Rising Stocks: Bottom-agers steal the show

THE AFL Under 18 National Championships offer arguably the greatest opportunity for top-age draft hopefuls to show their wares, but it was a bunch of bottom-agers who stole the show in Vic Metro’s thumping win over South Australia on Sunday.

A trio of Metro midfielders led all comers, while a standalone Croweater did so in the loss, highlighting their respective quality against a raft of older opposition. We highlight the quartet of under-agers who boosted their stock in Sunday’s champs showcase.

>> Rising Stocks: Allies vs. South Australia

Levi Ashcroft (Vic Metro)
18/12/2006 | 179cm | 75kg | Midfielder

Stats: 32 disposals, 4 inside 50s, 1 goal

Leading all comers with 32 disposals, Ashcroft is shaping as a very similar player to his elder brother. He did it in a canter on Sunday, racking up 26 uncontested possessions and dominating link play between the arcs, largely going by hand. With his side well on top, there wasn’t much of the defensive aspect Ashcroft has shown a hunger for, but he is certainly a natural accumulator and hard runner of high order.

Sid Draper (South Australia)
05/07/2006 | 180cm | 72kg | Midfielder

Stats: 27 disposals, 5 clearances, 5 inside 50s

Arguably South Australia’s best player for two games running, Draper was far and away his side’s top ball winner with 27 disposals and five clearances on Sunday. He showcased his usual step and turn of speed through traffic, catching the eye with quick bursts out of congestion. The brother of Collingwood’s Arlo is already his state’s prime mover in midfield, and potentially SA’s top 2024 prospect.

Josh Smillie (Vic Metro)
17/05/2006 | 194cm | 92kg | Midfielder

Stats: 26 disposals, 5 tackles, 8 inside 50s

It is no surprise to see Metro’s Under 16 MVP from last year now thriving in the Under 18 setup, especially given his physical attributes. An inside bull in the mould of Patrick Cripps, Smillie is clean and composed with ball in hand, and showed true class as his side’s primary inside ball winner. He can also impact up forward and has all the makings of a top five talent once his draft year comes around.

Jagga Smith (Vic Metro)
28/01/2006 | 181cm | 68kg | Midfielder

Stats: 26 disposals, 4 clearances, 5 inside 50s

The balance in Metro’s bottom-age midfield is remarkable, and Smith compliments the likes of Ashcroft and Smillie with his ability to tear opponents to shreds on the outside. His turn of speed makes him near-impossible to lay a hand on, and though he prized four clearances, 17 of his 26 possessions were uncontested – playing the ideal receiver role around the ball with composure, clean hands, and smarts.


Vic Metro had two more bottom-agers take the field on Sunday in Jesse Dattoli (13 disposals, one goal) and key defender Harry O’Farrell (six disposals, four marks), the latter of whom had little to do down back. There could soon be some rotation to bring even more bottom-agers through the lineup, too.

While Draper was South Australia’s standout, the Croweaters also blooded usual ruck-forward Tom Luck in defence, as Central District tall Will McCabe was a late withdrawal. The Eagles prospect found the going tough, but posted nine touches and five marks in the defeat.

Two bottom-agers were rotated into the victorious Allies squad on Sunday, with one of them being Lions Academy accumulator Sam Marshall. He worked hard for 19 disposals, six marks and three inside 50s. Defender Bo Allan was also solid for WA, notching five marks among his 12 disposals.

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