Former North Melbourne coach David Noble says he “wasn’t surprised” by Jason Horne-Francis’ trade request but claims the South Australian “embraced” both the Pick 1 mantle and playing for a Melbourne-based club.
The Kangaroos on Sunday night confirmed Horne-Francis had asked North for a trade to the Power, less than 12 months after the Kangaroos selected him with Pick 1 in the national draft.
It comes after a rollercoaster debut AFL season for Horne-Francis, who copped ample attention for failing to keep North in the loop of his mid-season bye arrangements before being dropped to the VFL during the back-half of the year reportedly for subpar recovery standards.
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Noble, who parted ways with the Roos in July after just 38 games as coach, said he wasn’t stunned by Horne-Francis’ request, but added there were no genuine alarm bells during the season that indicated he would want to move in 2022.
Speaking on AFL Trade Radio on Monday, Noble said the Roos had even discussed the prospect of Horne-Francis’ family moving to Melbourne for extra support at the start of his AFL journey.
“We felt there was probably some genuine interest mid-season (from rival clubs) … they track them a little bit, they would’ve spoken to Benny Williams his manager about where he’s at, how he’s feeling, is he homesick – but nothing substantial that we were ever concerned about,” Noble told AFL Trade Radio.
“We actually spoke to the family about moving here and whether or not that was an option to continue to support. It’s something I’ve discussed at other clubs with other families that might have some portability to come and support their player in their first year or two going forward – we were at that point.
“But there was no alarm bells at all in regards to him departing or asking for a trade.”
Asked if Horne-Francis “embraced” being the No. 1 pick and being at a Melbourne-based club, Noble said: “He did, very much so.
“He was one of the most determined and driven young men I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Certainly was embracing of being the No. 1. When I got a chance to meet him face-to-face, it didn’t faze him at all … he was very genuine.
“Did he embrace Melbourne? Yeah he did … and he certainly embraced North Melbourne. He made some good friends.
“By the time I’d left, I felt there was a really clear direction for him to start to take. Obviously they had to appoint a new coach and go down that path – and I thought when Alastair (Clarkson) was appointed, I thought it’d be exceptionally good for Jason.”
Noble said he “challenged” Horne-Francis consistently but had a “pretty good relationship” with the star South Australian product. He revealed he had a “special” conversation with the midfielder on the day he’d been dumped as North coach.
Noble said Horne-Francis’ request was likely down to “a combination of things”.
“I think the way we were going, the level he wants – and his teammates – to play at and I think there was some frustration that was building as a result of not delivering on the level he wanted to as the No. 1 as comparative to a number of other players that had been taken early,” he said.