“He’s one that is very professional, so that’s the other thing – he gets the best out of himself. He’s very well programmed on and off the field, and I’d say he’s probably more programmed off the field.
“He’s very coachable, and he’s showing high leadership traits… He just wants for others to become better players. I think that’s probably the thing that stands out the most for him, he wants to bring people along for the journey, not just be the journey.”
Wheeler said the opportunity to play in the midfield and around the square, which he has been doing in the Lions’ VFL side, potentially contributed to his decision, along with having a connection to the city he partly grew up in.
“I think that he wanted to go to a club where they were going to play him in his best position… but also that he spent a fair chunk of his childhood in Brisbane, in that area, so I think there’s a bit of connection there that maybe that’s what was pulling him back towards it.”
In a statement on Thursday, Ashcroft said he couldn’t wait to join the club and start earning the respect of all the players and coaching staff.
“I was lucky enough to do some work with the midfielders last pre-season and I am really looking forward to learning from them and hopefully breaking into that group and seeing what we can become,” said Ashcroft.
“To be following after Dad is a privilege and if I can achieve half of what he did, then I would be happy. I am also looking forward to forging my own name.”
The Lions’ football GM Danny Daly said Ashcroft was one of the most talented young players in the country and his choice to become a Lion was a huge moment for the club.
“He has impressed at every level he has played at this year and, like our members, we cannot wait for him to pull on a Brisbane Lions jumper,” Daly said.
“Obviously, his father Marcus is a legend of our club and it’s exciting to see him follow in those footsteps while also making a name for himself.
“We look forward to welcoming Will, Marcus, Bekky, Levi and Lucy to the Brisbane Lions family.”
As can be facilitated for father-son prospects, the young midfielder has agreed to a four-year deal, and if he goes at No.1, he will become the first father-son pick taken in the top spot. Sam Darcy, son of Luke, went at No.2 last year for the Western Bulldogs.
Ashcroft has already played two games for the Lions’ VFL side, averaging 28 disposals, and was impressive for Vic Metro and Sandringham Dragons, where he averaged 35 disposals.
While the AFL is a different standard than Ashcroft is used to, Wheeler says the youngster is very adaptable and up for the challenge.
He’s already dealt with setbacks with his shoulder and missing chunks of games through COVID, which Wheeler says has given him a good grounding for the next level.
“You know, the game gets quicker and the boys get bigger, so he’s going to have to adapt his game… but he’s had three games in the VFL and I think his average was 33 possessions in that, so I think he still knows how to find the footy.”
Father-son Bulldog Darcy to make his debut
Third-generation Bulldog Sam Darcy will make his AFL debut against Fremantle this weekend.
Darcy, son of club great Luke, was drafted at pick No.2 in the 2021 national draft but an ongoing navicular bone stress fracture in his foot has sidelined him for the majority of this year.
He’s also grown 5.5 centimeters since being recruited, bringing him to an impressive 209.5 centimeters tall.
The youngster has been showing impressive form in the VFL in recent weeks, playing a range of roles including forward, defense and ruck. Last weekend, he registered 20 disposals and 14 marks while playing as a key defender in Footscray’s 26-point win over Werribee.
“Obviously Sam’s been through a bit to get to the point where he’s been playing enough minutes to convince us he might be ready for a game,” Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said on Thursday.
“So, you’re making your debut this week, big fella.”
Darcy said he was “unbelievably excited” and it was all “a bit overwhelming.”
“I can’t wait to run out with the boys on Saturday night,” said Darcy.
“When the announcement was made, the energy was unbelievable and it is something I will never forget.”
Tigers hold out hope for Grimes return in 2022
Damien Hardwick concedes Richmond co-captain Dylan Grimes is unlikely to play again this season unless the Tigers make a deep run into the finals.
Grimes will miss the remaining three home-and-away rounds, starting with Saturday night’s crunch game against Port Adelaide, because of his latest hamstring setback.
The triple-premiership defender had surgery on Thursday to repair tendon damage in the hope he can return during September.
“He won’t play in the regular season, that part’s done and dusted,” Hardwick told reporters on Thursday.
“[It depends on] how far we go in the finals and it gives him a chance if we make it.
“Este [surgery] gives him his best chance to get back this year, we feel.”
In the meantime Josh Gibcus and Rhyan Mansell are in the frame to plug the hole in defense.
“We’ve got some players who can fill the void although we are replacing a pretty valuable player,” Hardwick said.
Richmond sit two points behind eighth-placed St Kilda after last week’s thrilling win over Brisbane and take on a dangerous Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval before matches against Hawthorn and Essendon in the run home.
The finals race lingers as a possible distraction, but Hardwick doesn’t expect any issues keeping his side focused on the immediate task at hand.
“It’s pretty easy, that’s what we do,” he said.
“We stick firmly to what we can control and that’s this week’s game versus Port Adelaide.
“Our prep is firmly on them and the way they play the game.”
Timeline on Grundy’s return unclear
Collingwood are unsure whether Brodie Grundy will be fit to make his AFL comeback before the finals following the star ruckman’s latest injury setback.
Grundy returned from three months on the sidelines with a knee injury through the VFL last week and was hopeful of breaking into the Magpies’ side for Friday night’s blockbuster against Melbourne.
But an ankle injury suffered at training has thrown up another hurdle for the dual All-Australian ruckman.
Grundy did not train with teammates on Thursday and is unlikely to play at any level this week.
Whether he is fit to play in the Magpies’ last two qualifying matches before the finals – against fellow top-eight sides Sydney and Carlton – remains to be seen.
“I was happy with the amount of minutes he played in the VFL but he just pulled up sore,” Collingwood coach Craig McRae told reporters on Thursday.
“Obviously we don’t want that. We want him to be fresh and vibrant and jumping around and bringing his best energy from him.
“We’ll just have to assess what it’s like over the weekend.
“Hopefully he pulls up well from that and then we can progress from there.”
Grundy suffered a knee injury in Collingwood’s win over Essendon in round six and has not been seen at the top level since.
The ankle concern continues what McRae conceded had been a frustrating run for the Magpies and their first-choice ruckman.
“We were hoping to get some momentum and he’s missed a lot of footy this year,” McRae said.
“But he’s got a real positive outlook on life and he’s looking at what he can do in this short-term.
Parfitt a Cat for two more years
Geelong midfielder Brandan Parfitt has resigned with the club, adding two more years to his contract and making him a Cat until at least the end of 2024, the club confirmed on Thursday.
The 24-year-old young gun has played 108 games since debuting in 2017 and said he was thrilled to put pen to paper to continue his stay at the Cattery.
“I’m very happy at Geelong. I enjoy being part of this playing group and love everything about the club.”
Cats general manager of football Simon Lloyd echoed that the club was excited to see Parfitt remain at GMHBA Stadium.
“Brandan is an important part of Geelong and our plans moving forward. He has shown to be an integral part of our midfield with his football smarts and physicality.
“It has been pleasing to see Brandan’s development through our system, he has worked very hard and we have no doubt he will continue to improve and take his game to the next level.”
Parfitt made his return to the senior team in last week’s win against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night after being sidelined since round 12 with a broken hand and COVID-19.
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