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SA draftees see Neale setting the bar

New draftee Adam Cerra speaks to media on Monday. New recruit Adam Cerra chats to the media after arriving in Perth.

When looking at Freo’s best draft bargains, Lachie Neale will always be involved in the conversation.

It took five seasons for Neale to go from a fourth round selection in 2011 to a convincing winner of the Doig Medal in 2016, followed by a runner-up finish in 2017. 

In the wake of the National and Rookie drafts, Fremantle’s development coaches will be working hard to give the club’s newest draftees the best chance to be known as a ‘draft bargain’ in the future, with five players selected between the fourth and fifth rounds and two in the rookie draft.

It’s fitting that Neale’s name has cropped up numerous times as Freo’s draftees discuss who they look up to.

Just like Fremantle did with Neale in 2011, Freo used their later selections and the rookie draft to select two hard-bodied midfielders from South Australia in Mitch Crowden and Stefan Giro. 

Both Crowden and Giro starred in the SANFL reserves this year and impressed at the SA state combine.

Crowden finished in the top-five of all of the six testing categories at the combine, while Giro featured in the top-five in five tests.

Despite their talent and potential, some analysts have suggested that their height may have seen them slip down the order.

When drafted, Lachie Neale stood at 176cm, while Crowden and Giro are 175cm.

Taken at pick no.59, just one pick behind Neale’s selection in 2011, Crowden sees Neale as proof that hard work can show a draft pick is just a number.

“Lachie’s a similar height to me and from SA,” Crowden said.

“He’s someone who’s good to aspire to. I’ve got to look at what he does at training and it all starts from there. 

“There’s a lot of smaller players in the AFL making names for themselves, now I have to make my own name for myself and it all starts at training. I’m looking forward to it” 

Giro also gave no surprise when asked who he will look up to at training. 

“I can’t wait to work with blokes like Lachie Neale,” Giro said.

“He’s plays a similar role to what I’ve played and I’ll definitely look at him and follow how he trains.”

Neale is also being used as a mentor off the field, taking in top-five draftee Adam Cerra as a housemate as the Victorian finds his feet in Perth.

Cerra stated that a love of the beach was an exciting reason to join Fremantle and Neale obliged Cerra with an early morning wake-up call before his first day at the club.

“I met Lachie on Sunday night and I’m staying at his house for a couple weeks,” Cerra said.

“He’s really taken me under his wing.

“On Monday we went for a swim at the beach at 6am. Apparently, he does that every morning, so I’m trying to do the things that he does and learn off him as much as possible.

“He’s been a great help and he’s been really welcoming.”

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