Will Ashcroft in action during Brisbane's clash with Melbourne in round 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

BRISBANE coach Chris Fagan has confirmed Will Ashcroft will return at AFL level on Friday night, adding to a young core that has helped rejuvenate the Lions' season.

Ashcroft has been sidelined just shy of 12 months following a knee reconstruction, with Fagan saying there will be no restriction on the 20-year-old's minutes or role when he runs out against Melbourne at the Gabba.

"He's done a huge amount of work, he's incredibly fit, his training form is great, he's a highly talented, highly motivated young bloke," Fagan said on Thursday morning.

"We've got a history of playing blokes straight off the back of their surgeries like Cam Rayner and Eric Hipwood and we can't see a reason why we wouldn't do the same with Will.

"We don't expect him to play the house down, but he's got to start somewhere. I think a player of his talent deserves to start in the AFL team."


Ashcroft's return continues a terrific month for Brisbane that has seen them win three straight matches and move to the edge of the top eight.

They have won five, drawn one and lost one – against red-hot Hawthorn – in the past seven matches to vault back into finals contention after a slow start to 2024.

The rise has coincided with an injection of youth, with Logan Morris the latest Telstra AFL Rising Star nominee, and Bruce Reville and Kai Lohmann locking down spots.

Kai Lohmann celebrates a goal during Brisbane's win over St Kilda in round 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"The young players always bring energy," Fagan said.

"They're so excited, they're experiencing AFL footy for the first time, it means so much to them because they're living out their dreams.

"They all look like they're bona fide AFL players.

"From the depths of despair losing all those guys with ACLs, the bright light that's come out of it is we've got a little bit more depth on our list than perhaps we knew we had."

Fagan said rather than despairing at the 2-5 win-loss ledger, he was confident the Lions could bounce back.

"I think early in the year we were probably playing with the weight of the world on our shoulders," he said.

"We were able to have a good talk about that, not so much at the (mid-season) break, but a few weeks before then, and say 'let's just play the game and enjoy it and see what happens'.

"The only way out of this is to be bold and fearless and have fun and the boys have embraced that."