Scouting Notes: AFL Academy vs. Footscray

BRISBANE Lions father-son gun Levi Ashcroft was best on ground as the AFL Academy suffered a 55-point loss to Footscray in its final showcase game for 2024. The Bulldogs, undefeated and leading the VFL ladder, were far too strong for the comparatively patchy Under 18 outfit at Whitten Oval.

Ashcroft was typically prolific as a mainstay in the Academy’s midfield on Saturday, collecting a team-high 28 disposals to be the standout junior afield. We took note of his performance, and that of all 24 National Under 18 representatives who turned out in game two – including every late addition.

AFL ACADEMY 1.3 | 4.4 | 7.5 | 7.8 (50)
FOOTSCRAY 4.2 | 8.3 | 12.4 | 16.9 (105)

GOALS: J. Shanahan 2, H. Langford, L. Trainor, S. Lalor, T. Welsh, J. Smith
RMC BEST: L. Ashcroft, L. Trainor, J. Smillie, J. Smith, F. O’Sullivan

>> Scouting Notes: Game One – AFL Academy vs. Coburg VFL

  • Team
  • AFL Academy
  • Footscray Bulldogs

#2 Levi Ashcroft (Sandringham Dragons)
Midfielder/Forward | 179cm | 18/12/2006

Signs were ominous from Ashcroft as he collected six touches within the first five minutes on Saturday, en route to 28 overall. He racked it up with usual aplomb, getting stuck in with determined clearance work and accumulating on the outside credit to his hard and smart running. While others rotated through different roles, Ashcroft was a mainstay at the centre bounces and showed why by directing teammates, lifting his intensity at key stages, and competing across the four quarters.

#3 Ben Camporeale (Glenelg)
Midfielder/Defender | 186cm | 21/07/2006

Having ended game one in defence, Camporeale spent most of game two there before being shifted into midfield for the final quarter. The Carlton father-son prospect was his productive self in the way of rebound running, chaining his possessions and waxing well with teammates. He also showed his strengths with a nice intercept mark at full stretch in term three, but could perhaps have been a little more damaging with his kicking and tighter on opponents in defensive 50.

#4 Lucas Camporeale (Glenelg)
Wing | 185cm | 21/07/2006

Camporeale was one of the few players whose role hardly wavered across the two Academy games, as he again made the wing his own on Saturday. He wasn’t quite as prolific as he was against Coburg, but ran hard on the outside and looked to provide a bit of drive with every possession. Camporeale has shown an aptitude for playing through the middle at SANFL Under 18s level, but the way he covers ground and takes metres by foot is arguably best suited to the wing or flanks.

Carlton father-son prospect Lucas Camporeale | Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

#5 Malakai Champion (Subiaco)
Forward/Wing | 172cm | 17/05/2006

One of the Academy’s eight inclusions for game two, Champion showed glimpses of his exciting potential. The West Australian was utilised on the wing at times but looked most dangerous as a high half-forward – his usual role. He was energetic with ball in hand and searched for it all the way up past centre wing, putting speed on the play when wheeling away into attack. From there, Champion’s long and spearing passes inside 50 assisted a couple of scores.

#6 Archer Day-Wicks (Bendigo Pioneers)
Forward/Wing | 186cm | 13/05/2006

Having not taken to the field in just over a month, Day-Wicks acquitted himself nicely in the Academy’s forward line. He began to get his hands on the ball by working up beyond the attacking arc, looking to utilise his overhead marking ability and proving classy in possession. Day-Wicks’ forward craft began to emerge but he missed his couple of chances on goal, going closest with a set shot which hit the post in term one and putting one wide on the run late in the piece.

#7 Xavier Lindsay (Gippsland Power)
Defender | 183cm | 03/08/2006

Another of the game two inclusions, Lindsay reverted to a role across half-back for the Academy having more recently shone in Gippsland Power’s midfield. He was typically assured with ball in hand, timing his overlap runs well and making great decisions to help his side transition from defensive 50. On top of sweeping forward with his run and carry, Lindsay also got good penetration on his kicks – including an audacious kick-in up the middle in the opening quarter.

Leonardo Lombard fires off a handball | Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

#8 Leonardo Lombard (Suns Academy)
Midfielder/Forward | 178cm | 05/10/2006

Having been part of the Academy’s starting midfield group a fortnight ago, Lombard spent most of game two up forward. There, his competitiveness and work rate stood out as he hustled from contest to contest and applied great physicality with the ball in dispute. While less impactful in the way of possessions, the Suns Academy standout kept on showing up with repeat efforts and displayed some of his power through the usual twists, turns and baulks.

#9 Samuel Marshall (Sandringham Dragons/Lions Academy)
Defender/Wing | 185cm | 19/01/2006

Marshall was a relative mainstay down back and looked most comfortable there despite a third quarter move to the wing. He played a high line, pushing hard up the ground with overlap run to receive on the outer and drive his legs forward. The Lions Academy product was productive in that way and compounded his metres gained with punchy kicks on the move. His form down back is a handy tick in the way of versatility having more often played on either side of midfield.

#10 Ricky Mentha (Gippsland Power)
Forward/Wing | 178cm | 04/09/2006

A small forward with great craft around goal, Mentha was again challenged in splitting his time between attack and the wing. The Alice Springs native struggled to get his hands on the ball consistently but got on the end of a couple of passes as the Academy broke from the centre bounce and defensive 50. He marked the ball relatively cleanly and looked to move it on quickly.

Christian Moraes launches a kick forward | Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

#11 Christian Moraes (Eastern Ranges)
Midfielder | 183cm | 08/11/2006

Starting on the wing before getting his shot through the middle, Moraes injected great energy to the play with every possession. He proved he could do it both ways – either supplying others with quick and clean hands on the inside, or playing the receiver with his speed and carry on the outside. Moraes also got stuck in with double effort to spoil and tackle in term three, and started out with a searing pass to hit Day-Wicks inside 50 while running at full tilt.

#12 Jagga Smith (Oakleigh Chargers)
Midfielder/Forward | 181cm | 28/01/2006

It is clear that while size may hold others back, Smith’s skills and footy IQ are so far advanced it becomes a non-factor in his game. The smooth moving midfielder made great decisions in tight spots and was typically clean at ground level, while also showing good vision to pick out targets by hand and foot. Smith spent plenty of time forward and snagged a goal out the back in term three, but his best moment was a blind turn to break a tackle and come away from congestion untouched.

#15 Basil Hart (Peel Thunder)
Forward | 185cm | 15/01/2007

Hart must have had a whirlwind weekend; invited to participate in the National Academy’s final camp as a bottom-ager, and unexpectedly being tasked with taking the field himself. The 2023 West Australian Under 16 MVP only played a half up forward and nearly got on the end of a fast break over the back, but would otherwise have learned plenty from the experience alongside star teammates and against polished opposition.

#20 Bo Allan (Peel Thunder)
Defender | 191cm | 16/02/2006

After missing game one, Allan settled nicely into the Academy’s backline as one of only a few prospects afield with state league experience. He got to work early with an intercept mark at the top of defensive 50 and showed glimpses of his multi-dimensional game; holding his own aerially and one-on-one, while also distributing the ball efficiently by foot. At 191cm, his versatility and athleticism lend well to both attacking and defensive phases.

Tom Gross takes possession | Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

#23 Tom Gross (Oakleigh Chargers)
Forward/Midfielder | 181cm | 15/09/2006

Gross certainly isn’t shy when it comes to using his power to take the game on, and while his end product could do with some work, his turn of speed led to an early shot on goal. The explosive talent started up forward but got his chance through midfield and was effective at sharking ruck taps on the move, taking the ball cleanly and using his momentum to get to the outside. On one instance, he broke from the centre bounce and hit a target at half-forward with aplomb.

#24 Harvey Langford (Dandenong Stingrays)
Forward/Midfielder | 190cm | 15/03/2006

Langford made a strong start on Saturday, booting the Academy’s opening goal with a nicely converted set shot in the first quarter. He worked hard up the corridor as a forward and eventually got his chance through midfield, offering a clean set of hands and darting left-foot kicks. Langford’s intensity to hunt the ball and be physical was good, but he was also effective as the receiver where his kick penetration could come to the fore when launching inside 50.

#27 Finn O’Sullivan (Oakleigh Chargers)
Midfielder | 182cm | 30/05/2006

After making his return from injury through the APS, O’Sullivan was raring to go as part of the Academy’s starting midfield brigade. He also got a run on the wing and up forward, but looked most effective on-ball where his array of traits emerged. O’Sullivan was polished and combative on the inside, applying himself with repeat efforts to both win the ball and pressure the opposition. He showed glimpses of his athleticism by looking to break to the outside and taking a strong overhead mark in term four – one of the all-rounder’s many points of difference.

Finn O’Sullivan on the march | Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

#28 Jobe Shanahan (Bendigo Pioneers)
Forward/Ruck | 194cm | 02/08/2006

Shanahan was just about the Academy’s lone genuine key forward on Saturday and also chopped out through the ruck. The spring-heeled prospect competed well aerially, leaping at the ball with fluency and at least bringing it to ground. He could have shown more intensity and physicality defensively, but was nimble when the ball hit the deck and converted two 40-metre set shots to finish as his side’s standalone multiple goalkicker.

#29 Josh Smillie (Eastern Ranges)
Utility | 194cm | 17/05/2006

Smillie is seemingly doing everything in his power to establish himself as this year’s top prospect, and was again superb in National colours. He started in midfield but was also used at either end of the ground, looking most comfortable in defence where his decision making, composure, and penetrative kicking shone brightest. The skipper was ridiculously polished all game and near-impossible to contain as both an extractor and a playmaker across each third. Genuine star.

#30 Luke Trainor (Sandringham Dragons)
Defender | 194cm | 10/04/2006

Fresh off a best on ground performance in game one, Trainor had claims on the same honours after a terrific opening half. The 194cm defender was again outstanding in the air, leaping confidently at the ball and backing himself to intercept. He also got to work as the Academy’s best distributor by foot, thriving when teammates looked to get it in his hands and rewarding them with sound execution. The cherry on top of his excellent two games was a thumping goal from 50 metres in the second quarter. He looks a class above at times and is clearly the best tall in the draft crop.

#32 Tobie Travaglia (Bendigo Pioneers)
Defender | 187cm | 26/10/2006

Travaglia was carried over from game one after late changes meant his services would be required once more, and he again held his own in defence. The Bendigo Pioneers prospect could hardly be faulted for effort, shutting down opponents and fighting hard to win the ball back. He fed teammates on the turnover and ran out the game strongly as one of the Academy’s more consistent performers. A couple of blemishes in the way of kicking were the only real downsides.

The 2024 AFL Academy squad | Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

#33 Oliver Dean (Tasmania Devils)
Ruck | 201cm | 16/10/2006

After a tough first outing, Dean showed signs of improvement as his side’s primary ruck. He can still become a little more competitive and imposing both at the contest and around the ground, but clunked a strong pack mark in defensive 50 during the third quarter and showed a clean set of hands in open play. With solid fundamental skills and range, the Tasmanian has some upside.

#34 Sam Lalor (GWV Rebels)
Midfielder/Forward | 187cm | 30/08/2006

Another Victorian who recently returned from injury via the APS, Lalor was thrown straight into the midfield battle. While usually a beast on the inside, he looked handy when it came to marking overhead and becoming an option forward of centre, taking a couple of grabs inside 50 and booting one goal from two set shots. His strong hands and physicality already stand up to senior level, and this game was a solid one to build off for the potential first-rounder.

#38 Matt Whitlock (Murray Bushrangers)
Defender | 197cm | 16/05/2006

Coming into the side for likely Vic Country teammate Noah Mraz, Whitlock found a home in defence. He’s a player with raw potential and while clumsy at times, showed glimpses of what he could be with some work. The agile tall talent took a nice intercept mark in the first quarter and got involved in transitional play like a small, not afraid to weave through traffic and carry the ball.

#40 Tyler Welsh (Adelaide/Woodville-West Torrens)
Forward | 191cm | 15/08/2006

Welsh often plays slightly above his height and suited that role as one of the Academy’s key forward options. He built into the game with a couple of strong marks in term two and looked most effective when bustling up the ground to help his side connect to attacking 50. The Adelaide father-son candidate drilled a flat goal assist for Lalor and found the goals himself with a set shot in the third quarter. It feels like another breakout game is around the corner for the physically imposing forward.

Tyler Welsh celebrates a goal | Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Did not play: Joel Cochran, Sid Draper, Jonty Faull, Noah Mraz, Harry O’Farrell

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