He was one of the biggest surprise moves during last years trade period. While always a consistent fantasy premium, can Neale become a dominant force across every scoring format?

PLAYER PROFILE

Name: Lachie Neale
Age: 25
Club: Brisbane Lions
Position: Midfield

2018 Highest Score: 
138 Vs West Coast (AFLFantasy)
159 Vs Carlton (SuperCoach)

2018 Average: 

100.2 (AFLFantasy)
111.9 (SuperCoach)

SuperCoach Price: $607,300
AFLFantasy Price:
$727,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: 
$716,900

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WHY IS HE RELEVANT?

2018 was another fantastic football season from the Former Fremantle Docker. For the second time in three seasons, Lachie Neale was recognised as the clubs best player winning the Doig Medal ahead of David Mundy and Nat Fye. Last year he ranked 5th across the league for total disposals, 5th for clearances and 6th for centre clearances all from just 80% game time.

Before his move while at Fremantle, his scoring has been incredibly consistent averaging 100 or more in the past four seasons in every scoring format. Last year he was the 5th highest scoring midfielder in SuperCoach and finished the season with an average of 111 and scored over the ton in 16 matches. Crazily he was a slow start last season in that format with his first ton coming in round 5. If you look at his work in the previous 18 games, he only failed to register the ton in 2 matches and averaged 116 in that stretch. For AFLFantasy he scored his average just over the ton but score 100 or above in 14 games including two over 125.

The year prior was almost identical with a SuperCoach average of 109 and posted 13 scores of 100 or more while in AFLFantasy he averaged 100.2 and hit the ton range in 11 matches. While these are two very handy fantasy seasons, especially in SuperCoach his best year came back in 2016 where he averaged 111 in AFLFantasy and scored 15 tons while SuperCoach he averaged 112 and posted an enormous 18 scores over 100.

Added to his consistent 100+ seasonal averages is the fact the over the past five seasons he’s missed just the two matches. Even if others do average ahead of him the fact that he rarely misses means you should be safe from having to ‘sideways trade’ to another premium or be forced to bench him to ride a small injury or suspension concern.

A move to Brisbane certainly will not damage his fantasy output at all especially with the departure of former skipper Dayne Beams. While not identical players his recruitment will ensure especially at stoppages the club doesn’t take a drastic step back. Like at Fremantle he’s also unlikely ever to be tagged with Dayne Zorko showing during multiple matches that you can shut him down meaning Lachie should be free to go about his ball-winning work without significant attention.

MY TAKE

Every preseason over the past few years Lachie Neale is one of the most discussed players in the preseason as potentially the next uber midfielder. For SuperCoach, I understand the amount of conversation and expectation given his past three seasonal averages have been 112, 109 & 111 making him a top 10 midfielder during that time. However, in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam it’s always been based on the potential that he can reach back to his 111-year average in 2016. We need to ask ourselves, why did he jump so drastically but in the year prior (2015) and the following years (2017 & 2018) he hasn’t averaged over 101? What made 2016 so different that his possession count jumped up to a career-high 33 a game?

On first glance, the fact that Nat Fyfe only played five games alongside him could provide some level of explanation. However, over that year his average just bumped up 5 points per game without Fyfe in the side. In fact, over the past two years (2017 & 2018), his averages in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam are actually better when Fyfe plays, up to even 10 points per game better last year. So while Nat’s absence in 2016 provides some answers, it doesn’t give us a full picture. Instead, it’s where he won these ‘extra’ possessions that I believe the solution is found.

That year Neale average disposals jumped up to a career-high 33.5 and Fremantle finished 16th while won just the four matches. Across the year they were continually getting belted from pillar to post both in the midfield contest and on the scoreboard. To help stem the bleeding Fremantle midfielders like Neale were often gathering plenty of touches inside defensive 50. On top of this Stephen Hill was getting any tagging focus if sides opted for a defensive midfielder given Hill’s ability to pinpoint passes with his deadly left boot.

A move to a new club does mean a new beginning, and I always have some level of caution of starting players as they arrive at a new clubs. I believe at Brisbane they will be even less dependant on Neale gave their midfield unit as a whole is further advanced than that of Fremantle. The move to Brisbane won’t impact his numbers to make his SuperCoach or AFLFantasy numbers slide drastically. However, I do not believe they’ll boost drastically in AFLFantasy enough to make him a 105-110 averaging midfielder.

For him to return to the 2016 numbers he must increase the amounts of the uncontested and easy possession ball, spend more time on ground in the midfield and given the developing young group the Lions have I can’t see them regressing their style of play which is incredibly fast-paced and quick moving transitional style to something more scoring-friendly for Neale.

I do think he’ll maintain his SuperCoach average and be right in contention for a top 10 midfielder again, meaning in that format he’s a serious starting squad or upgrades target. However for me to pick him in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, I’d need to see something change substantially in the JLT Community series to think that Neale won’t just be a solid 100 midfielder.

I know many among the fantasy community rate Lachie Neale as a top 8 midfielder in AFLFantasy/AFLDreamTeam, and that’s fine. I’ve been wrong about plenty before and will be again, but right now the fact that he’s only shown a limited ceiling with just 4 tons over 120 in his past 43 games I’d instead upgrade to him if he does find a new level at Brisbane and be wrong than start him and be right.

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DRAFT DECISIONS

In SuperCoach he’s a worthy round one selection given the fact that he’s ranked as a top 10 scorer from last season (injury affected Mitchell removed.) That said, I don’t think he’ll go inside the first round so you should be able to pick him up on the return in the second round. Neale will certainly be off the board before the 4th round starts.

In AFLFantasy he slides out a little more for me. On current history, he’s ranked 27th for midfielders and while I have him probably about 20th overall for midfielders I know the fact that I value him less than others means someone will grab him before me and as early as the second round and as an M1. I wouldn’t personally select him any earlier than the 3rd round, but even then it’d depend on how many of my higher ranked midfielders were off the board.

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