Will Ashcroft, the son of a triple premiership Lions great and the best player in this year’s AFL draft pool according to many scouts, will join the Brisbane Lions next year.
The Lions on Thursday confirmed had formally agreed to join the club as a father-son selection at this year’s national draft after officially nominating Brisbane as his preferred destination earlier in the day.
It means Brisbane now gets the opportunity to match a rival club bid on Ashcroft, who’s widely regarded as the Pick 1 favorite for November’s draft.
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One recruiter told foxfooty.com.au Ashcroft “could play AFL this week” as he was on a “different level” to most of this year’s draft class.
Ashcroft’s father is Marcus Ashcroft, who played 318 games with the Lions and was part of the club’s famous premiership three-peat from 2001 to 2003.
He trained with the Lions’ AFL list last summer and then played two games with the club’s VFL team in early May. He starred, of course, for the Lions against both Sydney and Coburg, averaging 28 disposals, eight tackles, six inside 50s and five clearances across the two matches.
Ashcroft has impressed at every level he’s played so far this year, including in the recent AFL Under 18 National Championships. He booted two goals and averaged 33.3 disposals, 15.0 contested possessions, 10.0 clearances, 6.7 tackles and 6.7 inside 50s from his three Vic Metro matches.
The 18-year-old is the hot favorite to claim this year’s Larke Medal – the award given to the best player of the annual carnival — when it’s awarded next month. Recent winners of the honor include Stephen Coniglio, Lachie Whitfield, Dom Sheed, Jack Graham and Sam Walsh – the latter, of which, Ashcroft has been compared to for his elite on-field consistency and leadership, as well as his off-field professionalism .
“I can’t wait to join the club and start earning the respect of all the players and coaching staff,” Will Ashcroft said.
“I was lucky enough to do some work with the breaking players last pre-season and I am really looking forward to learning from them and hopefully into that group and seeing what we can become.
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“To be following after dad is a privilege and if I can achieve half of what he did then I would be happy. I am also looking forward to forging my own name.
“I’d like to say a big thanks to Leon Harris (Lions recruiter) he has done heaps of work over the years to support me. And also a huge thanks to my parents, brother and sister for all they have done.”
Lions football boss Danny Daly said it’ll be exciting to see Ashcroft follow in his father’s footsteps.
“Will is one of the most talented young players in the country and to have him choose the Brisbane Lions to start his AFL career is a huge moment for all involved,” Daly said.
“He has impressed at every level he has played at this year, and like our members, we cannot wait for him to pull on a Brisbane Lions jumper.”
Possibly complicating matters, in a positive way, for the Lions is they have another father-son prospect in first-round calculations, with Jaspa Fletcher – the son of Adrian Fletcher who played 231 games for four clubs including 107 for Brisbane – rising up draft boards following an three strong carnival games for the Allies.
It means the Lions could spend most of this year’s trade period banking selections to match rival club bids on Ashcroft and, possibly, Fletcher. As of July 26, the Lions held Picks 16, 34, 44 (via Port Adelaide) and 70 in the draft, but will need more picks in their arsenal to secure Ashcroft if his name is called at Pick 1.
Ashcroft’s main competitor for the Pick 1 mantle is seen as George Wardlaw – a powerful, competitive and combative inside players that models his game on Melne’s Clayton Oliver.