Top 10 Queensland footballers revealed: Who is No. 1?
The best footballer in Queensland may come as a surprise to many in the Sunshine State but his form in 2020 is undeniably better than anyone else.
Check out the full list of Queensland's top 10 football players here.
Lachie Neale (Brisbane Lions)
- 2019: All-Australian selection
- 2019: Brisbane Lions' Merrett-Murray Medal winner
- 2020: Brownlow Medal favourite
Kayo is your ticket to the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season. Watch every match of every round Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Neale is the AFL equivalent of NRL dynamo James Tedesco. The Lions midfielder is the bookies favourite to take out the 2020 Brownlow Medal - the AFL version of the Dally M medal in rugby league. In his first year at the Lions in 2019, he took home the club's best and fairest award, such is his influence on the team. Among his many achievements, he ranks fourth of all time for most disposals in a game at 51. So far this season, it's been Neale's effort in the midfield which has kept Brisbane within the top two spots of the AFL premiership ladder. Throw in an All-Australian selection last year and it's easy to see why Neale is the best footballer running around in Queensland this year.
Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys)
- 2015: NRL Grand Final winner
- 2016 to 2017: New Zealand international representative player
- 2017 to current: Tongan international representative player and captain
- 2016: Dally M winner
- 2015, 2016 and 2018: Dally M Lock of the Year
- 2016 to 2019: North Queensland Cowboys' Paul Bowman Medal recipient
The initials "JT" are synonymous with success and Jason Taumalolo is definitely living up to his name. The "human wrecking ball", the "Tongan torpedo", whatever you want to call him, Taumalolo is the most damaging forward in the NRL right now. The 117kg North Queensland star tops the NRL for most run metres (2472m) and averages over 200m per game. He was influential in leading the Cowboys to their first ever premiership in 2015 and has been the club's best and fairest player for the past four consecutive years.
Harris Andrews (Brisbane Lions)
- 2019: All-Australian selection
- 2018 to current: Brisbane Lions vice-captain
- 2017, 2018: 22under22 team selection
- 2015: AFL Rising Star nominee
The homegrown Lions star is one of the best defenders in the AFL competition - and that's coming from former Hawks champion Luke Hodge. Andrews, who played his junior footy at Aspley Football Club since he was five-years-old, is another reason why the Lions have found such dominant form. The tall backman is almost unbreachable for his opposing number to kick a goal, with only three times in 10 matches has Andrews had multiple goals kicked against him. In 2018, he set an AFL record for the highest amount of "one percenters" in a game (26) during the Lions loss to the Swans. He has continued his dominance ever since, and was named in the All-Australian team in 2019, capping off a strong season.
Payne Haas (Brisbane Broncos)
- 2019: New South Wales Origin player
- 2019: Prime Minister's XIII selection
- 2019: Australian Kangaroos selection for Oceania Cup fixtures
- 2019: Dally M Rookie of the Year
- 2019: Dally M Prop of the Year
The tearaway Broncos forward may be playing in a side struggling to find direction but Haas is still one of the most dangerous players in the competition. The 20-year-old is second to only Taumalolo for most post contact metres (1071m) in the NRL and is averaging 165 running metres per game. His incredible 2019 season saw him make his State of Origin debut for New South Wales, playing off the bench. The Broncos were so keen to hold on to the wrecking ball that they signed him on a six-year, $3 million deal when Haas was just 18-years-old.
David Fifita (Brisbane Broncos)
- 2018: NRL debut at 18-years-old for Brisbane Broncos
- 2019: Queensland Origin debut
- 2019: Australia 9s champion
- 2019: Prime Minister's XIII selection
- 2019: Australian U23 Junior Kangaroos captain
- 2019, 2020: Indigenous All Stars selection
He's the $1.25 million dollar whiz-kid that had both the Broncos and the Titans in a bidding war, while other clubs watched on with interest. At just 20-years-old, Fifita has lit the NRL alight with his tackle busting runs and the ability to score when nothing is happening. The Keebra Park product became the first player born in the 2000s to play in the NRL when he made his debut as an 18-year-old in 2018. He made his Origin debut in just his second season and also starred for Australia in the World Cup 9s tournament.
Dayne Zorko (Brisbane Lions)
- 2015 to 2018: Merrett-Murray Medal winner (Lions best and fairest)
- 2016, 2017: Lions leading goalkicker
- 2017: All-Australian selection
- 2018 to current: Brisbane Lions captain
Probably one of the most recognisable names at the Lions, the club's four-time best and fairest winner isn't slowing down in the 2020 season. The Lions skipper was hampered earlier in the season with a niggling achilles and calf injury but is still managing an average 16.6 disposals per game and 12.7 kicks. If the Lions are to push for a spot in the Grand Final, it will be off the back of Zorko's leadership and skill on the field.
James O'Connor (Queensland Reds)
- 2008 to 2013, 2019: Australian Wallabies selection
- 2020: Queensland Reds fly half
The Gold Coast product is arguably one of Queensland's best rugby talents this year. O'Connor was 17 when he made his Super Rugby debut and became the second youngest Wallaby ever when he was picked for the national team at 18-years-old. Following a number of stints in Europe, O'Connor has returned to his home state this year to play for the Queensland Reds. A shift back to the playmaking role has seen his form skyrocket and many are suggesting he's in line for a shot at the Wallabies No. 10 jersey.
Ali Brigginshaw (Brisbane Broncos)
- 2009 to current: Australian Jillaroos halfback
- 2009 to current: Queensland Origin halfback
- 2018: Brisbane Broncos NRLW Premiership winner and captain
- 2019: Brisbane Broncos NRLW Premiership winner and captain
- 2019: Brisbane Broncos Player of the Year & Best Back of the Year
It comes as a huge surprise in rugby league circles that Broncos NRLW captain and two-time premiership-winner Ali Brigginshaw has yet been crowned the game's greatest player. No other female rugby league player has won two NRLW competitions, both while captaining the side, as well as representing the Queensland Maroons and Australian Jillaroos for the past decade. Brigginshaw has been the heart and soul of the Broncos NRLW side since its inaugural season in 2018 and has been a huge advocate for women's sport across Australia. She missed out on the top gong - the Dally M Female Player of the Year - last year to St George star Jess Sergis.
Jai Arrow (Gold Coast Titans)
- 2018-2019: Queensland Origin selection
- 2019: Prime Ministers XIII selection
- 2019: Australia 9s representative
- 2019: Gold Coast Titans Coaches Award and Most Valuable Player
Undoubtedly one of the toughest competitors in the NRL and the best forward on the Gold Coast for the past three years. He may not be the biggest forward in the league but Arrow has helped transform the Titans forward pack into a formidable engine room. His workrate earned him a $3.2 million, four-year contract with the Rabbitohs from next year. The Queensland Origin forward has been averaging 107 running metres so far this season as the Titans continue to turn their fortunes around in 2020. If not to see him play, it's also worth seeing Arrow in action simply because of his renowned mullet haircut.
Elise Kellond-Knight (Brisbane Roar)
- 2007 to current: Australian Matildas player
- 2011/ 2015: FIFA Women's World Cup All-Star Team player
- 2011: FFA Female Footballer of the Year
Though she may not be on the field at the moment, after suffering an ACL injury last month, Kellond-Knight is the most decorated football players at the Roar. The 30-year-old has played 113 games for the Matildas since her debut in 2007 and is the fifth most-capped player for Australia. Kellond-Knight starred for the Brisbane Roar during their 2019/20 season before injuring her knee in the first round of the Damallsvenskan season in Sweden. She is hoping to return in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
NEALE BEFORE THE LION KING
- Robert Craddock
Brisbane Lions midfield maestro Lachie Neale is the number one footballer in the state - in any code - yet the best player many Queensland sports fans have never seen.
And if they have seen him, even just walking down the street, they might not know they are in the presence of a man whose sustained excellence is changing the balance of power in Queensland football.
On the field Neale is the Lions statistical Superman but off it, in Brisbane, he has been able to live like Clark Kent.
When Neale was asked to move into an AFL bubble this year some hard core AFL supporters quipped he was already living in one … Queensland.
He'd come from AFL-mad Perth and the Fremantle Dockers into a world where rugby league swamps everything and noticed the change of temperature immediately.
"Everyone recognises you in Perth,'' Neale said.
"Here it is a lot more relaxed.
"When I first got here the Lions had come off a five win season the year before. There was no fanfare.
"But I did feel last year when we got up and going a lot more people became interested and I started to feel a real shift to the AFL.
"But it is very different. There was no too much fun going out in public after a big loss when you play for a Perth team.''
I'LL PLAY ANYTHING
In an era where sports are obsessed about turning athletes into sportsmen, Neale stands out for being an old-fashioned footballer in the true sense of the word.
His skills were hardwired as a youngster by thousands of games of football, cricket, basketball and tennis so that by the time he reached senior level his moves were as instinctive as a touch typist's and so varied that he could be the cattle dog, the conductor and most things in between.
Anything that was round and moved he kicked, bowled, slogged or swatted for hours on end and if no-one would take him on he'd play himself.
One theory about his exceptional talent is that he is the last of the generation of Aussie youngsters who preferred to pick up a bat or ball than a mobile phone and was much happier in his backyard than indoors playing computer games.
"There is certainly a lot more technology nowadays than when I was growing up. I used to set up our living room at home as a football field. There was a doorway at each end which were the goals.
"I used to do a whole season and write the scores to every game. I would play all the teams but I was a Port supporter so Port always had a couple of losses throughout the season but they came back and won every time. They won 10 of my premierships in a row. I dreamt about being Gavin Wanganeen but his skills are much silkier than mine.
"Since the age of four, I have been playing little games with friends and family. Even when I was at school I just wanted to get out and kick the footy. I think the repetition of it all has helped for sure. I don't think I was the best student …''
THE COUNTRY KID
Neale is very much a product of the open air environment he grew up in rural South Australia.
His parents split when he was one and his mother and stepfather live on a farm in the fly's footprint of Kybybolite on the Victorian-South Australian border while his father lives an hour away in the scenic coastal town of Robe.
Like a lot of farm boys they move on from the land but deep down they never leave.
When the COVID crisis shut down the competition he headed straight back to the farm to see his family.
Kybybolite has a population of 107 and while he could not name them all he claims his mother could "rattle off every house.''
THE BROWNLOW CHANCE
Long time Lions followers say Neale's form is taking them back to a golden run by the great Simon Black who steamed his way to the 2002 Brownlow Medal with Neale-like slickness.
During that period Black was so predictably good it was as if in every game the three Brownlow votes were his to lose and Neale, particularly now that he is slotting more goals, has a similar aura.
"He is a wonderful player who has taken his game to a new level this season,'' Black said of Neale.
"He is just so clean below his knees and he sees things around him very well.''
In seven games this season Neale has a goal and 25-plus possessions with the next best doing it in just three games. Some suggest he has 20 Brownlow votes already but he is not counting his chickens nor his Charlie.
"I'm just focusing on getting wins for the team. You never really know what the umpires are going to do at the end of a game - it's is out of my control.''
Much was made of the fact Neale was recruited by the Lions as a double act with Lincoln McCarthy, his long time close friend from their teenage days with Glenelg in the South Australian Football League.
The Lions felt The Power of Two would make the transition easier for both but the duo did not want things to look too cosy and wanted each deal to stand on its merit.
"We have the same manager (Tim Lawrence) who is a family friend but we really want to keep our reasons for shifting separate. We did not want to co-conspire to get to the same place.
"It had to be the right choice for each of us. It could not be a case of us playing together as mates. We were really strong on that.''
One of Neale's major memories of McCarthy is sitting with him when Neale went at 58 and McCarthy 66 in the 2011 national draft.
"It was stressful. I remember being a bit selfish for 30 seconds after my name was announced because I was over the moon. I cried but then I thought "oh shit I better hold my breath for Linc.' When he got picked up it was amazing.''
WHY THE LIONS
Brisbane was never part of Neale's master plan to come to the Lions but being the keen football watcher he is he could sense something was stirring in the den.
"I watched a fair bit of their games in the back half of the season (before he signed). They were not winning but they were only losing by two or three goals and you could see they were on the verge of breaking through. I was really impressed with the young core of guys coming through.
"I knew they would be a good side fairly quickly … Before that I had not really thought about moving at all. I felt I could add to this group and the group could really add to my game and take it to another level.''
Footballers often fall into two categories once their game is over - those who want to get away from it and those who cannot get enough.
Neale is a self-confessed footy nerd who, if he is playing on Saturday afternoon, might watch Friday night's game, another on Saturday night and two on Sunday. He has done several coaching courses and is all ears for any pearls dropped by Lions coach Chris Fagan.
"I like that side of the game and hope to be involved post footy and Fages has been a good mentor for me in that space.''
"He is often calling up sharing with me things he is thinking about.''
THE MENTAL GAME
Some footballers like a hit of AC-DC and a few crackling backslaps to get them in the mood for the contest.
Neale is the opposite. He's not into the backslap culture and looks deep and quietly within himself before a game.
The mellow music he has listened to all of his career is by indie duo Angus and Julia Stone, the sort of comforting tunes that, if you heard them in a doctor's waiting room, would ease your pre-visit tension.
But his skill set is more scythe than sledgehammer so there's no point preparing like a boxer. "My one wood is my hands in close, my cleanliness. I try not to fumble. I don't carry on before a game. I know it's different to a lot of guys but it works for me. I have tried the pump up stuff and it did not work.''
When Neale returned to the family farm during the COVID break he saw the old tennis court and basketball ring he knew so well and felt a sense of appreciation at what they had done for his career.
On Monday night in grand final week, when the last envelope is opened on Brownlow Medal night, you sense he might just feel more grateful than ever.
MORE FOOTY NEWS
Originally published as Top 10 Queensland footballers revealed: Who is No. 1?