Neale’s ridiculous quarter sparks Lions win
IF YOU stopped the Brownlow Medal count right now, Lachie Neale would be on the podium - and arguably pushing Blue Patrick Cripps at the top of the leaderboard.
One thing that's inarguable, though, is that Neale is clearly the recruit of the year to date.
Brisbane Lions fans - and SuperCoach owners of Neale - would be ecstatic with the output so far of Neale, who produced another stellar individual performance in his side's Q-Clash win over the Gold Coast Suns.
While Mitch Robinson (three goals, 25 disposals) won the Marcus Ashcroft medal, it was Neale who seemed a class above the Suns in a match-defining third quarter.
The 25-year-old kicked a goal, had 28 disposals, 14 contested possessions, six clearances, six tackles, five inside 50s and a game-high 142 Champion Data ranking points in Brisbane's thumping 49-point win over the Suns at Metricon Stadium, 16.15 (111) to 9.8 (62).
It was as if the Lions failed to bring their kicking boots to Metricon Stadium in the first half, booting 6.8 to half-time with Jarrod Berry, Charlie Cameron and, especially, Daniel McStay missing some set-shot sitters.
But the Lions broke the game open in the third term, going at 77 per by foot and booting a much more accurate 5.2 to 1.0 to set-up the big win.
And the reason behind the accuracy was because shots came from directly in front, due to the Lions' ability to win the ball out of the middle.
Remarkably, four of the Lions' five third-term goals came from centre bounce. According to Champion Data, the Lions' 4.1 was the highest of any side from centre bounces in a quarter so far this season.
The comeback was inspired by the Lions' A-listers, but none more so than star on-baller Neale out of the middle.
The former Docker had an enormous third term with nine disposals, five contested possessions and two centre bounce clearances, both of which led to goals.
Neale might've cost the Lions two first-round picks, but the hefty investments seems to be worthwhile early.
"He's been an outstanding recruit over the summer with developing, young midfielders," triple premiership Lion Alastair Lynch told Fox Footy.
"What he's been able to do in the first few rounds has been elite. We know he's an elite player from what he's done in the past at the Fremantle Dockers, but he'd be wrapped to be part of this young developing team."
It was a great effort from Neale, who received ample attention from Suns midfielders Jack Bowes and Touk Miller throughout the afternoon.
The Lion even tried to make a physical statement on Bowers early in the game, dumping him into the turf off the ball and giving away a free kick.
Miller was able to contain Neale's output in the final quarter but by the time he was shut out of the game, the damage had been done.
"It's all part of it, I suppose," Neale told Fox Footy post-game.
"He (Miller) played pretty well on me in that last quarter and I couldn't get near it. He's a really good competitor and he played well today."
Sun Alex Sexton's second of the match early in the third term levelled the scores but the Lions kicked the next six to open up an unassailable lead.
Charlie Cameron, ex-Sun Jarryd Lyons and Robinson all kick goals as the Lions took control. Neale's goal on the run minutes later was the Lions' fifth of the quarter as they ended the term with a commanding 31-point lead.
"We spoke (at half-time) about last week against Collingwood and how they did that to us and how easy it can happen. If we put our foot down in that first five to 10 minutes, we can really get a hold of them," Neale said.
"To the boys' credit, we switched on there and were able to get the result."
Cam Rayner booted three goals in a confidence-boosting display for the young Lion, while Cameron, Jarryd Lyons and Lincoln McCarthy kicked two each.
It was a timely return to form the Lions, who'd dropped their past two games to Essendon and Collingwood after starting the season with three straight wins.
"It started with our contested ball and hunting again. Those two weeks against Collingwood and Essendon, we went away from that ... I thought the boys responded (against the Suns)," Neale said.
The Suns, who slip to a 3-3 record, were led by in-form Brayden Fiorini (31 disposals, eight tackles) while Ben Ainsworth (21 disposals) was quietly effective. Sexton, debutant Josh Corbett and tall Peter Wright booted two each for the Suns.
Brisbane hosts Sydney next weekend at the Gabba while the Suns are on the road against premiers West Coast.
- with AAP