Queenslanders in the AFL – Round 19

By Peter Blucher

A shattered Will Ashcroft can take one small consolation from his season-ending knee injury last week … the knowledge that he has had the most productive first 18 games by a Queenslander in AFL history.

With 398 possessions in his first season, the 19-year-old Brisbane Lions whiz kid heads a list which includes of a stack of players who most not have thought likely to be in some prestigious company.

Josh Smith, ex-Collingwood and West Coast player, is second with 374 possessions, from Brisbane’s Cheynee Stiller (372), and Collingwood’s Josh Thomas (352).

Ex-Collingwood/Brisbane rover Gary Shaw ranks fifth at 342 from Brisbane’s Steve McLuckie (340), Dayne Zorko (339) and Fitzroy/Brisbane midfielder Scott McIvor (325.

Others to top 300 possessions in their first 18 games have been Collingwood/Brisbane star Dayne Beams (318), Fitzroy’s Robert Shepherd (314), Collingwood’s Adam Oxley (308), Melbourne’s Josh Wagner (306), Brisbane’s Michael Voss (302) and Melbourne’s Rohan Bail (300).

Ashcroft’s 15 wins in his first 18 games ranks equal seventh among 111 Queenslanders who have played 18 AFL games, behind Robbie Copeland, who lost his first game and won his next 17 to share in the Brisbane Lions 2001 premiership.

He will set himself for a return to football as early as May next year while he tries to make sense of the innocuous incident against Geelong last Saturday that shattered his football world.

Lachie Keeffe, who started at Collingwood and is now at GWS, is an unlikely second on the ‘winningest 18-game Queenslander’ list with 15 wins, from Brisbane’s Danny Dickfos, who had 14 wins and a draw.

Brisbane’s Jamie Charman (14), Richmond/Gold Coast forward Mabior Chol (14) and Hawthorn megachampion Jason Dunstall (14) are the only others ahead of Ashcroft’s 13 wins.

Dunstall is Queensland’s leading goal-kicker in 18 games with 40, from Essendon/Port Adelaide forward Che Cockatoo-Collins (30), Brisbane’s Eric Hipwood (24), North Melbourne’s Ben Warren (23), Shaw (22) and Essendon/Melbourne utility Trevor Spencer (21).

Voss, just 11 days beyond his 18th birthday when he played his 18th game, is the youngest member of this group from Harris Andrews (18/261), Marcus Ashcroft (38/307), Jason Akermanis (19/15) and Will Ashcroft (19/77).

Who is Queenslander who polled most Brownlow Medal votes in his first 18 games? It is a question which next to nobody would get.

You have to go all the way back to 1948 and the first Queenslander ever to play at the elite level.

Erwin Dornau, former Windsor junior player and Kedron senior player, polled eight votes in his first 18 games in his first season with Melbourne. He was recruited by the Demons after finishing second in the Tassie Medal at the Australian carnival in 1947 in Hobart.

Next best with six votes are Zorko and Shepherd, former Sherwood junior and Western Districts senior player Robert Shepherd, who was recruited by Fitzroy in 1975.

Beams polled five votes in his first 18 games, and Thomas, Brisbane’s Daniel Merrett and Darren Carlson and Hawthorn’s Stephen Lawrence four votes.

Ashcroft can expect perhaps four votes, having twice been voted the second-best player on the ground by the coaches this year in Round 2, when he had 31 possessions and a goal against Melbourne and in Round 7 against Fremantle, when he had 28 possessions and two goals.

He will watch with mixed emotions as the Lions go into the last five rounds of the home-and—away season only one win outside the top two, which carries the all-important homeground advantage for the first week of the finals.

A win over Geelong by 11 points at the Gabba last week, coupled with Port Adelaide’s last-gasp loss to Collingwood, has given Brisbane renewed hope that they might sneak ahead of Port and so earn the right to host what looks like an inevitable 2 v 3 qualifying final.

Harris Andrews was the standout Queenslander for the Lions against the Cats, continuing his brilliant form down back to earn two votes in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award for 12 possessions and 10 one-percenters.

The other standout Queenslander was Jaspa Fletcher, who, in his sixth game, had a personal-best 19 possessions to earn the Round 19 nomination for the AFL Rising Star Award.

It was a mixed week for the 19-year-old, who is set for his first Q-Clash appearance against Gold Coast at Carrara on Saturday afternoon. Fletcher shares a house with Ashcroft, who was the favorite for the Rising Star at the time of his injury.

In the same game, Geelong’s Jack Bowes had 24 touches to consolidate his place in the side ahead of the run to September. The ex-Gold Coast midfielder has had 25-21-24 possessions in the last three weeks.

Western Bulldogs’ Oskar Baker returned to their top side, collecting 12 possessions and kicking an important third-quarter goal from just 58% game time in the Dogs’ 41-point win over Essendon.

Ben Keays had 19 possessions and kicked two goals in Adelaide’s four-point loss to Melbourne.

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