Rockliff urges caution over Ashcroft for in-sync Lions

Tom Rockliff has cautioned against thrusting fit-again Will Ashcroft straight back into the Brisbane Lions' resurgent AFL side.

The midfielder's eye-catching debut season was ended when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last July.

The diligent Ashcroft has been cleared for a return and trained with the main squad on Tuesday ahead of a Gabba clash with Melbourne on Friday.

But former Lions captain and All-Australian Rockliff said he would rather the 20-year-old return in the VFL.

Tom Rockliff (centre).
Tom Rockliff (centre) believes the Lions should not rush Will Ashcroft straight back into the side. (Julian Smith/AAP PHOTOS)

"A personal view of mine, I wouldn't," he told AAP.

"AFL, it's a tough game.

"All reports are he's super professional and I'm sure he'll be ready to go if selected, but from an outside perspective I'd prefer to see him come back (in the VFL), get a couple of runs under his belt and build that match fitness."

The option to ease Ashcroft, one of five at the club rehabilitating an ACL tear, back through the VFL has become more palatable due to the Lions' dramatic form reversal.

Staring down the barrel at 2-5, five wins and a draw from their past seven games put last season's beaten grand finalists firmly back in the top-eight equation.

Six wins from the last nine rounds could see them finish sixth, while seven wins could even land them inside the top four.

"To wrestle back momentum, I thought they were up against it," Rockliff said.

"But with the competition being so even, top four is still on the table.

"They knew their footy stacked up, but they probably lost a bit of trust in each other, and it only has to be two per cent off and you look all out of sync.

"Now you can see they certainly believe in each other; you can see the way they walk and talk, it's true belief.

"And you've only got to play your best footy in the last month (to win a premiership)."

Season-ending ACL tears to Keidean Coleman, Tom Doedee, Linc McCarthy and Darcy Gardiner forced coach Chris Fagan to blood rookie tall forward Logan Morris and give 23-year-old academy product Bruce Reville a shot.

Morris earned last round's Rising Star nomination, while booming kick Reville has quickly become a fan favourite.

Kai Lohmann has also benefited from those injuries, with Rockliff arguing the small forward's case for the Rising Star gong after suspensions ruled out star pair Harley Reid and Sam Darcy.

"You don't look past the older guys when they're getting the job done, and maybe injuries did force it," Rockliff said of Fagan's selection mentality.

"But you need to do an apprenticeship, I believe.

"A lot of kids come in and just expect to play AFL straight away. It's a tough game, you've got to build some resilience.

"Morris's impact has been impressive and it's been a wild ride for him since his debut, and Brucey as well, he really knows the hard road and doesn't want to give it up easily.

"They're bringing the energy. Over time you can get stale, but that burst can really lift everyone around you."


* Demons (h), Crows (h), Eagles (a), Swans (h), Suns (a), Saints (a), Giants (h), Magpies (a), Bombers (h).

* Likely need to win six of nine to make the top eight, while seven wins could be enough for a top-four finish.