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Kybybolite roars as former Tiger Lachie Neale wins Brownlow Medal with Lions


Growing up in the tiny farming town of Kybybolite, near South Australia’s border with Victoria, the young Lachie Neale was “always a little sports-mad boy”.

“He was very young when he pulled on his first pair of boots,” his mum Amanda Taylor said.

“He was certainly kicking the football or bouncing the basketball or bowling the cricket ball around the house and the garden.”

His dad Robbie Neale remembers his son “was never much help in the sheep yard”.

“He’s had a footy in his hand for quite a while.”

A Brisbane Lions AFL player runs with the ball in both hands in front of his teammates against the Adelaide Crows.
Lachie Neale (centre) in action against the Adelaide Crows in June.(AAP: Darren England)

Last night, Neale was honoured with the AFL’s top individual honour, the Brownlow Medal — much to the delight of the Kybybolite community.

The Brisbane Lions midfielder played junior football for the Kybybolite Tigers, winning a premiership in 2004, and about 100 locals watched last night’s count together at the clubrooms.

“I did say, at the end of the count, once Lachie was crowned the Brownlow Medallist, that everyone in the room would remember where they were on October 18 to celebrate that little bit of history,” club president Jamie Tidy said.

A sign next to a gate opening onto a football oval reads "Welcome to Kybybolite Memorial Sports Club, home of the Kyby Tigers"
The Kyby Tigers are hoping Neale’s success can expire them to a long-awaited premiership.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

“Our club has had some rough times but that’s up there with some of the more special things that can happen at a little country footy club.

‘They’d all love to have him home’

Ms Taylor said her son was lucky to be in a job he loved, but had worked hard to get there.

“It’s his passion and he’s always wanted to play football in the AFL,” she said.

An older man and woman hugging a young man wearing a suit and tie on a deck
Lachie Neale with stepfather Brett Shepherd and mother Amanda Taylor at last year’s Brisbane Lions best and fairest awards.(Supplied)

She said she was closely watching the Brownlow count, but became less stressed towards the end.

“I was doing the maths around [round] 10 onwards trying to work out, so about round 14–15 I was quietly confident, as long as he polled in one more game.”

Ms Taylor has received messages of support from Kybybolite locals wishing Neale well over the past couple of weeks.

Lachie Neale smiles while holding up his Brownlow Medal
Lachie Neale holds up the coveted Brownlow Medal.(AAP: Darren England)

Mr Tidy said the club had been lucky with its juniors, with five junior colt premierships in a row when Neale was in the team, alongside former AFL footballers Jack Trengove and Alex Forster.

“We’ve got a very long and proud history of good coaches and good juniors,” he said.

He said he hoped Neale’s win would inspire the club to make a little bit more history.

“Unfortunately, it’s been 46 years since our last A-grade [premiership], which I believe is the longest premiership drought in South Australian country football,” he said.



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Lachie Neale’s Brownlow Medal win completes Kybybolite kid’s evolution into the AFL’s best player


Australians love to travel, to explore this wide brown land of ours. It’s fair to say that the 2020 lockdown has changed our travelling habits.

Instead of soaking in the rays on the beach and the plains inland, most Australians have had to explore the outside world in their screens and in books.

Instead of visiting Lake Grace (population 507), you can look at the small streets and three footy ovals, or read up on its history. Instead of rolling through Moggs Creek (population 89) on the way to the Twelve Apostles, you can look at the satellite view of the town.

Almost everywhere in the world, from Aachen to Zuwarah is at your fingertips, but not under your feet. For now, the closest that most people can get to visiting a place is through an illuminated screen.

To that extent, welcome to Kybybolite, South Australia (just).

Just a two-by-two block, footy oval and some netball courts. If you don’t zoom in on it enough, it sort of disappears. If it took three hours to do all 97 kilometres of streets in Brighton, Karen, it’ll take you about 10 minutes to finish Kyby.

Just 102 people lived in Kybybolite in 2016, with an average age of 42. Mostly farming and agricultural, and best known for a research farm in town.

And the products of the mid-2000s crop of the Kyby Tigers under-14s side.

The productive crop

Most small towns, even footy-mad small towns, rarely boast elite footy players. It’s a product of Australia’s disparate landscape. Lake Grace may lay claim to Nat Fyfe, and Lance Franklin is a proud product of Dowerin, but they usually are one-offs.

That junior side, from little Kyby in the borderlands, can lay claim to three AFL players. It places the town as one of the most productive per capita places for elite footballers in recent history.

Only Osborne in NSW (the “club without a town”) and Kalkee in the Wimmera can claim per capita bragging rights over Kybybolite, but Kyby is unique in producing three AFL players from the same generation, even the same junior sides.

The first was a sure pick to be a star — Jack Trengove. Trengove got nabbed by Melbourne at pick number two in the 2009 draft, and became the youngest captain in VFL/AFL history by age 20.

When he played, he was good. But it took time to get back out there. Trengove finished up his career at Port, with 89 games under his belt. A good career for any player, despite the hype.

After Trengove came Alex Forster, a mid-sized defender who had gained attention through his draft year. Forster made the Under-18 All Australian Team, and played league football for Glenelg as well. Forster profiled as a good ball user out of defence who could also stick with opponents, but like Trengove, injuries changed his trajectory.

The former number 29 draft pick managed only one game in his two years on an AFL list, but he has gone on to be a solid player at SANFL and country levels since.

And then at pick 58 there was Lachie.

Why did Neale fall?

Despite playing local senior footy from the age of 16, being selected in the midfield of the SA under-18 side and getting senior SANFL games while still being under-18 eligible, Neale was a fringe prospect as a junior.

He literally slipped under the radar.

A Brisbane Lions AFL players runs for the ball as two Western Bulldogs opponents look on.
Neale has certainly proved height doesn’t matter.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

As the AFL evolved into a more professional sport, emphasis was increasingly placed on finding the right body types to fill roles, and moulding players to fill them.

As legendary NBA coach Red Auerbach (allegedly) said, “you can’t teach height”. You can teach tall players to do different things, but you can’t grow shorter players to be taller.

Coming into his draft year, Neale was small. At 174 centimetres, only a handful of players had been taken fresh in the national draft at that height or below between 1999 and 2010, and just four in the top 50.

In more recent years, the trend away from shorter players has changed. Perhaps the realisation hit that for as much of the game known in the northern states as aerial ping-pong is played above the head, a lot of the important bits are played at ground level.

Neale himself put it best, when interviewed before the draft:

As Neale entered his draft year, two things broke his way. First, he grew about an inch, which may have been enough in the eyes of some recruiters. It is hard to believe that such a minor factor can change opinions, but footy is often a game of small margins.

Second, and far more importantly, Neale played so well that he couldn’t be refused. He racked up touches at the Under-18 Championships, in schoolboy footy and at local level.

He also proved that he could compete against bigger bodies in senior footy. Neale enhanced his reputation the same way former Kyby teammate Trengove did — he stood out in a senior SANFL final.

While none of the ardent draft watchers placed Neale in their Phantom Drafts and there was no sizzle reel online for him, Neale was picked up by Fremantle in the third round of the draft at pick 58 — one round later than his other former Kyby teammate, Forster.

It was late, but Neale had the same opportunity as the number one pick.

The evolution of Neale

Lachie Neale handballs a football while being tackled by a Western Bulldogs player.
Fremantle’s peak years unfortunately didn’t coincide with Neale’s.(AAP: Tony McDonough)

Neale started at Freo as a small forward, like many draftees. Playing senior footy almost immediately post draft, it didn’t take long for him to find a place in a strong Dockers outfit. His first year was almost unrecognisable from the player we know today.

For a player who averaged more than seven clearances per game last year, he only earnt seven in his entire first season.

Over time, Neale was added to an already potent Dockers midfield mix, floating between Fyfe, Mundy, Barlow and Co. Once he proved height didn’t matter when the ball was on the deck, he was able to truly show what he could do.

It took until 2016 until Neale locked his spot up in the Fremantle inner core — after the peak years of the Dockers had ebbed away.

How Neale stood out this year

Before 2020, everyone knew Neale could win the hard ball and ensure his team would keep it. This year, he introduced the most dangerous element of all for a modern player — risk.

With a better set defensive structure behind him, Neale was willing to try to do more with the ball and live with the consequences that it occasionally wouldn’t come off.

A turnover in the forward line for the Lions is usually just another chance for its stellar intercept markers to create another attacking opportunity, and lock the ball in their forward half.

Neale’s disposal efficiency sank this year, and his turnovers rose, but so did his score involvements and metres gained (when adjusted for shorter games). Instead of being a ball accumulator, he became a super aggressive weapon.

Neale also has the most shots on goal per game of any season in his career to date — better than even when he was playing as a forward. While Brisbane seems to encourage more risky shots on goal, Neale is also finding space to get those shots off.

In modern footy, that extra split second is what separates a good player from a great one.

The arrival of Jarryd Lyons and development of young players like Jarrod Berry and Hugh McCluggage, has allowed Neale to further evolve his role. Even in the accumulation of individual awards, the team is paramount in footy.

Playing in a good team helps of course (just four of 23 Brownlow winners since 2000 played for sides that missed finals) but one player can only do so much.

On Saturday night, Neale dominated in the clinches and was arguably the best on ground for the Lions. Sometimes the other team is just better on the day.

Neale led the Lions for clearances, score involvements, effective disposals and was second for metres gained, marks and inside 50s in the Lions’ comprehensive loss to Geelong.

Sometimes even the best efforts of one player can’t lift a team of 22, especially when facing a dominant side.

While he doesn’t leave the 2020 season with a premiership medallion around his neck, Neale does have a Brownlow Medal and a place in the conversation for the best player in the game.

There might have to be a new sign in Kyby too:

Welcome to Kybybolite — Home of 2020 Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale.



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Brownlow Medal live: Lachie Neale the favourite, AFL players and partners gather for different ceremony


The 2020 Brownlow Medal is here — but not as you know it.

Follow all the glamour and drama of the night, with Brisbane’s Lachie Neale the favourite to take home the medal.

Live updates

By Dean Bilton

What do we know about tonight? 

 

While much of how tonight will work is a mystery, there are a few things we know for sure. We know that players will be gathering in little mini-Brownlow events all over the country, so as to stay in line with coronavirus restrictions. We know that Lachie Neale is the favourite. That’s about it.

  

By Dean Bilton

A Brownlow Medal night with a difference 

 

Hello one and all and welcome, on this fine Sunday night in mid-October, to the 2020 Brownlow Medal. A strange season in a strange year has tossed up a strange Brownlow night, with so many of the event’s traditions made impossible by the rona and whatnot.

 

And so we are left with… whatever this is. A rearranged and rescheduled digital ceremony that, if nothing else, should at least allow us to crown and celebrate the best player of this AFL season.

 

How will it work? Not really sure! Will everyone still be wearing the fancy clothes? Don’t know! Can anyone stop Lachie Neale from winning? Probably not! But we’re going to have some fun finding out. Stick around for the night as we navigate this peculiar COVID Brownlow together.



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When is the Brownlow Medal 2020, how can I watch and why is Lachie Neale the favourite


As you are no doubt aware, things have been a little bit different across all walks of life in 2020, and the Brownlow Medal has not been spared.

Usually it’s a lavish ceremony in Melbourne, where all the game’s best and brightest gather with their partners and key AFL dignitaries to celebrate the season and name the best individual player.

This year, for reasons so obvious they need not be named, that can’t happen. But the show, in some form, must go on and the 2020 Brownlow will be one like no other before.

Here’s how it will work, how you can watch it and who is (probably) going to win it.

When is the 2020 Brownlow Medal?

Sunday night, October 18 at 7:00pm AEDT.

Yes, it’s on a Sunday night this year instead of a Monday, just to keep the changes coming.

The winner is set to be officially crowned (medalled?) at 9:30pm AEDT.

A tight head shot of Nat Fyfe holding up the Brownlow Medal near his face.
Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe won the award last year.(AAP: Julian Smith)

Where is it being held?

All over the country. The Brownlow this year will be a made-for-TV digital event, with socially distanced functions set to be held at six separate venues across the country.

The invited players will either be at Channel Seven studios in Melbourne or Sydney, Perth Stadium, Carrara Stadium or Adelaide Oval.

Will there be a red carpet this year?

Not as such, no, but you can bet that players and partners will be dressed to the nines for their respective events regardless.

Clayton Oliver leans down to lift the trail of his partner's dress on the Brownlow Medal red carpet
The traditional Brownlow red carpet won’t go ahead, but players and partners will certainly still be dressing up.(AAP: Julian Smith)

In fact, given the change in format, players have reportedly been told they don’t need to follow a strict black tie dress code and might get a little creative with their suit options.

How can I watch the Brownlow?

It will be on Channel Seven and its affiliate channel 7Mate from 7:00pm AEDT.

You can also follow along in our live blog, which will have all the pseudo-red carpet colour and drama of the count, from 4:30pm AEDT.

Who is going to win it?

Lachie Neale, more than likely.

A Brisbane Lions AFL player holds the ball in both hands during a match against Fremantle at the Gabba.
Lachie Neale is the runaway favourite for this year’s medal.(AAP: Darren England)

The Brisbane Lions midfielder has been the favourite for most of the season, and his sensational and awfully consistent play has deserved it.

Most predictors have Neale coming out on top by a good few votes, but don’t discount a run from Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak or Melbourne’s Christian Petracca.

How is the Brownlow decided?

After every home and away game, the umpires select their three best players from the match, with three votes going to the player they judge to have been the best, two to the next and so on.

Those votes are kept secret until the night of the Brownlow ceremony, where they are read out and a winner is crowned.



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Patrick Dangerfield named AFL’s All-Australian captain, Lachie Neale wins AFLPA Most Valuable Player award


Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield has made a record-equalling eighth appearance in the All-Australian team and been selected as captain for the first time.

He was joined in the All-Australian line-up by Brisbane’s Lachie Neale, who claimed the AFL Players’ Association’s (AFLPA) Most Valuable Player and AFL Coaches Association’s (AFLCA) Champion Player of the Year awards.

In the other awards announced on Thursday night, Fremantle midfielder Caleb Serong won the Rising Star and Geelong’s Tom Hawkins collected the Coleman Medal following his 42-goal season.

Dangerfield continued his perfect streak of being named in the AFL’s best 22 every year since his high-profile move to the Cats from Adelaide in 2016.

He joins elite company with Robert Harvey (St Kilda), Mark Ricciuto (Adelaide), Gary Ablett Snr, Gary Ablett Jnr (Geelong) and Lance Franklin (Sydney) as the only other players to have earned eight All-Australian blazers.

Port Adelaide midfielder Travis Boak was handed the vice-captaincy, with the 32-year-old named in the team for the third time in his career.

Boak is joined in the midfield by Neale, Melbourne ace Christian Petracca and West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui, whose second All-Australian appearance comes eight years after his first.

Explosive Demon Petracca is one of 12 debutants in the team, with the entire half-back line all first-timers.

Collingwood’s Darcy Moore was slotted into centre half-back, while GWS’ Nick Haynes and the Power’s Darcy Byrne-Jones are on either side of the Magpies tall.

Eleven clubs are represented with Geelong, Port Adelaide, West Coast and the Western Bulldogs leading the selections with three players each.

Despite Richmond having three players included in the 40-man squad on Tuesday, selectors decided to only pick superstar Dustin Martin from the reigning premiers after the dual Norm Smith medallist’s shock omission last year.

If it was not for the 2019 snub, this would have been Martin’s fifth-straight selection after being one of the first players picked from 2016 to 2018.

Neale firms as Brownlow Medal favourite

Neale, who is the red-hot favourite to take home the Brownlow Medal, was a clear MVP winner with 1,120 votes from his peers.

Boak (419) and Petracca (398) filled out the podium.

“It’s an award that I’m super proud to have won, to be voted by those who I play with and against makes it a really special award,” Neale said.

“I really respect the opinion of the other players and to be voted by them this year is something that I will look back on and be really proud of.

Neale, who earned his second All-Australian selection, led the AFL for disposals in 2020 and ranked in the top five for clearances and contested possessions.

A Brisbane Lions AFL player holds the ball in both hands during a match against Fremantle at the Gabba.
Lachie Neale is considered the outright favourite to win the Brownlow Medal.(AAP: Darren England)

He will be crucial to Brisbane’s premiership chances, starting with next week’s qualifying final against Richmond.

“There’s no guarantees that we get to that last game but we’ve set up the season really well and hopefully we can get there,” Neale said.

“There’s a lot of hard work to do before then and some great teams in our way.

“But I’m really confident in our playing group and our coaching group that we can get there.”

Neale won the AFLCA award with 93 votes, ahead of Petracca (78) and Boak (77).

Serong named Rising Star

Serong became the Dockers’ third Rising Star winner after edging out Gold Coast’s Noah Anderson.

The number eight pick in last year’s draft polled 48 votes to finish nine clear of Anderson, who was selected second by the Suns.

The 19-year-old is the Dockers’ first Rising Star winner since Rhys Palmer in 2008, with Paul Hasleby taking it out in 2000.

A Fremantle Dockers AFL player handballs to his right against Gold Coast Suns.
Caleb Serong enjoyed an outstanding debut season with the Dockers.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

He received the maximum five votes from eight of the 10 judges, with Kevin Bartlett and Chris Johnson giving their top honours to Anderson.

Serong shot to prominence in round eight after capturing 22 possessions and kicking a goal in a head-to-head duel with Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield.

Most of the Rising Star hype until that point had been around Gold Coast midfielder Matthew Rowell, but last year’s number one draft pick played just five matches after requiring shoulder surgery.

Serong averaged 16.8 disposals and 3.4 clearances across his 14 matches, combining with fellow young on-ballers Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw to give support to dual Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe.

AAP/ABC



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Lachie Hunter of Western Bulldogs gives up vice-captaincy over alleged drink-driving crash


Updated

April 21, 2020 18:03:11

Western Bulldogs player Lachie Hunter has been fined, suspended for four games and has given up the club vice-captaincy following an alleged drink-driving crash in Melbourne last week.

Key points:

  • Hunter has also been ordered to undertake mandatory alcohol counselling
  • Teammate Billy Gowers was fined $5,000 for breaching the club’s code of conduct
  • Club CEO Ameet Bains said Hunter had accepted full responsibility for the crash and wanted to apologise

Hunter is expected to face criminal charges after recording a blood alcohol result of 0.123 after four parked cars were hit last Thursday.

Highway patrol officers were called to Wright Street in Middle Park at about 8:45pm.

The driver of the Toyota SUV was not there but police found a wine bottle and a Western Bulldogs training bag with the number seven on it inside the car.

After an investigation by the club, Bulldogs chief executive office Ameet Bains said Hunter had volunteered to step down as vice-captain and had relinquished his position in the leadership group.

He was fined $5,000 by the club for drink driving, which also imposed suspended fines totalling $15,000 for other breaches.

Hunter will also serve a four-match ban when the AFL season resumes.

He will be required to undergo mandatory alcohol counselling and to do some form of community service.

Mr Bains said he was “extremely disappointed” with Hunter’s conduct.

“Including his choice to drink alcohol, his choice to drink and drive, his choice to ignore social-distancing laws and a series of other choices he made in the aftermath of the crash,” Mr Bains said.

“Lachie’s behaviour put himself and others at risk and that is not acceptable.

“While there are clearly many pressures that people are facing in current circumstances, including Lachie, that is no excuse.”

Bailey Smith, Billy Gowers also fined

Coincidentally, the crash happened outside the home of teammate Bailey Smith’s girlfriend.

When Smith came out to see what had happened, Hunter asked to be driven to the apartment of another teammate, Billy Gowers.

Smith was fined for breaching social-distancing rules imposed by the Chief Health Officer.

Billy Gowers was handed a suspended $5,000 fine for conduct which “fell short” of what the club expected of the players, Mr Bains said.

Hunter was not at a press conference when the penalties were announced because of social-distancing rules.

But Mr Bains said he had accepted full responsibility for his actions and wanted to make a public apology for his behaviour.

“Lachie knows he made a series of poor choices which put himself and others at risk,” Mr Bains said.

“He’s accepted full responsibility for this and the accident and will compensate each of the vehicle owners affected.”

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First posted

April 21, 2020 17:56:49



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Western Bulldog Lachie Hunter fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions over drink-driving incident


Updated

April 17, 2020 13:18:43

The Western Bulldogs vice-captain Lachie Hunter will be charged with drink driving after he allegedly crashed into four parked cars in Melbourne’s south.

Key points:

  • Hunter has been charged with drink-driving offences after allegedly crashing into four parked cars in Middle Park
  • He was also allegedly fined for breaching the Chief Health Officer’s coronavirus directions
  • President Peter Gordon said it was “a regrettable incident and we need to get some answers”

Highway patrol officers were called to Wright Street in Middle Park at about 8:45pm on Thursday.

The driver of the Toyota SUV was not there but they found a wine bottle and a Western Bulldogs training bag with the number seven on it inside the car.

Hunter was later found at a property in South Yarra and was given a preliminary breath test with a reading of 0.123 — more than double the legal limit.

It’s expected Hunter will be charged on summons with drink driving and other traffic matters.

Police suspended Hunter’s licence for 12 months and he was also fined $1652 for a breach of the coronavirus directions issued by the Chief Health Officer.

Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon told the ABC he was concerned about the allegations and regarded them as very serious.

“This is, to say the very least, a regrettable incident and we need to get some answers,” he said.

“We obviously don’t want to encourage anyone to breach social distancing laws at a time when what we’re doing as a community is so important and the need for people not to drink drive is something that everyone, certainly everyone connected to the AFL, has had reinforced to them on multiple occasions.”

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told 3AW the league’s integrity unit was investigating the matter.

“There is always individual circumstances in mitigation but clearly drink driving is just clearly unacceptable under any circumstances and the rules around the quarantine in which all our community live, is very clear as well,” he said.

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First posted

April 17, 2020 08:43:23



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Western Bulldogs vice-captain Lachie Hunter allegedly caught drink driving in Melbourne


Updated

April 17, 2020 09:21:44

The Western Bulldogs have begun an investigation after vice-captain Lachie Hunter allegedly crashed into several cars overnight while driving drunk in Melbourne’s south.

Key points:

  • Hunter is expected to be charged with drink-driving offences after allegedly crashing into four parked cars
  • He was also allegedly fined for breaching physical-distancing rules
  • President Peter Gordon said Hunter was a “good young man” but it was “behaviour we don’t want to see”

Highway patrol officers were called to Wright Street in Middle Park at about 8:45pm on Thursday where a Toyota SUV had crashed into four parked cars.

The driver had fled the scene.

A Western Bulldogs training bag with a number seven printed on it was seen inside the car.

Hunter was allegedly found at a property in South Yarra and given a preliminary breath test with a reading of 0.123 — more than double the legal limit.

His licence was allegedly suspended for 12 months and he’s expected to be charged on summons with drink driving and other traffic matters.

Hunter was also allegedly fined $1,652 for breaching physical-distancing rules.

Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon told the ABC he was yet to speak with Hunter but said the vice-captain was “a good young man”.

“Sadly it’s a reflection of not dealing with the pressure of what a whole lot of us are under at the moment but you can’t see that as an excuse,” Mr Gordon said.

“This is behaviour we don’t want to see.”

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First posted

April 17, 2020 08:43:23



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