’s never a time in his game or in his life where you think he’s erratic. He’s just so calm and measured in everything he does.”
Neale completed the clean sweep when he was named the Shadforth Financial Group AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year.
The 2019 Merrett-Murray medallist was once again the model of consistency, playing every game in 2020 and producing big numbers around the ground.
His prolific ball winning form saw him lead the AFL in total disposals and ground ball gets and rank top five in centre clearances, contested possessions and score involvements.
In six games this season Neale polled the perfect ten coaches votes to finish with 93 votes. A sizzling season and the perfect ten in Round 18 landed Melbourne dynamo Christian Petracca in second place on 78 votes, one vote ahead of Port Adelaide star Travis Boak, who polled 77 votes to finish in third place.
“I’m thrilled to receive this award. The coaches are the greatest minds in the game and to receive this type of recognition from them is very humbling and something I’m proud of” he said.
He was presented with the award by his own Chris Fagan who said it was Neale’s dedication to his craft that made him the player he had become.
“Lachie is relentless in his efforts to improve, he wants to be the best player he can be and he wants success for our club,’’ he said.
“That drive sets a standard for everyone at the Lions.
“His preparation is first class, he works incredibly hard on the fundamentals of the game and his appetite to learn is insatiable.
“As a coach you can’t ask for any more than that.’’