Lachie Neale has claimed a third Merrett-Murray Medal to match some of the Brisbane Lions’ greatest footballers.
The brilliant on-baller has been a revelation since crossing from Fremantle in the 2018 trade period, helping Brisbane make the finals in all four of his seasons.
Neale, who was also named the club’s best finals player, polled 66 votes to edge out fellow midfielder Hugh McCluggage (59), with defender Brandon Starcevich (51) placing third.
Vice-captain Harris Andrews and small forward Charlie Cameron finished in a tie for fourth.
Neale won the award in 2019 and 2020 but an ankle injury ruined his chances of a three-peat last year.
He joins last year’s winner Dayne Zorko (five) and premiership stars Simon Black, Michael Voss and Jonathon Brown (three) as the only Lions to win the Merrett-Murray Medal at least three times.
Neale’s triumph follows his runner-up finish in this year’s Brownlow Medal, where as the favourite he ended up a single vote behind Carlton star and close friend Patrick Cripps.
The 29-year-old averaged 30 disposals, eight clearances and five tackles in another standout season that entrenched him as one of the game’s best footballers.
After speculation last year that Neale might return to the Dockers for family reasons, he inked a fresh three-year contract extension in June that ties him to Brisbane until the end of 2026.
There is optimism the Lions can make a premiership breakthrough next season, with competition stars Jack Gunston and Josh Dunkley set to join the club in the next fortnight.
They will also select promising father-son prospects Will Ashcroft and Jaspa Fletcher in the draft in November.
McCluggage has placed second in the best and fairest award in consecutive years and was third the two years before that in a sign of his importance.
The 24-year-old wingman was also short-listed again for All-Australian honours and recognised as the Lions’ most professional player.
Starcevich has developed into one of the AFL’s best small defenders and collected the trademark player of the year award on the night.
Other winners were Oscar McInerney (players’ player), Darcy Wilmot (best rookie) and Ryan Lester and James Tunstill (VFL best and fairest).
Merrett-Murray Medal top 10
1. Lachie Neale (66 votes)
2. Hugh McCluggage (59)
3. Brandon Starcevich (51)
4. Harris Andrews and Charlie Cameron (46)
6. Jarrod Berry (43)
7. Daniel Rich (41)
8. Lincoln McCarthy (40)
9. Oscar McInerney (39)
10. Zac Bailey (38)