Dock­ers’ shin­ing light Neale goes to next level with Doig win

Sunday Territorian - - SPORT - JOR­DAN McARDLE

GUN mid­fielder Lachie Neale was an un­sur­pris­ing vic­tor of last night’s Doig Medal count at Crown Perth’s Grand Ball­room.

The South Aus­tralian took his game to an­other level in 2016, stand­ing up in the ab- sence of in­jured se­nior play­ers Nat Fyfe and Aaron Sandi­lands to win his first best-and­fairest award.

Break­ing the league’s disposals record with 737 in 22 games, Neale was a shin­ing light in an oth­er­wise dis­ap­point­ing sea­son for the Dock­ers, who went from mi­nor pre­miers last year to 16th with just four wins.

The 23-year-old, who signed a three-year con­tract ex­ten­sion dur­ing the sea­son, fin­ished with 200 votes, 30 clear of speed­ster Stephen Hill.

It was also a ca­reer-best fin­ish for Hill, im­prov­ing on his con­sec­u­tive third-plac­ings in 2014 and 2015. He fin­ished the sea­son strongly, col­lect­ing 30 pos­ses­sions in each of the fi­nal four games to edge out livewire Michael Wal­ters (152 votes).

De­spite miss­ing four games dur­ing the sea­son, re­tir­ing cham­pion Matthew Pavlich made the top five for the first time since 2012.

The six-time Doig Medal win­ner was in fourth spot with 118 votes, nar­rowly ahead of de­fender Lee Spurr (116) who rounded out the top five.

Three play­ers likely to leave the club – Chris Mayne, Hay­den Bal­lan­tyne and Michael Bar­low – were sixth, sev­enth and eighth re­spec­tively.

Last sea­son’s Doig medal­list, ruck­man Aaron Sandi­lands, won best club­man for his off-field ef­forts with the play­ing group dur­ing his long in­jury lay-off.

Emerg­ing mid­fielder Lachie Weller won the Bea­con Award for best first or sec­ond year player.

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