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Reigning AFL Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale has committed to staying with the Brisbane Lions, admitting speculation he could request a trade back to Fremantle got "out of hand".
In what was shaping as a relatively low-key AFL trade period, Neale's bombshell consideration of a shift back to Perth turned into a media frenzy this week.
But the 28-year-old met with Lions coach Chris Fagan, chief executive Greg Swann and club football boss Danny Daly on Thursday to let them know he was remaining in the Queensland capital.
Neale had been considering returning to Western Australia to be closer to his wife Jules' family, with the couple expecting their first child in October.
"I'm committed and staying at the footy club," Neale said.
"It's been a whirlwind few days and everything has gotten a bit out of hand."
The star midfielder is contracted for another two seasons with the Lions after signing a five-year deal upon leaving Fremantle at the end of 2018.
Neale was drafted to the Dockers in 2011, playing 135 games under coach Ross Lyon before seeking out the Lions for a fresh start.
Neale admitted he and his family had spoken about leaving Brisbane, with Western Australia's tough border restrictions making the last 18 months difficult for Jules.
"(She's) got a lot of family and support networks and friends in WA," Neale said.
"Behind the scenes we had a couple of conversations about how that looked moving forward.
"Obviously with the COVID situation over the last couple of years it's been really hard.
"But after sitting down and talking through it with our family and our friends and with the club, it became pretty clear after a couple of days that this was where the best place for us is to be at Brisbane.
"We believe we can get the support network around us that we need.'
In three seasons with the Lions, Neale has won two best-and-fairest awards, been named an All Australian twice and last year collected the league's highest individual honour when he finished 10 votes clear of Port Adelaide's Travis Boak in the Brownlow Medal count.
Neale's commitment to the club is a huge relief for the Lions, who are reeling following a heartbreaking one-point semi-final defeat against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night.
It was the second time in three seasons the Lions had crashed out of the finals in straight sets, with Fagan's post-season coaching record now sitting at 1-5.
This year, Neale was down on his stellar form of 2019 and 2020 due to a number of injuries, including back, ankle and shoulder issues, but did manage to break the all-time record for possessions in a finals game.
"I think one of the biggest things is I've got unfinished business here (at the Lions)," Neale said.
"I want to be holding up the cup in a Lions jersey and that's what I'll be working towards."