Fremantle midfielder Lachie Neale says early-season speculation about him leaving the club was garbage, claiming he barely explored the option of landing a big-money deal elsewhere.
Neale, who was being chased by AFL clubs in Adelaide and Melbourne, signed a three-year contract extension over the weekend, tying him to the Dockers until the end of 2019.
The 23-year-old South Australian would have been hot property on the open market given his sizzling form this year.
But contrary to reports, Neale said a move away from Fremantle was never really in his thinking, despite the club’s horror campaign this year.
“It started a bit early, round two there was something that came out,” Neale said of the contract speculation.
“I always had this plan from basically September last year, so I knew in my mind some of the stuff that was being written was a bit of garbage.
“I felt like I handled it pretty well.
“I spoke to my family and a few of my close mates about it all and tried not to buy into much of the media surrounding it. I knew within myself what was true and what wasn’t.
“It was up to me whether I delved into that (other offers), and I didn’t. I wanted to deal with Fremantle, and that’s the way it stayed.”
The Dockers started the season as one of the premiership favourites, but currently sit in 15th spot with just three wins to their name from 14 games.
Neale said the club’s dire position didn’t put him off re-signing, with the prolific midfielder predicting a swift rise up the table next season.
“I’m here to win games of footy, and I see that happening in the future,” Neale said.
“That’s another big reason as well (why I stayed). And also a bit of loyalty as well.
“This club gave me the chance five years ago now, and I was a pretty late draft pick. So they took a chance on me, and to repay them was another factor.”
Neale has proven to be a diamond in the rough since being snared with pick No.58 in the 2011 national draft.
The 177cm midfielder is averaging a league-leading 32.8 disposals per game this season, putting him firmly in the mix for a maiden All-Australian berth.
But Neale says he still has plenty to learn in the coming years, especially in regards to dealing with tags in the absence of Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe.
The Dockers copped a 48-point hammering from Collingwood last Friday, and Neale says the players will use their bye week to freshen up both mentally and physically.