#10

Will Ashcroft

height: 181cm

weight: 78kg

D.O.B: 06-05-2004

Leagues: Under 18s Championships, NAB League Boys

  • Snapshot
  • Analysis
  • Summary

SNAPSHOT: “A decorated ball winner who has been relentless in his pursuit of excellence, Ashcroft is incredibly well-rounded and clear as this year’s top prospect.”

Having done everything in his power to stamp himself as this year’s leading AFL Draft prospect, Ashcroft has arguably gone clear in top spot after a top-age campaign which delivered on all the hype. There was conjecture on whether the Victorian-based father-son candidate would nominate to become a Brisbane Lions player, but he firmly committed to the club with a two-year deal on top of his initial contract of the same length.

Ashcroft was named captain of the Sandringham Dragons this year, and like Nick Daicos before him, took on the mantle in his NAB League debut in Round 1. He will look to become the first father-son selection to go at pick one, after Sam Darcy‘s bid was called out second in last year’s intake.

A driven character made of leadership material, Ashcroft also became a leader among the AFL Academy and Vic Metro squads, and took out this year’s Larke Medal as the best player throughout the Under 18 National Championships. That accolade came less than a week after helping Sandringham take out the NAB League premiership, where Ashcroft was adjudged best afield.

He is set to join 2019 Larke Medal winner Deven Robertson in maroon, blue and gold come year’s end, alongside fellow father-son candidate Jaspa Fletcher after the pair spent over a month training with Brisbane during preseason. With three typically prolific VFL games under his belt for the Lions, the transition is set to be seamless.

 

PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS:

STRENGTHS:

+ Accumulation
+ Character
+ Consistency
+ Endurance
+ Inside-outside balance
+ Midfield craft
+ Stoppage work

IMPROVEMENTS:

- Defensive habits
- Versatility

As a high-end prospect, Ashcroft's assets are plentiful. His level of consistency is right up there with the likes of Daicos and Sam Walsh, the latter of whom he takes great inspiration from. Walsh's inside-outside influence and ability to hit the scoreboard are traits Ashcroft has built into his own game, taking pride in both as a well-rounded midfielder.

His numbers across multiple levels have been outstanding, hardly wavering and putting him comfortably in the elite category. In the NAB League alone, Ashcroft sat between tallies of 27 and 51 disposals, aside from the Round 1 outlier of 18. That was arguably his only down game for the year, and he even maintained the standard upon cracking VFL level, averaging 29 touches in three outings.

Ashcroft is a pure accumulator, able to rack up possessions in combination with his teammates from contest to contest. His kick-to-handball ratio is in favour of the latter, with Ashcroft a strong contested ball winner who can dish out from the inside, then demand the ball back and stream away on the outside. Each disposal sets up the next.

Athletically, the 18-year-old is more an endurance runner than a power player. His running capacity and work rate are top notch, though he has made great strides in his explosive traits. Ashcroft turned his acceleration into a handy strength this year, and is combative at 182cm to mix it with more brawny opponents.

Ashcroft's skills and impact per possession are areas which have spawned some debate. He is unquestionably sound by hand, but some may query just how damaging he is with each touch. With a range of one-twos, hand-offs and short-range outlets used, his penetrative boot and polished use going inside 50 are sometimes overlooked.

An area for improvement may instead lie in Ashcroft's versatility. Though dextrous in a midfield sense with his ability to impact inside and out, he is a genuine on-baller who is so far ahead of the opposition in that position, that he hardly needs to play anywhere else. Would he need or be able to transition to a forward/back flank at the elite level?

A counter to that claim is his scoreboard impact, with Ashcroft proving to be a slick finisher from range. He averaged a goal every other game for Sandringham, and found the big sticks in Vic Metro colours to compliment his method of helping others shine. Thing is, he does much of that scoring from midfield, rather than resting forward.

The man himself said in preseason that defensive habits are another phase of the game he would like to lift. His two-way effort at stoppage is exemplified by a NAB League tackle average of 4.9, though on the rare occasion he fails to win a clearance, sweeping back on the spread may be what he is alluding to.

Given how much he seems to have improved on every perceived weakness throughout the year, Ashcroft's character is the last box to tick off. A determined youngster, his standards and willingness to consistently better himself make him a leader through action, and he demands the same vigour from his teammates. Brisbane will be lucky to have him.

DRAFT RANGE1-2

SUMMARY:

There’s not much left to say about Ashcroft that hasn’t been outlined already, the kid’s a star. He looks as readymade as any top-end prospect to come through the pathway of late, and is the type of player to continue to seek improvement throughout his career. Having been touted the top 2022 prospect from over a year out, he has delivered on the hype and it would surely be daft not to recognise that with a bid at pick one – or two, at the latest. Expect him to adjust quickly to the rigours of the AFL, and quickly slot into Brisbane’s finals-embedded side.

Strengths
Accumulation
Character
Consistency
Endurance
Midfield craft
Production
Stoppage work
Inside-outside balance
Improvements
Versatility
Defensive running

NAB League Boys

SeasonTeamKHBDMCPUPTHOCLRI50R50GLGMKHDMHOTGDC
2022Sandringham Dragons22126248346006900983561415.818.734.53.30.04.90.4114
Total-22126248346006900983561415.818.734.53.30.04.90.4114

Under 18s Championships

SeasonTeamKHBDMCPUPTHOCLRI50R50GLGMKHDMHOTGDC
2022Vic Metro000000000000000000000
Total-000000000000000000000
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