Brisbane teammate and best friend Lincoln McCarthy pens a piece about newly crowned AFL Players’ MVP Lachie Neale and what makes him such a professional when it comes to his own individual game.
I’ve known Lachie for 16 years. We first met when we were playing junior basketball together at around age 10.
I grew up in Bordertown, on the border of South Australia and Victoria, while Lachie was only an hour down the round in Naracoorte.
After first playing basketball together, this carried on to school sports and regional sports – footy, cricket and basketball – throughout our teenage years.
We both moved down to Adelaide for school and started to play for SANFL club Glenelg.
We were both just young blokes at Glenelg keen to reach our dreams of playing in the AFL.
But I could tell early on that Lachie didn’t want to just make an AFL list, he was determined and driven to be a great player as quickly as he could be.
When we went our separate ways in the draft – he went to Fremantle and I went to Geelong – I was very confident that he’d do everything he could to reach those heights as quickly as he could.
Lachie played 11 games in his first season and 12 matches in his second, before he really got going in his third season and became a very consistent AFL player.
The first couple of years are different where you’re finding your feet, but he has this obsessive nature where he would’ve compared himself to the best and I have no doubt that’s why he became such a good player so quickly.
I would find that obsession to be a little bit draining if I tried to be like him, but guys like Lachie are really good at taking that approach and comparing themselves to the best so they can match it with anyone, and in my opinion, that’s generally the make-up of a great player.
He’s such a student of the game and he’s always doing extra vision and checking out what the opposition do.
Lachie and Jarryd Lyons are really good operators in the sense that they do their scouting together and work out what’s best going to work for them and for our team’s preparation.
Lachie’s always been a super clean player but this year he’s really worked on trying to drive his legs and get through the stoppage, get more forward 50 entry kicks and run hard forward to hit the scoreboard.
That improvement in his game has been evident with his impact on the scoreboard and that’s been a really big focus of ours as a team as well.
Everything he does is to prepare himself best for training and for the weekend.
This year’s been no different really. He keeps things pretty simple, but he’s such a professional in everything that he does and once again it’s no surprise that he finds himself in that position he is in.
He knows when he’s got something to work on, which isn’t much to be honest, and he’s really good at just being able to change it and make that work. I guess that just comes down to understanding his game so well and working on it to the point where he’s mastered that particular skill.
Even when he’s being tagged by an opposition midfielder, he’s prepared to sacrifice his own game and that proves just how selfless he is and how a strong of a leader he is for our football club.
I just don’t know how he does it to be honest, sometimes. It’s a credit to his mindset and his appetite to work.
Even when he’s being so tightly held all day he still comes out with 30 touches and a shot or two on goal. His ability to find a way to win or beat his opponent is incredible.
Like most high performers, he has mentors to help better himself and whether they are at the Lions or an external source, it’s another way Lachie extends himself to make sure he’s doing all he can to perform to his high standards.
We’ve got a mutual respect for each other with both of us growing up in the country and then making the move to the city to pursue our dreams. We know how much our families sacrificed for us to be in the position that we’re in now and it’s been great to reunite with him again and be on the journey together to win a flag.
Lachie reminds me of (former Geelong teammate) Patrick Dangerfield in some ways.
He’s really obsessive at wanting to make sure he’s doing everything he can to be the best. But he’s also super measured and there’s never a time in his game or in his life where you think he’s erratic. He’s just so calm and measured in everything he does.
I’m super proud of him to be recognised by the players as the AFLPA’s Most Valuable Player because he truly deserves the accolades that come his way.