Flag focus over Brownlow for Lions’ co-captain Neale

Shayne Hope |

Brisbane Lions’ Lachie Neale is fit and raring to go for the new AFL season.
Brisbane Lions’ Lachie Neale is fit and raring to go for the new AFL season.

Lachie Neale could join an elite group of AFL greats by winning a third Brownlow Medal this season, but the Brisbane Lions star insists his sole focus is on tasting premiership success for the first time.

Neale became a dual winner of the competition’s most prestigious individual honour last year, polling 31 votes to finish two clear of Western Bulldogs midfield ace Marcus Bontempelli.

It put the Brisbane co-captain on the verge of becoming the fifth player – after Haydn Bunton (Fitzroy), Dick Reynolds (Essendon), Bob Skilton (South Melbourne) and Ian Stewart (St Kilda and Richmond) – to win it three times.

Lachie Neale with the 2023 Brownlow Medal.
Neale says he would happily trade a third Brownlow Medal for a premiership with Brisbane Lions. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

But the 30-year-old is adamant he would trade in his individual awards for a premiership as the Lions seek to go one better than last year’s heartbreaking four-point grand final defeat to Collingwood.

Their flag hunt starts with a blockbuster opening-round clash with Carlton at the Gabba on Friday night

“The only thing on my mind is a premiership,” Neale told reporters on Sunday.

“(Individual awards) don’t really play on my mind at this time of year.

“I don’t think I’ll be getting a third (Brownlow). Two’s enough, I reckon. Just a premiership medallion will be enough for me.”

Neale has played in two losing grand finals – as Fremantle’s substitute in 2013 and again with Brisbane last year.

The 246-game veteran could have already been a three-time Brownlow winner if not for Carlton’s Patrick Cripps controversially avoiding a late-season suspension in 2022, allowing him to edge out second-placed Neale in a tight count.

The pair will lock horns again as two of the competition’s best midfield units clash in this year’s opening round.

Neale, who had off-season groin surgery and missed Brisbane’s two intra-club games, is raring to go after recovering well from the Lions’ 25-point win over Sydney in their final pre-season hit-out on Thursday.

Lachie Neale in pre-season action for Brisbane against Sydney Swans.
The Brisbane ball-magnet has recovered well from the Lions’ pre-season hit-out against Sydney. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

“It was pretty hot there but the body feels good,” Neale said.

“I’ve put in a fair bit of work over the last few months to get right and I recovered really well.

“I didn’t have a massive percentage of game time but got the minutes that I needed and I’m really confident in my preparation for this week.”

Neale is hopeful teammate Conor McKenna will be cleared to take on Carlton, with the dashing defender taking steps forward in his recovery from last month’s hamstring strain.

“He looked good today,” Neale said.

“I have got no idea whether he’s playing or not, but he’s recovered well and you saw him training, so he can’t be far off.”