Neale AFL's hot Brownlow favourite

Brisbane midfield star Lachie Neale is the bookmakers' tip to win his first Brownlow Medal when the AFL awards its top individual honour on Sunday night.

LACHIE NEALE of the Dockers looks to pass the ball during the AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Port Adelaide Power at OS in Perth, Australia.
LACHIE NEALE of the Dockers looks to pass the ball during the AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Port Adelaide Power at OS in Perth, Australia. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Brisbane star Lachie Neale enters Sunday night's Brownlow Medal count as the overwhelming favourite to take home the AFL's most prestigious individual honour for the first time.

This year's count will have a twist, being held as a virtual event with small functions for players in different cities amid ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

Gone is the usual glitz and glamour but it won't take any of the gloss off the winner after one of the most difficult seasons for players in which to perform.

Neale, who tied for third last year, is a short-priced favourite with the TAB at $1.25 as he looks to add the Brownlow to a long list of individual accolades that are piling up this season.

The prolific Lions midfielder has already claimed the AFL Players' Association's Most Valuable Player and AFL Coaches' Association champion player of the year awards, and was named an All-Australian for the second time.

He leads a Brownlow field that heavily features players who could win the top accolade for the first time.

As is usually the case, the leading contenders are predominantly midfielders.

Melbourne's Christian Petracca ($7), Port Adelaide veteran Travis Boak ($8) and much-improved St Kilda ball-winner Jack Steele ($13) are best-placed to upset Neale after stellar seasons.

Of the past winners, Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield ($21), Richmond's Dustin Martin ($26) and Fremantle's Nat Fyfe ($51) are considered outside chances.

But none of those three superstars have performed this season at the level they did in their Brownlow-winning campaigns.

Neale could join Dangerfield (2016), Martin (2017) and Gary Ablett Jnr (2009) as the only players to have won the Brownlow Medal, AFLPA MVP and AFLCA award in the same season.

"Lachie's had a spectacular year and Travis Boak has had an unbelievable year as a 32-year-old," Dangerfield said.

"It's always an award that throws up so many different possibilities, but I think Lachie would be a deserved winner."

The Brownlow would be a fitting reward for Neale, who has delivered two stunning seasons at Brisbane since his shock trade move from Fremantle.

The 27-year-old South Australian led the AFL for disposals in 2020 and ranked in the top five for clearances and contested possessions.

Hot Brownlow favourites have a strong record of winning in recent times.

Fyfe ($2), Dangerfield ($1.16), Martin ($1.05) and Hawthorn's Tom Mitchell ($1.45) all saluted in the four seasons before Fyfe emerged from a crowded market last year to win for the second time.

West Coast ball magnet Matt Priddis ($41) caused the biggest upset of the past two decades when he was a surprise winner in 2014.