Dream Team builder: Lachie Neale
2012 position: midfielder
2012 price: $98,700
Bye: round 12
Four reasons to have him in your team
1) Neale has proven himself a ball magnet at every level of footy. He dominated SANFL under-18 footy with Glenelg in 2011, averaging more than 31 touches a game – Dream Team gold in any coach’s language. He won’t record such lofty figures in his first AFL season but an appetite for the ball can’t always be taught.
2) He has already shown good signs at senior level. Yes, it was only a first-round NAB Cup clash against an Essendon side bereft of most of its good midfielders but Neale was a standout for Freo in their opening hitout of 2012. He amassed 37 points against the Bombers including six disposals, two tackles and two smartly taken goals. In the second match against West Coast, Neale failed to find as much of the footy but he was still the Dockers’ leading tackler. If your DT squad can’t always find the footy, you want them to still rack up DT points without the ball.
3) Fremantle coach Ross Lyon doesn’t mind unfashionable players. Think Stephen Milne, Clint Jones and new Dockers defender Zac Dawson, who followed Lyon across the Nullarbor from St Kilda. If you can play a role in Lyon’s system, you get a game. And as a first-year player desperate to forge an AFL career, Neale is exactly the type who will bust a gut to follow Lyon’s instructions to the letter. Hayden Ballantyne’s impending move into the midfield could also create an opportunity.
4) For those with a superstitious bent, Neale was taken with pick 58 in the 2011 AFL draft – the same pick used by Collingwood a decade earlier to select the reigning Brownlow Medallist Dane Swan. The Magpies midfielder has been a Dream Team legend for several seasons now and the Freo youngster will look to follow in his increasingly large footsteps. Does it mean anything? Maybe not, but it can’t hurt.
At 177cm, Neale is not a large man. At that size, you have to be exceptional to carve out a senior AFL career and history says the odds are against him. Should Ballantyne’s experiment up the ground fail to work out, Neale could find himself the first player dropped to make way. In addition, Fremantle is firmly in flag-chasing mode while Matthew Pavlich and Aaron Sandilands are still capable of their best football. The Dockers already have a handful of lightly-built types (Nathan Fyfe, Stephen Hill) capable of playing across half-forward and Neale could be one too many for a team eyeing an elusive premiership.
Risk rating: Neale has done everything right to earn his shot early in the season. As long as he can cope with the battering he will undoubtedly receive, he should provide a welcome boost to your bank balance – and at a bargain price. One Alan Didak.