|Date of birth||18 July 1945|
|Original team(s)||South Warrnambool|
|Height||188 cm (6 ft 2 in)|
|Weight||103 kg (227 lb)|
|Position(s)||Ruckman, back pocket, full forward|
|1965–1977||St Kilda||256 (301)|
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1977.
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
Recruited from South Warrnambool, and nicknamed "Cowboy" for his bow-legs and his rolling gait, Neale played his first match for St Kilda against North Melbourne on 22 May 1965 (round 6), as a back-pocket/ruckman. His debut had been delayed because his own club, South Warrnambool, had needed him as a player for the first three matches of their season.
Neale, recruited by St Kilda as a nineteen-year-old, 6 ft 2 in, 14 st 3 lb ruckman, initially played in the backline (as the first change, resting in the back-pocket ruckman), but was moved to full forward in 1966. (Neale was selected as the back-pocket ruckman in St Kilda's "Team of the Century" in May 2001.)
Neale played for Victoria in the interstate match against Tasmania in Hobart, on Saturday, 16 June 1967. He was selected at full-forward, and kicked four goals in the match (he was moved from full-forward in the second half because Victoria's centre half-forward Peter McKenna had not kicked a goal in the first half of the match).
At the end of the 1976 season, it was thought that Neale would retire from playing with St Kilda; however, St Kilda prevailed upon him to play yet another season, and he played in 20 of St Kilda's 22 matches that season, playing his last match as the back-pocket ruckman, in a losing St Kilda side, 17.10 (112), against Richmond 25.21 (171) at the M.C.G. on 27 August 1977 (round 22).
In his entire VFL career at St Kilda, he had played in 256 games, and scored 301 goals (as at the end of the 2010 season, only 5 other men have played more matches for St Kilda, and only 8 others have kicked more goals in their career).
Australian Capital Territory
Towards the end of his career at St Kilda, numerous offers were made to Neale to leave St Kilda and take up a coaching position. At the start of 1975, he was offered the position of playing coach at Turvey Park in the South-West League for three years at $25,000 per annum. St Kilda talked him out of accepting the offer; and, towards the end of the 1975 season, the Albury Football Club in the Ovens & Murray Football League offered him a three-year contract of $35,000 as captain-coach.
In 1978, he moved to Canberra, and was appointed the captain-coach of the Ainslie Football Club. In that year, he was also the captain coach of a combined A.C.T. team in the Escort Cup competition. He was still very effective at full-forward, setting a goal-kicking record in 1980. With Neale as its captain-coach, Ainslie won the premiership in both 1979 and 1980.
1980 Captain-coach of the ACT
In 1980, there was no concept of "State of Origin"; and, therefore, a combined A.C.T. was precisely that: a team of men who were currently playing in the ACT competition.
Coached by Bill Stephen, the Victorians were a very strong team including club captains and Brownlow medallists: Francis Bourke of Richmond, captain, Trevor Barker of St Kilda, Malcolm Blight of North Melbourne, Terry Bright of Geelong, Jim Buckley of Carlton, Robert DiPierdomenico of Hawthorn, Jim Edmond of Footscray, Robert Elliott of Melbourne, Neville Fields of South Melbourne, Laurie Fowler of Richmond, Steven Icke of North Melbourne, Rene Kink of Collingwood, Mark Lee of Richmond, Mark Maclure of Carlton, Alex Marcou of Carlton, Merv Neagle of Essendon, Jeff Sarau of St Kilda, Laurie Serafini of Fitzroy, and Michael Turner of Geelong.
For a number of reasons, Ainslie had experienced a dismal 1981 season; but, under the coaching of Neale and, particularly, due to his superb on-field leadership and strength at full-forward, Ainslie won the 1982 premiership. At the end of 1982, he was interviewed by St Kilda,with a view to him replacing Alex Jesaulenko. Neale demanded $50,000 as his salary (St Kilda eventually appointed the ex-Richmond coach Tony Jewell).
Career-ending nosocomial infection
In 1983, he began the 1983 season as the captain-coach of the Ainslie Football Club, and was playing as well as he had ever been, despite his advanced age and increased weight.
Only a few matches into the 1983 season he suffered a relatively minor injury to his left knee, and was admitted to hospital for a simple, routine surgical repair. At the time of his admission to hospital, it was thought that he might miss two weeks at the most (and, moreover, that he still had, perhaps, another two or three seasons in him as captain-coach).
Whilst in the hospital, he came down with a very severe nosocomial infection that threatened his life; and the extremely long time that it took for him to recover meant that he never retained his fitness levels, and was only well enough to play a couple of matches at the end of the season. Although not a "passenger", he was not able to play up to his usual level of dominance; and it was clear to all that his playing career was over.
With Neale in the team, Ainslie won the 1983 premiership; the fourth in his six years as captain-coach. In the 1980 season he kicked 149 goals, in the 1981 season he kicked 139 goals, and in the 1982 season he kicked 125 goals.
Because he was no longer able to take the field as a player, Neale was reluctantly released by the Ainslie Football Club; as their club and team structure at the time demanded a playing coach (the club eventually appointed ex-Richmond, and ex-Collingwod player Rod Oborne as the captain-coach for the 1984 season).
Cleared by Ainslie, Neale moved to coach the Central District Football Club in the SANFL. He was non-playing coach from 1984–1987. Central District only appeared twice in the finals during Neale's coaching tenure, without them winning a single finals game. In 1984, with Neale as coach, Central District's John Platten won the Magarey Medal.
St Kilda Football Club
Neale currently works at the St Kilda Football Club as Coterie & Support Groups Manager.
- St. Kilda Signs Country Star, The Age, (Tuesday, 21 July 1964), p.22.
- State Teams, The Age, (Friday, 15 June 1967), p.22.
- VFL Survives Late Burst by Tasmania: 17-Point Margin, The Age, (Monday, 19 June 1967), p.20.
- McFarline, p., "Its time to hang up his boots and saddle", The Age, (Friday, 6 August 1976), p.24.
- LeagueTeams . . . round 22: Richmond v. St Kilda, The Age, (Friday, 26 August 1977), p..
- Peisse, K., "Contract on the Cowboy", The Age, (Wednesday, 13 August 1975), p.12.
- Phillips, S., "'Cowboy' is a big name in the Territory", The Age, (Tuesday, 23 May 1978), p.36.
- Grattan, M., "Cowboy Rides Tall in the Territory", The Age, (Tuesday, 12 August 1980), p.33.
- Interstate Football Details, The Age, (Monday, 7 July 1980), p.26.
- Carter, R., "ACT disgrace has Aylett jumping mad", The Age, (Monday, 7 July 1980), p.28. Balderstobe, S., "Whole new ACT as stars forget script", The Age, (Monday, 7 July 1980), p.26.
- The Teams, The Age, (Friday, 4 July 1980, p.24
- Grant, T, "Cowboy Neale would saddle up as Saints' coach for $50,000", The Age, (10 September 1982), p.24.
- Cowboy Takes Footy Reins, Navy News, Vol.40, No.1, (Monday, 27 January 1997), p.16