Will Ashcroft is the #1 most selected player across SuperCoach, AFLFantasy & DreamTeam. Is it a warranted selection?
Name: Will Ashcroft
Club: Brisbane Lions
SuperCoach Price: $202,800
AFLFantasy Price: $298,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: $295,400
WHY IS HE RELEVANT?
Will Ashcroft is one of the most well-rounded midfielders to come out of the junior system. He’s strong in the contest, quick, powerful and clean with the ball. He regularly makes the right decision both in and out of congestion. And when he doesn’t have the football, he’s getting into dangerous spaces to prevent the opposition or applying elite defensive pressure with tackles. Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen some special players come into the AFL from the juniors, and Will looks just as good as any of them.
The Brisbane Lions have been given an absolute gift via the father/son AFL rules, and even though it cost them plenty of draft pick capital, there won’t be one Lions staff, player or supporter that’ll be disappointed in what they gave up to land him.
In the NAB league, for Sandringham Dragons, he averaged 34.5 disposals, five tackles and 3.3 marks for the season. While in the under-18 championships for Vic Metro, he averaged 33 disposals, nine clearances, and five tackles and snagged himself the Larke Medal, awarded to the best player throughout the Under-18 National Championships. He’s even had a chance to play three VFL games for the Brisbane Lions; playing against men, he averaged 29 disposals and was even seen amongst some recruiters as the best player in these games.
At every level, he’s played from local footy to nab league, to under-18 championships and even the VFL. He’s shown that he’s a class above the rest & stacks up the stats line full no matter the occasion or the opposition.
As a junior, Will received plenty of contrasts to being like Sam Walsh and Nick Daicos. Both players were elite juniors but could translate them onto the elite stage in their first season. Sam’s debut season in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, he finished the season averaging 93, scored seven tons, nine additional extra scores over 80 & only dipped his scoring under 70 in just two matches. His SuperCoach performances were equally as impressive as he ended the year averaging 87. It consisted of six tons, eight additional scores above 80 & just three times scored less than 70.
For Nick, in his debut season for AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, he scored seven tons, three of them over 115, including his career-high 147 against the Crows. To go with those tons was five additional 80+. His SuperCoach season was even stronger. He scored six tons, four above 120, including 143 & 163. On top of these, he had six more scores over 80.
The reason for highlighting Daicos & Walsh and their debut seasons is they both became someone that at either M8 or D6, should you get stuck during the season, you could’ve held them in those spots for the entirety of the season. While it’s not an ‘ideal’ scenario heading into the season, it turned out to be OK if you got stuck with bad luck and had to do it. Can we see Ashcroft match those scores? It’s certainly potential, but it’s the unspoken expectation in the community that we’ll have another stunning high-end cash cow.
Simply put, Ashcroft is as good as any midfielder we’ve had come to the junior ranks. And while no player is ever a guaranteed superstar, Will is as close to being that as you can get.Embed from Getty Images
There are only two reasons you don’t have Will Ashcroft in your starting squad entering round one. Firstly, an injury during the preseason prevents him from playing in the year’s opening match. Beyond that, I cannot forecast how he doesn’t debut in week one of the season. Nevertheless, the club have been ultra-impressed with him. Cameron Bruce, the Lions midfield coach, was recently asked about Will after a dominant match simulation. He said, ‘he’s clean, and his work around congestion and composure at such a young age is impressive.’ So let’s call it now; unless injured or suspended, he’s playing round one.
It’s why he’s currently the most-owned player across the formats. He’s currently in 68% SuperCoach, 62% AFLFantasy & 65% of DreamTeam sides. So not only is he highly owned, but for many, he’s the first picked.
Do you believe in ‘paying up for job security’? Without playing, our cash cows become null and void. I understand that perspective. However, a player’s increased prices don’t guarantee their games. Instead, it must be based on the unique variables of why they are getting games. Cash cows’ job is primarily to make us as much money as possible quickly as possible.
While the higher ceiling scores are preferable, the more expensive a cash cow is, the higher they need to score to generate the same amount of money. Ashcroft must outscore others by approximately 15 points per game to those at the base price to make the same amount. The only reason I’d support any advocacy for not starting Will would be if we had a plethora of cash cows at the basement price, which all had the same scoring output and job security. However, I don’t believe that exists in 2023.
Will should get a solid split of midfield minutes this year. I’d be shocked if it was anything under 35% as a centre-bounce midfielder. As loaded as the Lions are with midfield stocks, I believe we’ll see a shift from last year’s dynamic. I believe that Lachie Neale and Josh Dunkley will be the regulars and attend north of 70% of CBAs. Then WIll Ashcroft, Dayne Zorko, Jarred Berry, Hugh McCluggage, Cam Rayner, Zac Bailey, and possibly even Jarryd Lyons will make up the supporting cast. When not part of the midfield rotation, he’ll likely make his home across the flanks. So while a DPP gain isn’t out of the question, it’s not something to bank on.
The other day I was doing a podcast collaboration with the legends at Jock Reynolds. You can listen to the episode here. I bring it up because we had a question from a listener about chasing a unique cash cow and paying up for it. But looking for a separator or a ‘point of difference’ isn’t what you should be looking for in your cash cows. It would help if you were looking for players with the best potential to generate cash to enable you to upgrade your side. So don’t get cute trying to avoid Ashcroft; I genuinely cannot see a narrative that holds sufficient water for me to see why you’d want not to select Will.
Don’t overcomplicate the game; keep it simple. For example, if Ashcroft is selected in round one, pick him.
Rarely in single-season drafts do first-year players end up getting selected. However, given the constant parallels and comparisons, Will Ashcroft has had to Nick Daicos, I can see coaches jumping up earlier than they should for Ashcroft in the hope that he might deliver at the same levels as Nick. Across formats, he went around pick 140-150 as his average draft position in rookie season. If you are desperate to own him, you’ll probably pick him in the range of an M5. As much as I love Will, I couldn’t pick him there over a Jacob Hopper type who’ll be available at a close range.
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