AFL: Fremantle’s Lachie Neale reflects on career ahead of game 100

Lachie Neale of the Dockers celebrates after scoring a goal against Essendon. Picture: Will Russell/AFL Media
Lachie Neale of the Dockers celebrates after scoring a goal against Essendon. Picture: Will Russell/AFL Media

THESE days Lachie Neale is a key cog in Fremantle’s midfield but he did fear his height and pace may halt his chance to realise his dream at the top level.

The Dockers scooped the midfield rock with pick 58 in the 2011 draft.

While his management was confident draft day would play out as it did, the South Australian said he was less secure.

“Heading into the day I wasn’t sure at all,” he said.

“My management was quietly confident I would get picked up pretty late or in the rookie draft or something.

“You never really know.

“You hear stories about guys being told they’re going to get picked up and then miss out so it was a really nervous day but one of the most exciting days of my life as well.”

At 177 cms, Neale was well short of Fremantle midfielders Nat Fyfe (190cms), David Mundy (192) and Michael Barlow (189).

But it was another aspect of his game he thought could hold him back.

“Too slow was probably the main one,” he said.

“You see most guys my size in the AFL are pretty quick and I don’t have that lightning pace so that was probably the main attribute I was missing.

“The word was I wasn’t the quickest bloke going around so that was probably the main one.”

Neale, drafted from Glenelg, quickly endeared himself to Docker fans.

He was able to impress the Dockers hierarchy too, making his debut in Fremantle’s round 4 clash with St Kilda in 2012.

He tallied seven disposals as a substitute.

It was a sign of things to come, with Neale establishing himself as a ball magnet.

In 2016, he notched 40 disposals five times and tallied an AFL-record 737 disposals for the season.

“I think my main attribute even from a younger age was my hands and my clean hands,” he said.

“If you fumble you lose that split second to make a decision so not fumbling and being able to make really quick decisions with my hands was probably what’s held me in reasonable stead at AFL level.”

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise Neale has been handball dominant (17 handballs per game to his 12 kicks in 2017).

But he can still punish by foot.

A target for him earlier in the year was to get forward and kick more goals.

He already has eight from seven games this year, including four in the win over Melbourne at the MCG where he will play his 100th match against Richmond on Sunday.

“It means a lot (to play 100 games),” he said.

“I was a really late draft pick and came over here and settled in really well.

“The club’s been fantastic the whole way through, so (I’m) really proud to play 100 games for this footy club and hopefully there’s a few more to come.”