Draft Watch column, best players from Under 18 national championships, Levi Ashcroft Brisbane Lions, Ben Camporeale Carlton, Lucas Camporeale, analysis

Two years after his older brother dominated against the best players in the country, Levi Ashcroft is on a scarily similar trajectory.

Before being taken by the Brisbane Lions as a father-son selection with Pick 2 in the 2022 national draft, Will Ashcroft claimed the Larke Medal as the best player of the Under 18 national championships.

Now Levi Ashcroft is a good chance to follow in his brother’s footsteps – both in terms of Larke Medal contention and end-of-year draft range – after an impressive first-up outing for Vic Metro.

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In tough, slippery conditions, the Lions father-son prospect produced a superb game in Metro’s hard-fought 16-point win over the Allies, booting two goals from 24 disposals, 10 contested possessions, seven score involvements and six clearances.

Ashcroft’s two goals were particularly classy, producing a brilliant snap out of congestion in the first quarter before nailing a clutch fourth-quarter set-shot kick from a tight angle.

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“Sometimes class and skill come to the top in tough conditions,” AFL National Talent Ambassador Kevin Sheehan said on Fox Footy.

“He’s clean as a whistle, has great vision and execution by hand and foot and his positioning is first-class. He’s adjusted beautifully to these conditions.

“We’ve just about seen it all. He can do most things very well and his consistency of performance – everywhere he plays, quarter-by-quarter – is enormous.”

Levi Ashcroft of the AFL Academy in action during the 2024 AFL Academy match between the Marsh AFL National Academy Boys and Footscray Bulldogs at Whitten Oval on April 27, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Ashcroft showed his potential at national Under 18 level last year as a bottom-ager, averaging 26.7 disposals and 5.0 marks per outing. He played just three matches for Metro, but still made the All-Australian side.

The star on-baller last year also claimed the Sandringham Dragons’ best and fairest – and he’s already been part of two Dragons premiership sides in the Coates Talent League.

“Will stepped straight up into the AFL for the Brisbane Lions and was an immediate Rising Star … Levi is certain to join his brother there next year,” Sheehan said.

Asked post-game if his older brother had passed on any advice ahead of the 2024 championships, Ashcroft said: “For sure. He (Will) won the Larke Medal and dominated in his year, which I’m very proud of him.

“(He’s given me) so many tips – stoppage craft, all that sort of stuff he does so well, I’ve learnt off him. Hopefully I did that today.”

Ashcroft, whose father Marcus played 318 games for Brisbane and was part of the premiership three-peat two decades ago, is eligible to join the Brisbane Lions under the father-son rule.

And he wasn’t the only Lions-linked player to catch the eye on Sunday, with two Brisbane academy members starring for the Allies.

Hard-running on-baller Sam Marshall collected 24 disposals, to go with six tackles and five score involvements, while bottom-ager Daniel Annable continued his excellent start to the champs with 16 disposals, 14 contested possessions and a classy goal off one step.

“His craft around stoppages is first-class,” Sheehan said of Annable.

“He’s courageous, strong in his attack on the ball and, very importantly, one-touch. There’s not too many that you’d see at 17 years of age that are as clean as this young man is.”

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And Ashcroft wasn’t the only father-son prospect to sparkle on the national stage on Sunday, with four standing out in the Vic Country-South Australia clash, which saw Country claim an eight-point win.

Carlton-linked twins Ben Camporeale and Lucas Camporeale featured for SA, with Ben a particular standout.

The hard-working on-baller did his first-round draft prospects no harm, finishing with a game-high 28 disposals, 13 contested possessions, seven marks, six inside 50s and five clearances.

Sheehan said Ben Camporeale’s workrate stood out across the game.

“I’ve loved the way he’s got up and down the ground,” he said.

“He’s a contested ball winner and has got elite running ability on the outside.

“He’s had a wonderful 18 months.

“They’re both prolific ball-winners and they’ve certainly become bigger boys. I’ve seen their physical development over the past couple of years as well as their football development.

“Very exciting for Carlton fans.”

It comes after the right-footer had 27 disposals and five clearances against the Allies in SA’s first champs match.

Ben Camporeale of South Australia and Daniel Annable of the Allies during the 2024 Marsh AFL Championships U18 Boys match between South Australia and Allies at Thebarton Oval on May 26, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Lucas had 12 disposals and four marks playing primarily off a wing against Vic Country.

Ben and Lucas Camporeale are father-son eligible to Carlton as their dad is a Blues premiership player and All-Australian Scott Camporeale.

The Camporeale brothers’ teammate Tyler Welsh gave Adelaide fans a reason to get excited for next year after a towering performance close to goal.

After a quiet start to the match, Welsh played a key role in SA’s second-half fightback, kicking 4.2 from seven disposals as he made the most of his chances.

It takes Welsh’s champs tally to seven goals after booting three against the Allies a fortnight earlier.

“He’s such a powerful medium forward,” Sheehan said of Welsh. “He’s hard to match up on and keep up with because he’s got speed over the first five to 10 metres, uses his body very well, has great hands and loves a goal.

“He’s a hard man to stop and plays with a lot of energy. He only needs limited opportunities because he’s such a great converter.”

For Vic Country, North Melbourne fans got a glimpse of River Stevens – the son of dual premiership Kangaroo Anthony Stevens.

The Geelong Falcons product was lively inside 50, booting two goals from 12 disposals and seven marks.

“He’s not physically developed yet – that will come later on – but what he has got is footy smarts,” Sheehan said of Stevens.

“He reads the game exceptionally well and there’s no doubt he’s got a great tank.”

Tyler Welsh of South Australia celebrates the winning goal during the 2024 Marsh AFL Championships U18 Boys match between South Australia and Allies at Thebarton Oval on May 26, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


Alex Dodson. Remember the name.

Because if the AFL world gets its way, the South Australian looms as a tantalising prospect.

Dodson on Sunday showed just how talented he is on a footy field and his capabilities at the top level.

Rucking against Vic Country pair Floyd Burmeister and Flynn Penry, the 203cm player covered the ground superbly, finishing with 19 disposals, 12 contested possessions, nine inside 50s, eight intercepts, five score involvements, three contested marks and 19 hit-outs.

What scouts are wary of though is how talented a basketballer Dodson is.

He spent most of last year focusing on basketball, playing with the Norwood Flames in the NBL1 and trying out as a development player for NBL team Adelaide 36ers. He also missed SA’s first champs game a fortnight ago due to an AIS basketball camp.

But in a year where there aren’t many rucks at the top of the draft pool, Dodson looms as an exciting proposition for all 18 AFL clubs.

Dodson has played two SANFL Under 18 games for Sturt this season. He had 27 disposals, five marks and 27 hit-outs against Glenelg before racking up 14 disposals, five marks and 27 hit-outs against North Adelaide a week later.

SANFL player, Sturt’s Alex Dodson. Picture: SuppliedSource: Supplied

“It re-emphasises that we are in the battle for talent … he could play either sport. But we as the AFL are hoping Dodson will choose AFL,” Sheehan said.

“What a prospect he is at 203cm who can move the way he does. He’d be a two or three-year prospect … but he’s AFL material.

“I’ve loved his game for a boy of his size. He’s hardly played any footy … but he’s playing like a ruck-rover around the ground to give them another avenue of getting the ball forward.”

SA has two more games left in the carnival against Western Australia on Sunday then Vic Metro on June 30.


Death, taxes and Jagga Smith racking up the footy for fun.

The Oakleigh Chargers ball magnet had another stuff-the-stats-sheet day, finishing with a team-high 32 disposals, 18 contested possessions, nine clearances, five marks and five intercepts.

Smith, widely considered a top-five prospect this season, has averaged 35 disposals from hiss even Coates Talent League games so far this season, including hauls of 40 against the Calder Cannons and 50 against the Western Jets.

“Tommy Hafey would love him. He’s a rubber man who bounces up, bends this way and that way,” Sheehan said.

“You watch him in traffic, he’s so agile the way he’s able to manipulate his body to execute with a handpass or get out of a sticky situation. He’s got great vision and awareness and game sense and footy nous.

“A very unselfish player and clean who runs very hard to the fall of the ball.”

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Eastern Ranges’ Josh Smillie, a 194cm midfielder who’s right in the Pick 1 mix, drifted forward throughout the game, booting 1.1 from 17 disposals, nine contested possessions and seven score involvements. He copped a nasty corky during the game and spent a portion of the third quarter on the bench receiving treatment.

Smith, Ashcroft and Smillie was Vic Metro’s main centre bounce combination against the Allies. It meant the likes of Cristian Moraes (24 disposals from half-back), Tom Gross (1.0 and 15 disposals from half-forward) and Lucca Grego (15 disposals and eight intercepts from half-back) had to play in different positions, but all had a strong influence on the contest.

On Grego, Sheehan said: “He’s adapted really well today to play half-back. I’ve seen him play in the midfield and be the dominant player for the Western Jets as their captain. He’s had a brilliant year.”

Sandringham Dragons’ Murphy Reid looked a class above with his cleanliness and decision-making throughout the match. He had 24 disposals, 12 contested possessions and six score involvements.

Essendon NGA prospect Isaac Kako kicked two classy goals – including an “Eddie Betts-like” major, according to Sheehan, that sealed Metro’s win – while Harrison Oliver starred across half-back with 25 disposals and seven intercepts.

“He’s made the most of his chance today,” Sheehan said of Oliver.

“He’s been very impressive across half-back and his distribution has been pinpoint.”

For the Allies, Gold Coast Academy bottom-ager Zeke Uwland – the younger brother of recent Rising Star nominee Bodhi Uwland – had another monster game, finishing with a team-high 25 disposals, seven intercepts, six inside 50s and 743m gained.

“He’s a future star – Errol Gulden-like in the way he reads the play,” Sheehan said of Uwland, who’s draft eligible next year.

“He’s a wonderful left-foot kick … his follow-up work is fantastic. His game sense, he’s got a great feel for it.”

Fellow Sun Leo Lombard was slightly quieter compared to his first two Allies games but still had 18 disposals and seven tackles, while Tassie’s Oliver Depaoli-Kubank and Murray Bushrangers’ Josh Murphy booted two goals each.

“He models his game on Jake Stringer and we’ve seen more of that today,” Sheehan said of Murphy. “I’ve liked how he’s pushed up the ground and shown his mobility and ability to turn his opponent inside out at times.

“There’s still a fair bit of upside with this young fella. Just get that workrate up so that you can be powerful every time the ball gets in your area because you’re hard to stop.

“He’s a strong boy with natural ability around the goals … they’re hard to find, goalkickers like that. I love his preparedness to get to the front and use his frame and power.”

Leonardo Lombard of the Allies hand balls during the Marsh AFL National Championships match between U18 Boys Allies and Western Australia at Blacktown International Sportspark on June 02, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jenny Evans/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


In the Country-SA clash, Shepparton twins Jack Whitlock and Matt Whitlock showed why they’re in the first-round mix.

As expected, Jack played close to goal while Matt was redeployed back to defence despite promising forward inside 50 for the Murray Bushrangers in recent weeks.

Jack booted 1.1 from 16 disposals and four marks, while Matt also had 16 disposals and four marks.

Like Harry and Ben McKay, as well as Max and Ben King, before them, Jack and Matt Whitlock loom as exciting propositions for scouts come the draft,

“They’ve got so many similarities to both the McKays and the Kings. They’re 200cm boys that are athletic and can play both ends of the ground at this age,” Sheehan said.

“They’ve taken all before them in their draft year … There’s a lot to play out throughout the year, but there’s AFL potential written all over the boys.”

Matt laid a crucial tackle on SA’s Dyson Sharp in the dying minutes to stop a certain shot at goal, while Jack pulled down a brilliant contested mark in the third term that left Sheehan gobsmacked.

With star duo Finn O’Sullivan and Sam Lalor missing the game, Bendigo Pioneers’ Toby Travaglia captained Vic Country on Sunday – and captained with aplomb.

South Australia had more inside 50s (56-46), but lost by eight points off the back of Country’s strong back six, which were led superbly by Travaglia.

The 187cm backman finished with 24 disposals. He had a whopping 13 intercept possessions, of which five were marks.

“Wow. He took that at the highest point – and you do that at 200cm, you’re hard to stop,” Sheehan said of Jack Whitlock.

“Plenty of heads where all the scouts are sitting would’ve made note of that.”

Geelong Falcons’ Xavier Ivisic and Dandenong Stingrays’ Harvey Langford thrived in O’Sullivan and Lalor’s absence. Eight of Langford’s 25 touches led to Country scores, while Ivisic had 11 score involvements from 27 touches.

“He’s noted for his workrate. He gets up and down the ground and runs so hard contest to contest … but he’s also noted for his footy IQ. He’s dominated footy wherever he’s played this year,” Sheehan said of Ivisic.

Country small forwards Jasper Alger and Joe Berry both booted three goals in lively performances close to goal.

“He’s excellent at the fall of the ball who gets to the right spots and is so clean at ground level, but he pushes high up the ground as well, uses his speed and agility to win the footy,” Sheehan said of Berry.

“He’s a natural crumber with that innate goal sense. He’s really emerged this year.”

For South Australia, captain Sid Draper – an All-Australian and SA’s MVP in his bottom-age year in 2023 – showed why he deserves to be in top-10 calculations.

Draper showed Lachie Neale-like traits both in congestion and in space, finishing with 26 disposals, nine contested possessions and seven score involvements in a classy midfield performance.

“I love his run. He’s an elite athlete who runs the lines, but he’s also got a bit of Chad Warner about him with his ability to dodge and step through traffic and set the play up,” Sheehan said of Draper.

“He’s also got fantastic poise and a wonderful leader.”

Norwood’s Jacob Newton – a consistent ball-winner at SANFL Under 18s level – showed his wares inside 50 with 3.2 from 13 disposals, while key forward Charlie Nicholls put on a breathtaking marking display.

The 197cm Central Districts forward presented well all day, taking nine marks (four contested) to go with 11 disposals. He could’ve had a monster day on the scoreboard, but was wayward in front of goal with 1.3.

“He’s a must-watch. He’s one of the best marks in the draft pool – marking is his weapon,” Sheehan said.

South Australia is back in action this weekend, hosting Western Australia at Alberton Oval on Sunday. The match will be broadcast live on Fox Footy, via Foxtel and Kayo Sports.

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