Dual All-Australian Kane Cornes says he can’t recall a worse period for a club than what North Melbourne currently faces after Jason Horne-Francis’ shock trade request coupled with Alastair Clarkson’s uncertain future.
The Kangaroos on Sunday night confirmed Horne-Francis’ stunning bid to return to South Australia with a a year to run on his contract less than 12 months after the club drafted him with the No. 1 selection.
It comes after a horror campaign for North including talk of Horne-Francis wanting to leave the club throughout as former coach David Noble was sacked mid-season to go with more departures of key staffers as the Roos finished 18th for a second-straight year.
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And now North Melbourne’s newly appointed coach Alastair Clarkson has been stood down indefinitely while the AFL launches an exteneral investigation into shock racism accusations at Hawthorn during the four-time premiership boss’ time at the helm.
Speaking on AFL Trade Radio, Cornes says he understands Horne-Francis position given the continued chaos at Arden Street.
“We can debate about the rules around should first-round draft picks have to sign a mandatory three or four-year contract – which I believe they should – and I don’t think it’s fair on North Melbourne that a player after one year, especially one like him, can request a trade.
“But put yourself on Horne-Francis’ shoes. They’ve got no CEO, no recruiters, their list is an absolute mess and now the current uncertainty around the coach. And he wants to win, he reminds me a little bit of Nathan Buckley with his competitiveness.
“You can certainly understand and have some sympathy for his situation, albeit understanding it’s a brutal position for North Melbourne to be in.
“I can’t remember a worse period of time for a club than what North Melbourne is going through now. With the Clarkson situation and Horne-Francis now as well.”
Conversely, Cornes labelled the Power’s looming addition of Horne-Francis the “biggest off-season moment in Port Adelaide’s history” after revealing the 19-year old has ruled out a move the Crows.
Cornes highlighted how the Roos last year knocked back Adelaide’s offer of three-first round picks for their Pick 1 they used on Horne-Francis given the hype around the SANFL gun.
“Take it back to the start when Gavin Wanganeen came back and that was huge, but that was the start of the club and the formation of it and there was some big recruits,” Cornes noted.
“But in terms of a recruit and the potential he’s got – remember what Adelaide offered up last year to prior to Horne-Francis being drafted. It was unprecedented the offer that was put in front of North Melbourne and they said, ‘Nup, we’re backing this guy in.’ The talk of what he was doing pre-season and the generational talent he is – their most talented player since probably Wayne Cary.
“So the blow it would be to them, but the flip side of that, the moment in time for Port Adelaide, if they can pull this off.”
Cornes also revealed Richmond midfielder Jack Graham knocked back Port Adelaide’s approaches to remain at Punt Road after hearing of its bid for Horne-Francis.
“Essentially Jack was made aware of the Horne-Francis advancements from Port Adelaide,” Cornes said. “They (Port) said: ‘Look, we’d still really love Jack Graham to come to the club, but clearly all our priorities are trying to secure Horne-Francis.’
“So that’s when Graham said: ‘OK, well I may as well just stay at Richmond with the uncertainty around what you’re doing this trade period.”
Reports state a prospective deal would centre around Port Adelaide’s first pick in this year’s draft – the No. 8 selection – as well its first rounder next year.
Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd believes North Melbourne should pull the trigger on a trade now while his he’s at his “greatest worth”.
“I can’t see Jason playing good football with North Melbourne next year with the way we saw him play this year where you could see his heart wasn’t in it,” the three-time Coleman medallist said on AFL Trade Radio.
“That was partly him just being Jason Horne-Francis, maybe he’s been the dominant junior and didn’t like to listen, those types of things.
“You could understand how North would look at it and say: ‘Yeah, let’s get him out now and let’s do this deal’.
“I think you cut your losses now with him … what a distraction it would be for North Melbourne with Jason being there dragging his lip through the whole thing. Take the deal now other than when he’s uncontracted in a year’s time.”
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Lloyd believes the Roos holding Horne-Francis to his contract for another year “might be worse” for the club if he remains disgruntled and has a “second poor year,” suggesting they could then get less in a trade.
The Bombers great also sympathised with the youngster given the disorder at Arden Street, with Herald Sun journalist Jon Ralph reporting Horne-Francis “never settled” at the club amid its instability.
“I think you also you could at it that Horne-Francis could say to North: ‘What about what you promised me? Yeah, I did a few things I got wrong, but you promised me that David Noble would be the coach, we’ve got this young group coming together. And 12 months on look at all the things that have changed at North Melbourne’,” Lloyd said.
Former Melbourne skipper Garry Lyon agreed on SEN radio that it’s in North’s best interests to trade Horne-Francis now given the “reality” of him being unhappy if he stays.
Former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley added that North nor any club should need to talk a player into being there.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of an AFL organisation, it’s, ‘If you buy into us, we’ll buy into you’,” he said on SEN Breakfast.
“But if you don’t want to be here that’s fine, but we need to do the right thing for our club and for the people that do want to be here and give them the best chance to succeed and get fair compensation for the No. 1 pick we invested in this player 12 months ago and the 12 months of time we’ve put into him.
“North Melbourne needs to make the best decision for their organisation, I think it starts with two first-rounders … I think you pull the trigger, and you move on to the next.”