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Fagan 'open' on direct AFL return for injured Ashcroft

Will Ashcroft could slot straight back into the AFL when he returns from injury next week.

Ashcroft's breakout debut season and his Rising Star hopes came to a grinding halt last year when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee against Geelong in July.

Now, the midfield gun is set to put his hand up for selection in the VFL or AFL next round.

A return to the second-tier competition would be fitting given the 20-year-old has not played footy in over 10 months, but Brisbane coach Chris Fagan says he is keeping an "opening mind" on a direct return to the top level.

Fagan pointed out Cam Rayner and Eric Hipwood overcame similar knee injuries and returned straight to the AFL in 2022.

"I've got an open mind to that," Fagan said on Thursday.

"The way that our medical staff and our fitness staff condition these guys to play, they're not conditioned to be good enough to come back and play half the game in the reserves as a build-up.

"They're conditioned well enough to be ready to play AFL footy if required.

"We know that Will's in that space. We've just got to make a decision.

"There's so many 'what ifs' and 'maybes' but a player of his ilk is very much capable of coming straight back into the team."

The Lions have suffered a spate of season-ending knee injuries and Ashcroft's return could be a welcome boost.

Keidean Coleman, recruit Tom Doedee, Lincoln McCarthy and Darcy Gardiner are among the Lions who have suffered ACL tears this season.

Coleman, McCarthy and Gardiner were injured during Gabba games, while Doedee was hurt at training.

Sitting 13th on the ladder with six wins, six losses and one draw, Brisbane are looking for a patch of consistency after winning their last two games.

"We've been pretty unstable in some areas of our team and it's been good definitely the last few weeks to get a settled line-up," Fagan said.

The Lions take on Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval in what will be co-captain Harris Andrews' 200th game.