At a time when Will Ashcroft will find consolation of any description difficult there are two historical facts that offer at least something.

His upcoming knee reconstruction will not be a career-defining moment. Justin Leppitsch blew his knee out four games into his AFL career and went on to play 227 games over 14 years, with three premierships. And more recently, teammates Cam Rayner and Eric Hipwood did likewise in 2021.

As the 19-year-old superstar tries to make sense of the seemingly innocuous incident against Geelong at the Gabba on Saturday afternoon which ended his 2023 season, he may well get a call from Leppitsch, his father’s long-time teammate.

‘Leppa’ was only 17 when he played the first four games of his debut season in 1993 while doing Year 12 at Kenmore High School.

He was left out of the AFL side in Round 5, and instead played for QAFL club West Brisbane in the curtain-raiser to the AFL game oddly enough against Geelong. He ruptured his ACL and was 15 months out of the game but suffered no recurring problems with his knee in a career that stretched to 2006.

Ashcroft awaits surgery and the long rehabilitation that follows having had 398 possessions in 18 games. He’s enjoyed 13 wins, kicked eight goals and can look forward to the Brownlow Medal count with every chance of bettering the 18-game tally of father Marcus, who by chance polled his first three votes in his 18th game.


It’s not unreasonable to say his first 18 games have been the best by a young player in club history.

Numerically, Alex Witherden had more of the football. He had 412 possessions at the same point of a career that now sees him at West Coast, but many of them were from kick-ins. Not hard-earned in the engine room as Ashcroft’s have been.

Nathan Buckley had 402 possessions in his first 18 games with the Bears in 1993. But he’d already won the Magarey Medal as the SANFL’s best player before joining the AFL and turned 21 two weeks before his 18th game. Not a like-for-like comparison.

Will Ashcroft’s 398 possessions is third on this list ahead of Tom Rockliff (389), Cheynee Stiller (372), David Bain (349), Steve McLuckie (340), Dayne Zorko (339), Rhys Mathieson (335) and Matthew Campbell (331).


Marcus Ashcroft had 234 possessions in his first 18 games, while the corresponding numbers for the much-acclaimed had Michael Voss (302), Simon Black (255), Nigel Lappin (209) and Jason Akermanis (A186). Luke Power, the fifth member of this group, had 238 possessions and Chris Scott, winner of the AFL Rising Star in his first season, had 263.

Will Ashcroft’s 13 wins in his first 18 games is a mark bettered only by eight players in Brisbane history. Heading this list is Robert Copeland, who, after losing his first game, won 16 in a row to share in the 2001 premiership and the first four games of 2002. He was 17 wins from 18 games and 20 from 21.

Dylan McLaren won 15 of his first 18 game and Danny Dickfos had 14 wins and a draw. Jamie Charman and Richard Hadley each had 14 wins at the same time along with current teammate Jaxon Prior and ex-teammate Tom Berry, now at the Gold Coast Suns. Equal with Ashcroft are Noah Answerth and Jared Brennan.

Ashcroft will not match Buckley’s 14 votes in his first 18 games. But the AFL coaches votes this year had him ranked the second-best player on the ground in Round 2, when he 31 possessions and a goal against Melbourne, and in Round 7, when he had 28 possessions and two goals against Fremantle.


He also polled with the coaches in Round 10 with 30 possessions and a goal against Gold Coast, so this suggests he will do better than his father’s three votes in 18 games.

For the record, Bain ranks second-best for votes in his first 18 games with eight, followed by Dayne Zorko, Darryl White, Daniel Rich and Matthew Clarke (6), Mark Mickan and Sam Mayes (5), Daniel Merrett and Darren Carlson (4).

Ashcroft Jnr, 19 years 77 days on Saturday, is the clubs’ 14th-youngest 18-gamer. Youngest was Michael Voss (18 years 11 days), Chris Scott (18 years 110 days), Justin Sherman (18 years 206 days) and Harris Andrews (18 years 261 days).

Most goals in 18 games? Laurence Schache (48) had most from John Hutton (43), Daniel Bradshaw (32), Dan McStay (29), Aaron Cornelius (26), Eric Hipwood (24), Patick Karnezis (24), Todd Banfield (21) and Craig McRae (20).