WILL Ashcroft didn't have much left to prove as the standout player in this year's draft class. But he did it anyway on Sunday, with the prospective Brisbane father-son talent having another day out in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
Ashcroft continued his brilliant carnival with a best-afield display in Metro's 73-point drubbing of South Australia at GMHBA Stadium by dominating in the midfield with 38 disposals, 10 clearances, 10 inside-50s and a classy goal.
It sees him averaging 33 disposals across the first three games of Metro's championships and Ashcroft now looks to have elevated himself to be the clear top prospect in this year's pool.
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But he had plenty of other contributors for Metro as they won their third consecutive game, with lively half-forward Ollie Hotton booting three goals from 24 disposals in an impressive showing. The son of former Blues and Magpies player Trent Hotton is not eligible as a father-son to either club but is staking his claim to be a top-20 choice.
Darcy Edmends (21 disposals) and Blake Drury (21 disposals, two goals) were also important for Metro, who kicked 10 goals to three after half-time to run away with the win. Bottom-aged pair Nate Caddy, the nephew of recent Richmond retiree Josh, and electric small forward Nick Watson also kicked three goals, as did Matt Jefferson, who took his tally to 12 goals from three games.
South Australia was well led by captain Adam D'Aloia, who gathered 27 disposals, 11 clearances and a goal, while midfielder Billy Dowling continued his championships form with 28 touches. Mattaes Phillipou, a potential top-10 choice, started well but played through soreness after quarter-time and finished with 14 disposals and a goal.
Vic Country's win over Western Australia in the second game of the day set up a championship decider in Grand Final week, when Country will meet Metro in the last game of the carnival.
Country was too strong for the visitors, winning by 43 points as midfielder Ollie Hollands, the younger brother of Gold Coast's Elijah, starred with 34 disposals and seven marks. It was Hollands' best game of his season and showed his first-round draft credentials. Mitch Szybkowski was also terrific with 26 disposals as he continued his strong carnival, while key forward Aaron Cadman kicked 3.3 to again be dangerous around goal.
Noah Long and Coby Burgiel kicked three goals each, while Geelong Next Generation Academy prospect Ted Clohesy kicked two goals. Jhye Clark (23 disposals, seven clearances) and Harley Reid (19 disposals, five marks) were influential in Country's win too.
Reuben Ginbey was WA's best, gathering 24 disposals and kicking a goal as he continues to make an impact in the midfield, while West Coast NGA prospect Jordyn Baker had 22 touches through the midfield.
Western Australia and South Australia will face each other next Sunday to close their respective championships.
Vic Metro 2.3 6.8 10.12 16.15 (111)
South Australia 1.1 2.1 4.3 5.8 (38)
Vic Metro: Caddy 3, Hotton 3, Jefferson 3, Watson 3, Drury 2, Ashcroft, Clarke
South Australia: Bennier, Blacker, D'Aloia, Lovelock, Phillipou
Vic Country 3.2 7.4 8.10 12.11 (83)
Western Australia 1.2 2.2 5.4 6.4 (40)
Vic Country: Cadman 3, Long 3, Burgiel 3, Clohesy 2, Northam
Western Australia: Tregenza-Cashell 2, Dewar, Ginbey, Sanchez, Scaife