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Neale claims first Doig Medal

Lachie Neale is Freo's 2016 Doig Medallist. Lachie Neale accept the 2016 Doig Medal

Fremantle’s record-breaking midfielder Lachie Neale has claimed his first Doig Medal in front of nearly 1000 guests at Crown Perth’s Grand Ballroom on Saturday night.

The 23-year-old had a standout season, breaking Matthew Boyd’s record for most disposals in a regular season, finishing with 737 from his 22 games in 2016.

Neale, who early this year signed a new three year deal keeping him at the club until the end of season 2019, accumulated more than 30 disposals on 16 occasions including collecting 40 touches in five games.

Neale, who hadn’t previously placed in the top five at Fremantle, said he was honoured to receive the award.

“To be amongst some of the names that have won this award in the past is truly humbling,” he said

Neale also collected the Players’ Award as well as the McDonald’s Fans’ Most Valuable Player award in a very successful night and said coach Ross Lyon was a big influence on his performances this season.

“Thankyou to Ross, we came through together and he has been a huge influence on me both on and off the field,” he said.

At the conclusion of every game this season five members of the Fremantle coaching staff, including senior coach Ross Lyon, allocate every player up to five votes, with top votes awarded for what is regarded as an elite performance.

Neale, who recently underwent surgery on his wrist and shoulder after the season ended, leapt to a 22-vote lead over eventual runner-up Stephen Hill after seven games.

Youth puts us in a strong position - Lyon

The gutsy midfielder polled votes in every game except round 14 against Collingwood.

Neale stretched that margin to 33 votes after 16 rounds before winning by 30 votes from fellow midfielder Hill.

Hill’s second place finish is his career best result at the Doig Medal, improving on his successive third placing’s in 2014 and 2015.

The battle between him and Michael Walters for second and third was tight, with just nine votes separating the pair with six rounds to go.

But the 26-year-old finished the season strongly, collecting 30 possessions in each of the final four games of 2016.

Retiring club legend Matthew Pavlich finished fourth in his first top-five finish since 2012.

In other awards presented on the night, talented midfielder Lachie Weller won the Beacon Award.

The Beacon Award, proudly sponsored by Programmed, follows similar criteria to the AFL’s NAB Rising Star award in that players are eligible to win it in their first or second year of AFL football provided they have played 10 games or less in their debut season.

Ruckman Aaron Sandilands was named Fremantle’s Best Clubman. The award is voted on by the playing group and the various departments and recognises the player that consistently puts the needs of the team first.

Despite missing most of the season with a serious rib injury, Sandilands remained completely focused on improving the playing group and the club in 2016.

Off the field, he remains committed to his community work and has given more than 10 years service to the Starlight Children’s Foundation as a Purple Haze ambassador. It’s the first time Sandilands has received the award.

But the night belonged to Fremantle’s prolific ball-winning midfielder.

2016 Doig Medal Top 10 votes
1st     Lachie Neale    200
2nd     Stephen Hill    170
3rd     Michael Walters 152
4th     Matthew Pavlich 118
5th     Lee Spurr         116
6th     Chris Mayne     99
7th     Hayden Ballantyne       85
8th     Michael Barlow  80
9th     David Mundy     75
10th    Tommy Sheridan    65

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs