Fletcher “embraces” pressure ahead of entering Lions den
BRISBANE Lions father-son prospect Jaspa Fletcher does not shy away from the pressure of the aforementioned title, instead he embraces it. While fellow father-son Will Ashcroft will land in the first couple of picks in tomorrow night’s AFL Draft, the Sherwood talent – who has remained based in Queensland – should not have to wait much longer to hear his name called out.
In a normal scenario where a player is the sole father-son prospect, the pressure and expectation builds ahead of the draft. For Fletcher, having Ashcroft there has taken away many of the headlines that might come with a first round prospect, but the talented midfielder said he had no problem copping that pressure had his fellow father-son not been there.
“I think he brings a lot of it because he’s such a good player and he’s obviously showed it this year with how he plays footy,” Fletcher said at the National Draft Combine. I embrace pressure to be honest, I love it. Especially on gameday or just around when you’re training, I think it makes me a better player. It’s good for him that he’s gone out and done his thing this year and he’s getting all the credit for it, I’m really happy for him.”
Fletcher and Ashcroft have surprisingly not played a lot of football together, with the pair having to go way back to the Under 12s in order to lineup in the same side. Ashcroft followed his father Marcus to Victoria to run out for Vic Metro in his later teens, while Jaspa, his father Adrian and family remained in Queensland.
“Back in Under 12s Queensland team we played together, it’s a bit too far back to remember anything,” Fletcher said. Then 15s didn’t get to play against him but he was playing for Vic then so we did catch up a little bit. We’ve had a little bit of contract training with the Lions last preseason. We were pretty close and did everything together. I think he’s a great bloke and his professionalism just wears off on anyone.”
Fletcher’s year has been a whirlwind experience in his own right, moving up from the Brisbane Lions Academy to the Allies, and captaining the combined states side. At the AFL Under 18 Championships, Fletcher earned All-Australian honours – which he described as “pretty cool recognition” – and even ran out for the Australian side against Collingwood VFL.
“It’s been a great experience,” Fletcher said. Obviously having dad going through the program both played and coached, you watched it and you can’t wait until you get to that stage so for it to be finally be here now is pretty surreal but it’s been great to play with some players you know are going to end up going pretty high and some of the best players in the country through the Australian team and the Allies. As well as the Lions Academy with the local talent.”
Naturally a Brisbane supporter because his father finished up his coaching up there, he only qualifies for the father-son aspect by just seven games, with Fletcher’s 107 matches at the Brisbane Bears and Lions making the cut, with stints at Fremantle (79), Geelong (23) and St Kilda (22) in a path well travelled. Fletcher said his father had been the “biggest factor” in his career growing up.
“Obviously he’s taught me everything that I know, and even after every game we discuss the positives but we focus on the things we still have to work on,” Fletcher said. That’s what I take into each game. We review every game and pick it apart and just keep working on what I have to get better at but also working on my strengths.”
Fletcher’s 2022 season was not without some hiccups, suffering stress fractures that ruled him out of the second half of the season, also being unavailable to test due to the injury. However Fletcher looked at the positives, working on other ares of his game in the meantime, describing it as a “blessing in disguise”.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate that during my footy career that I haven’t had too many injuries,” Fletcher said. This has been the biggest one and most significant. It was almost a blessing in disguise that I’ve been on the lighter side of things, I was able to get on the gym and was able to put on a little bit of muscle mass as well as work on my cardio fitness on a bike and take a bit of load off my legs which made me freshened up. It’s unfortunate I wasn’t able to play at the backend of the year but like I said it’s a blessing in disguise because I was able to work on things I was lacking in a little bit.”
The draft is just over 24 hours away, with Fletcher tipped to hear his name read out on night one. As is the case with the majority of father-son prospects, it will not be by Brisbane. However, expect the Lions to match any bid that comes in, with Fletcher’s range in the mid-to-late first round. As for how the teenager is feeling now the moment is here?
“It’s pretty crazy, I still pinch myself,” Fletcher said. It’s very surreal. You grow up watching it, I’ve still got three years, I’ve got a year and now it’s here it’s pretty crazy. I’m just embracing it all and taking it day by day.”