With every game Will Ashcroft plays in 2022, he becomes more likely to be drafted with Pick 1 next month.
And most — but not all — of his peers agree the father-son Lions prospect should be the first player taken in November’s national draft.
While the No.1 pick in the draft is just a number – underlined by the fact that Nick Daicos polled a record 60 votes to win the Rising Star award this year, nine months after slipping to pick 4 and arriving at Collingwood as a finished AFL player – there is a certain level the prestige and pressure that comes with being the first draft pick.
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Previous No.1 picks Luke Hodge, Brendon Goddard, Adam Cooney, Brett Deledio, Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs all retired with resumes stacked with at least 250 games, while Sam Walsh is a recent example of a top draftee who can make an immediate impact . at AFL level.
And many believe Ashcroft, a Walsh-like star midfielder who was a buzzed-about player in the 2022 draft class, can do just that in Brisbane.
Club recruiters and draft scholars have studied this field for several years. But foxfooty.com.au asked 16 players in this year’s draft class which player they would take with the No. 1 pick.
Nine of them, including West Adelaide’s tall Harry Lemmey, Ashcroft said immediately.
“I’d be stupid not to take it. Will AshcroftLemmey said foxfooty.com.au. “He is very elite off the field, which is the main thing, and on the field he is a fighting beast. He’s fast, he hits well in the clearance – for me he’s the clear number one.”
Ashcroft hardly put a foot wrong during his 2022 campaign. He won almost every award possible – the Larke Medal, NAB premiership captain, NAB League grand final man-on-ground and NAB League team of the year captain – and dominated at every level he played, including several VFL games for Brisbane.
“I think it’s pretty hard to pass. Will Ashcroft” said fellow Brisbane Lions prospect Jaspa Fletcher foxfooty.com.au when asked who he would pick for Pick 1.
“He showed why he is one of the best in the crop. He’s just as professional as it gets.
“I was very lucky to be with him at the Australia-Collingwood game (in May) and just the preparation he does before the game and that night after the game and then in the morning is second to none.”
The Giants sensationally traded up to No.1 in the draft last week in a four-way mega deal that helped bring Jason Horne-Francis – North Melbourne’s 2021 No.1 pick – to Port Adelaide. The Giants then appear, looking to recruit a Jeremy Cameron clone from Victoria in Aaron Cadman. Not only was this a play to fill a need for a positional key forward, but also to help the Giants replace a class they recently had in Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Tanner Bruhn and Bobby Hill.
Despite the Giants’ strong attachment to Cadman, it would be a big surprise if they didn’t land Ashcroft – the son of three-time Lion premiership and 318-game player Marcus Ashcroft – at Pick 1 and force the Lions to pay the maximum price. secure a star midfielder.
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Even the humble Cadman – who just wants to get on an AFL list, “whether it’s Pick 1 or Pick 100” – admits Ashcroft is top of the class.
“You can’t pass by. Will Ashcroft. The way he is pumped up, his competitiveness and how professional he is when he gets to his feet — that’s pretty rare,” Cadman said. foxfooty.com.au.
But Cadman had supporters among his peers.
“I guess I’d go with. Aaron Cadman“, Tasmanian defender and NAB League medalist Morrish Lachie Cowan told foxfooy.com.au. “He has a lot of potential – and it’s already hard to stop him.” He is also a good character.
“He’s got the longest arms, he’s very athletic, he’s quick to get off the lead, and if he jumps for a tag match, you can almost guarantee he’s going to go down with him.”
Woodville-West Torrens midfielder Mattaes Phillipou added: “I think Cadman has full potential and from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, it looks like he’s going to use it. He looks competitive and I would assume he has a good base of support based on the year he’s had. I think he could take his career and have a really good one.”
But Cadman was not Phillipou’s No. 1 pick nomination.
In perhaps a sign that the confidence and self-belief of overseas athletes is beginning to rub off on aspiring Australian footballers, Phillipou was one of several prospects he spoke to foxfooty.com.au which indicated that he would take the first pick himself.
“I guess I should say it myself because I think if you’re not going to back down, you probably don’t have the confidence to play in the league,” he said.
“Now that I think I’m the best, I’d probably say yes too. But look at the end of the day, that’s what the clubs need and I might not be the best fit for the club. But if I had Pick 1, I would definitely marry myself.”
Swan Districts midfielder Elijah Hewett said: “I’d probably take myself because I know what I’m capable of and what I’m willing to bring to the club. But everything is subjective.
“That confidence that a lot of players have, it’s almost something that probably separates me from all the players that have confidence, but I know a lot of other players probably think the same thing.” I think the choice when you get a little older is really irrelevant. In December before the season, everyone is back to square one and it’s about trying to play round 1.”
Fast bowler Elijah Tsatas, who will be a top-five pick on draft night, said he will take Oakleigh Chargers teammate George Wardlaw first – but only if he can’t be selected at Pick 1.
“I’d like to be number one,” Tsatas said foxfooty.com.au.
“I think I always wanted to be the best and prove that I was the best. That’s how I was wired as a kid growing up, but if I was lucky enough to have that privilege, I’d take it with both hands.”
Still, Ashcroft remained the overwhelming favorite among draft prospects.
As for who Ashcroft will take with the first pick, he said foxfooty.com.au: “I would take Harry Sheazel. I know him really well, he is very reliable and knows what he can do.
“He’s just crafty, he’s good in the air and on the ground. He is quite versatile as he can get a contested mark but has good foot speed. He just has so many dimensions to his game.”
These are Pick 1 preferences collected by the user foxfooty.com.au during interviews with prospects at the recent AFL draft. (And if they answered Ashcroft, we asked who they’d take at Pick 2.)
Harry Sheezel: “Will Ashcroft – you can’t argue with that. He put all the runs on the board and showed he can do it at any level and do it consistently. Just his professionalism, I think will set him up for a great career.”
When asked who he would pick at Pick 2, Sheezel said, “I think George Wardlaw or me. George could probably challenge Will as the best player. I think if he had a full year, I figure he’d probably be No. 1, 100 percent. I’ve played against him since juniors and he’s always been an absolute beast – nobody can stop him. I think he’s really added his kicking skills to his game over the last couple of years and it’s been really great to see.”
Cameron Mackenzie: “I’d have to go.” Will Ashcroft.”
When asked who he would pick at Pick 2, Mackenzie said, “I would have to go Elijah Tstatas. He is very athletic with his speed endurance and I think he could translate that quite comfortably and seamlessly into an AFL team. That would allow him to be very impressive early on and I think he would only continue to grow and get stronger.”
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Bailey Humphrey: “I think it’s a given – it is Will Ashcroft.”
Asked who he would pick at Pick 2, Humphrey said: “To be honest, I really rate Harry Sheezel. He is something special, so agile and very quick on his feet. He does it in midfield and he does it in the forward line as well.”
Olli Hotton: “Of course Will Ashcroft. You look at GPS every week, he just works really hard on and off the field. He’s very professional – and he’s had a professional mindset for years, so that’s a huge credit to him.”
Asked who he would pick at Pick 2, Hotton said: “I would actually go with Harry Sheezl. He is simply dangerous wherever he is on earth. One on One I don’t think I’ve ever seen him lose a contest. It has maximum impact per kill – and maximum targets per kill.”
Jhye Clark: “That’s obvious Will Ashcroft. He’s just so fired up. His lunge from the stopwatch is so hard to defend. He’s pretty hard to deal with because he always seems to get rid of it somehow.
Asked who he would pick at Pick 2, Clark said, “I’d have to go Aaron Cadman. For such a tall player, his work rate on the ground is tremendous and he has great hands.”
Henry Hustwaite: “It’s hard to pass Will Ashcroft. I’d probably go with him.”
Asked who he would pick at Pick 2, Hustwaite said: “He plays with Jhye Clarke, he’s been great so I can see why the club took him with Pick 1. His work ethic and passion for the game, he gives it 100 percent every week, every game. Plus his ability and courage for a guy who probably isn’t as big as the others, it’s great.”
(For the record, with pick 2, Jaspa Fletcher would take Jhye Clarke, while Aaron Cadman and Harry Lemmey would take George Wardlaw.
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Alwyn Davey Jnr: “I would definitely say George Wardlaw. When you see what he brings to the team and play alongside him, you can tell he’s going to be a very skilled player in the future. He made my life easier. He probably doesn’t get that much credit, but that doesn’t really matter. He is a great team-mate and would suit the clubs.”
George Wardlaw (who gave the only tentative answer): “That’s a tough question. I think it really depends a bit on your club and what you really need. I think Will Ashcroft is an excellent player, he is so professional and also really classy on the pitch. But Elijah Tstatas is a unique character and a unique player as well. His outside running is perfect for the team. And I think I’m a little bit of a different player than Elijah as far as inside center, so I think it really depends on your team.”
FINAL SELECTION 1 PREFERRED TALLY (out of 15)
Will Ashcroft: 9
Harry Sheazel: 1
George Wardlaw: 1
Aaron Cadman: 1
Elijah Tsatas: 1
Mattaes Phillipou: 1
Elijah Hewett: 1
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