The uncertainty around Alastair Clarkson’s future and the prospect of an even more “chaotic” year at North Melbourne have played some part in Jason Horne-Francis’ bombshell trade request, according to Herald Sun reporter Jon Ralph.
The Kangaroos on Sunday night confirmed Horne-Francis had asked North for a trade to a South Australian club, less than 12 months after the Kangaroos selected him with Pick 1 in the national draft.
Port Adelaide football boss Chris Davies on Monday confirmed Horne-Francis “100 per cent” wanted to join the Power.
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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.
Concurrently, the Kangaroos finished on the bottom of the ladder after a horror two-win season – which included 13 straight losses by an average margin of 63 points – and parted ways with coach David Noble mid-season.
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North pulled off a significant coup in August, signing four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson as its new coach for the next five seasons. But Clarkson’s future remains in limbo following troubling allegations against him and other former Hawthorn staffers by First Nations players during the Hawks’ golden era, prompting the start of Clarkson’s North tenure to be delayed while an AFL investigation takes place.
Speaking on Fox Footy’s Trading Day, Ralph reported Horne-Francis last week met with both South Australian clubs before telling North on Sunday he wanted to be traded.
The Herald Sun journalist detailed the chain of events that led to Horne-Francis’ request, which came a few weeks after Clarkson‘s start date at North was pushed back as a result of the “serious historical allegations”.
“Jason might’ve requested a trade home anyway – he’s been desperately homesick – but I think North Melbourne has effectively done everything possible to almost drive him out the door,” Ralph told Trading Day.
“A culmination of decisions that have been no one’s fault but in the end they’ve been everyone’s fault.
“They put him in a really terrible team, they put him at half-forward – the toughest position on the field – he had early issues with the coach’s tough love, there were controversies about him putting his contract on hold and about ducking home for 48 hours to see his mum – they turned into media wildfires and the club wasn’t able to douse them.
“Amid all of that, there was instability about the CEO and he hasn’t got a coach. What I’ve reported today is that he was worried next year might be even more chaotic than the first. So it became apparent Clarkson might never come back.”
Asked if Horne-Francis still would’ve requested a trade if the Clarkson issue hadn’t have eventuated, Ralph said: “I think it’s impossible to know. I think he probably would’ve anyway.”
Despite the Kangaroos being prepared to hold Horne-Francis to his contract, Ralph said the club would work hard to cash in on the South Australian product’s value this off-season to ensure it receives the best possible compensation.
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“Some of the reasons pushed are smokescreens to allow him to get home, some of them are very legitimate, but he will ask for a trade only to Port Adelaide,” he said.
“I think right now North Melbourne will say: ‘He’s been a tough player, he’s been a young, wild, impulsive player and we’ll get the most we can get for him right now.’ I don’t think there’s any way he stays at North Melbourne next year.”
Senior AFL reporter Damian Barrett told AFL Trade Radio the Kangaroos believed some part of Horne-Francis’ trade request was “Alastair Clarkson doubt related”.
Channel 7 reporter Tom Browne told Triple M Adelaide: “I think that Clarkson would’ve been persuasive with Horner-Francis to stay, but now that he’s not there, that would’ve been a factor in the decision and made it a lot more difficult for North to convince Horne-Francis to stay.”