BRISBANE star Lachie Neale has celebrated an outstanding individual season, winning his first ever Brownlow Medal in utterly dominant fashion on Sunday night.
The brilliant and prolific Lions midfielder blitzed the field to be crowned the 2020 season's fairest and best player, cruising to the game's highest individual accolade ahead of Port Adelaide's Travis Boak, Melbourne's Christian Petracca and St Kilda's Jack Steele.
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In a record-breaking count, Neale polled 31 votes from 17 games to finish comfortably clear of Boak (21 votes) in second and Petracca and Steele (20 votes each) in joint-third.
The 10-vote margin was the equal-biggest final lead in Brownlow Medal history since the 3-2-1 format was introduced, while his 1.82 votes-per-game was the most in history.
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It meant that Neale, who crossed from Fremantle to Brisbane in 2018, added the Brownlow Medal to a growing list of individual honours claimed throughout his ever-improving career.
Having already been named the AFL Players' Association MVP and the AFL Coaches' Association Player of the Year this season, as well as adding a second All-Australian blazer to his collection, Neale becomes just the fourth Brisbane player to win the Brownlow Medal.
In doing so, he follows in the footsteps of club greats like Michael Voss (1996), Jason Akermanis (2001) and Simon Black (2002) in achieving the remarkable feat.
It caps a stellar season for Neale in Brisbane's young and exciting midfield, where he averaged 27.5 disposals, 12.5 contested possessions and 5.3 clearances per game, as well as kicking 11 goals, to help lead the Lions to their first finals victory in more than a decade.
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"It's unbelievable," Neale said upon being crowned the Brownlow Medal winner.
"I feel really humbled to be in this position and to be among some of those names, it's still pretty crazy to me. As has been mentioned, the boy from Kybybolite (South Australia) … never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I'd be standing here today."
CLUB-BY-CLUB Leader, top five, total votes
Neale remarkably polled 10 best-on-ground performances from his 17 games throughout the season, claiming a virtually unassailable lead as early as round five in the count.
That followed four consecutive three-vote performances starting from round two, with Boak, Petracca and Steele playing catch-up from that point. Patrick Dangerfield, Dustin Martin, Jack Macrae and Luke Parker all tied for fifth, polling 15 votes each on the night.
Cam Guthrie and Clayton Oliver rounded out the Brownlow's top 10.
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But it was Neale's night. An overwhelming favourite for the award, a three-vote performance against Gold Coast in round 16 confirmed he would take home 'Charlie', with one final best-on-ground display against Carlton in round 18 capping a wonderful evening.
"It's a little bit (of a relief)," Neale said.
"It's been spoken about quite a bit. I suppose there is a sense of relief that it's over now.
"There were some great players throughout the year, Travis Boak, Christian Petracca, Jack Steele, even Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield had great years as well. There were always going to be challenges, but I'm very proud to have won it this year."
Incredibly, given his red-hot start to the season, Neale's closest rival in the early stages of the count ultimately proved to be first-year Gold Coast midfielder Matt Rowell.
Last year's No.1 pick polled three consecutive three-vote games to sit on nine votes after round four, before hurting his shoulder in round five and missing the rest of the season.
It enabled Neale to ease clear of the pack, recording best-on-ground displays against Fremantle, West Coast, Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Essendon, the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Gold Coast and Carlton to stamp his name in the history books.
It helped both Neale and the Lions recover from a painful preliminary final defeat to Geelong on Saturday night, with the 27-year-old thanking coach Chris Fagan for his season.
"He's just such a great man on and off the field," Neale said.
"You can talk to him about anything. He calls me once or twice per week to talk about footy and life. He's always asking me about my family and friends and my interests outside footy.
"On the field, he's a real competitor. You can see it on matchday on the bench. He rides the waves with us, so I'm so thankful to have him as a coach. I've learnt so much from him in these two years, and I know I'll continue to learn so much more. He's such a great man."
BROWNLOW MEDAL TOP 10
31 Lachie Neale (Brisbane)
21 Travis Boak (Port Adelaide)
20 Christian Petracca (Melbourne)
20 Jack Steele (St Kilda)
15 Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)
15 Jack Macrae (Western Bulldogs)
15 Dustin Martin (Richmond)
15 Luke Parker (Sydney)
14 Cam Guthrie (Geelong)
14 Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)