AFL News: ‘Blatant manipulation’ – Coaches angry as Roos get draft boost, Lions star pushes through Payne barrier

Geelong coach Chris Scott has blasted the AFL’s assistance package to North Melbourne as “blatant manipulation”.

St Kilda counterpart Ross Lyon joined Scott in condemning the league’s decision to grant the Kangaroos an extra three first-round draft picks across two years.

North have finished bottom two for the last four seasons, and claimed the wooden spoon in 2021 and 2022.

The Kangaroos would have made it three-straight years anchored to the bottom of the ladder if they didn’t beat Gold Coast in their final game of the season.

“There is a mechanism of equalisation within the competition already. If you finish second last, you get second pick in the draft,” Scott told Fox Footy.

“They’ve (North) had that for a number of years now because they chose to go down a certain path.

“The AFL pretty quickly has to get to the point, in my view, where they just get out of the way and let the system operate without this blatant manipulation.

“You can’t look at this season and say ‘OK, well you finished second last so we need to support you again’. The support’s already been there over previous years.”

Lyon was also critical of the AFL’s decision, with the Saints playing in just two finals series, including this year, during the last decade.

“I think the real question is if you put yourself in the hole, because there’s been a lot of decisions over a long period of time – not unlike the Saints and other clubs, to keep going back to head office and asking for assistance, I think there’s a bit to be said to dig yourself out,” Lyon said.

“You’ve got gifts being given to clubs that have been down the bottom for a long time.”

Jack Ziebell and Harry Sheezel of the Kangaroos celebrate.

2022 AFL draft No.3 pick Harry Sheezel. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Scott labelled North coach Alastair Clarkson a “genius” for trying to replicate his premiership success at the Hawks’ through the draft.

“There are clubs who have performed at a lower level than North Melbourne over the last decade that haven’t got one single thing,” the two-time premiership coach said.

“I don’t understand how you can play in (two) prelim finals (over the last decade) and get compensation, priority …

“The worst place to be clearly in today’s competition is middle of the road because you get nothing.

“The AFL just shouldn’t be in a position where they are manipulating the competition the way they are.”

Lion pushes through Payne barrier in grand final bid

Jack Payne has taken part in contested drills, displaying improved agility in his ankle in a bid to feature for the Brisbane Lions in the AFL grand final.

The key defender missed last Saturday’s preliminary final win over Carlton, with Darcy Gardiner recalled and impressing in a duel with Coleman Medal-winner Charlie Curnow.

Coach Chris Fagan has made clear his preference not to select injured players for finals, but Payne is yet to be ruled out of Saturday’s decider against Collingwood.

At Tuesday’s light session, Payne walked comfortably, ran laps and engaged in some contested marking and stoppage work, before a long discussion with the Lions’ support staff.

The 23-year-old has been a revelation in the backline alongside co-captain Harris Andrews in 2023, but until this season Gardiner had been a regular across 10 seasons and 157 games.

Meanwhile, a club spokesperson said pressure forward Lincoln McCarthy was in no doubt for the grand final, despite leaving Tuesday’s session early.

McCarthy missed the regular season’s final round with a calf strain, before strong performances in both finals.

Brisbane will have their main session behind closed doors at the Gabba on Thursday, before flying to Melbourne later that day.

Neale eyes GF glory after Brownlow shock

A decade, a new club and two Brownlow Medals on from his first AFL grand final, Lachie Neale is determined to make his second one count.

Back in 2013, the Brisbane star was a fresh-faced 20-year-old and the substitute in a Fremantle team that crumbled against Hawthorn in that season’s decider.

After claiming his second Brownlow Medal, at the Lions’ function in Brisbane on Monday night, Neale took a philosophical approach to backing up winning the game’s top individual honour with attempting to claim its greatest prize.

“I haven’t been involved in this week for a decade,” the 30-year-old said ahead of preparing to face Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday.

“That’s the thing I have learnt the most (is how hard it is to get there).

“It was my second season, and I probably thought those opportunities were going to roll around every year or two, and they haven’t, obviously. 

Lachie Neale with the 2023 Brownlow Medal.

Lachie Neale with the 2023 Brownlow Medal. (Photo by Albert Perez/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

“So for me now, I just recognise and appreciate the opportunity that’s in front of me and the team.

“And I’m going to savour every second of this week and every second that I’m on the hallowed turf of the MCG on Saturday afternoon, because who knows when we might get that opportunity again? It might not ever happen. 

“I’m just going to try to soak up this week, enjoy every moment and see what happens on Saturday.”

In 2001 and 2002 respectively, Lions Jason Akermanis and Simon Black won that year’s Brownlow, then backed up with grand final victory later in the week.

Neale wouldn’t buy into whether he believed in omens, only eyeing off helping coach Chris Fagan and fellow co-captain Harris Andrews claim glory.

“At the moment I’m picturing Harris holding up the cup with Fages at the end of it,” he said.

When asked where he would be as co-captain, Neale quipped: “I’ll just stand just behind him.”

Neale is the first two-time winner since former Fremantle teammate Nat Fyfe in 2015 and 2019, and just the 16th player to win multiple Brownlow Medals.

The 30-year-old, who won the 2020 award and was runner-up last year, polled 31 votes to win from Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli (29) and Collingwood’s Nick Daicos (28)

Neale stormed home with three-vote games in the final two rounds.

It didn’t come without a contentious call, though.

Neale claimed three votes against GWS in round six for 20 disposals and six clearances.

That day, teammate Charlie Cameron kicked seven goals, while Giants Josh Kelly and Steven Coniglio had 41 and 38 disposals respectively.

That was one of seven three-vote games that helped the Lion to victory.


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