If I were to ask you to describe Lachie Neale, you would probably tell me something like “He’s a ball magnet, who was very underrated at Fremantle because he was in Nat Fyfe’s shadow”.
Then if I were to ask you to describe Nat Fyfe, you would probably say “A good footballer who would be one of the all-time greats if he could stop injuring himself”. If you were to ask me those things, I probably would say something similar.
If you look at Neale, he is arguably the biggest ball magnet in the competition. He currently has 179 disposals over just five games. But out of those 179 touches, 115 of them were handballs. The bad thing about this is that when you win the kick count, you win approximately 78 per cent of games, but you only win approximately 59 per cent of games if you win the handball count.
It isn’t the first season Neale has had the ball a lot, as he was fifth in disposals last season, and had the most touches in the home-and-away season despite Fremantle only winning four games. But, like the first five games this season, most of the touches were handballs.
Perhaps inspiration should be drawn towards the other ball magnets in the league. Maybe Lachie Whitfield from GWS, who has 88 kicks and 48 handballs. Or possibly Jake Lloyd from Sydney, who has 89 kicks and 46 handballs.
This is something Fremantle is struggling with. Only Ed Langdon and Bradley Hill have 100 disposals or more over the first four games, while players like defender Joel Hamling have only had 34 disposals so far, less than Neale’s disposal average. The team is pretty consistent across the board in disposals, but doesn’t have a standout player there.
Neale should have been that player, but he moved from the Dockers to the Lions in the last trade period. Rumours were that he left because he fell out with coach Ross Lyon, or that he didn’t like the players, although he quashed those rumours.
But what did you expect him to say? “Yeah I moved clubs because I didn’t like my teammates and I didn’t like Ross Lyon”?
If he was to come back to Fremantle, he would be the best player there. Look at the last few Brownlow Medalists. Tom Mitchell in 2018, was a ball magnet with an average of just over 35 touches per game. Patrick Dangerfield in 2016, another ball magnet with an average of just under 32 touches per game. Neale could have possibly won a Brownlow if he wasn’t in Fyfe’s shadow.
So, the Dockers would have to send Nat Fyfe on his way to somewhere. Why not send him in a swap deal to Brisbane?
Fyfe is 14 centimetres and ten kilos bigger than Neale, and he’s also 16 centimetres and 18 kilos bigger than Dayne Zorko. This would give Brisbane an advantage in that, instead of having two small midfielders who can’t do much more than get touches on the ball if they come up against a larger opponent, Fyfe could be useful here.
Fyfe and Zorko would mix perfectly.
Brisbane can also benefit more on the statistical side of things. On average Fyfe is, along with a few other things, ahead of Neale in contested marks – for which Brisbane are behind Fremantle. Plus, who wouldn’t want a Brownlow Medalist to join their side?
Having Fyfe in your side is always going to be a risk considering the injuries he keeps on getting, like the concussion he got against St Kilda in Round 3. But, if he can stay fit, Brisbane or any team can easily win with him.
I know that it is a bit of a fantasy and unlikely to happen at any point in either player’s career. But as a Dockers fan that likes to dream big, I would love to see Nat Fyfe and Lachie Neale swap places right now. I wonder if they would?