North Melbourne young gun Jason Horne-Francis has officially requested a trade home to South Australia, with Port Adelaide in the box seat to secure the midfielder.
The 19-year-old endured a tumultuous first AFL season at the Kangaroos and designs on a move back to Adelaide emerged midway through the year.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: How Horne-Francis responded to go-home rumours in July
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Speculation surrounding his future settled towards the end of North’s wooden-spoon season but club officials have now confirmed Horne-Francis wants to cut ties.
The Roos said in a statement they would consider their options.
“Jason is contracted for next year, we’ve invested significantly in him as our first-ever no.1 pick just 12 months ago and we view him as a key part of the club’s plans going forward,” list boss Brady Rawlings said.
“We appreciate Jason’s circumstances but at the same time we’re determined to look after the best interests of North Melbourne.”
The Kangaroos said Horne-Francis will seek a trade “to a South Australian club” but the Adelaide Crows are unlikely to be a major player given their focus on luring SA talent Izak Rankine from the Gold Coast Suns.
Horne-Francis’s stepfather Fabian Francis spent five years with Port Adelaide from their inaugural AFL season and played the majority of his 109 games with the Alberton-based club.
The trade bombshell has dropped with North still reeling from incoming senior coach Alastair Clarkson stepping back in the wake of the Hawthorn scandal.
Whether Port can satisfy the Roos’ demands in a potential deal for Horne-Francis remains to be seen, with the possibility lingering that he will see out the final year of his contract at Arden St before requesting a trade home again next season.
The Power hold pick No.8 in this year’s draft and can send next year’s first-round pick to North Melbourne in the trade period beginning Monday.
Horne-Francis faced questions of his professionalism throughout his debut season, most notably after a verbal disagreement with veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein.
His first AFL coach David Noble was sacked in July.
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW: Adam Cooney blasts Kangaroos for dropping Horne-Francis
Under interim coach Leigh Adams, Horne-Francis was dropped for disobeying team orders when he refused to complete a full ice-bath recovery program.
He subsequently missed what was to be his first AFL game in his home state.
Earlier in the season, Horne-Francis had flown home to South Australia without the club’s knowledge following a loss to Fremantle.
He also appeared to ‘like’ a fake trade post on social media suggesting his return to Port Adelaide.
Horne-Francis, who took the SANFL by storm in his draft year, averaged 16.5 disposals and 3.5 clearances per game across 17 appearances in the AFL while he recorded 29 touches in each of his two VFL games.
His decision to put contract talks with North Melbourne on hold was backed by Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling
“I don’t blame him for putting contract talks on hold… where’s this team gonna be in two years’ time, in six years’ time? What’s the genuine direction?” Ling said on 7AFL’s Al and Lingy Show in June.
“It’s okay to sit and wait and ask: is this the best environment, where I’m going to have the best people around me, where we are going to be winning big finals in September, and I’m going to be the best version of myself? I’m cool with that.
“If North Melbourne don’t step up to that challenge, well bad luck – you never deserved him in the first place – and he’ll go somewhere else and he’ll have success. It’s on you to make a great club, just as it’s on him to eventually buy in to that club.”
Ling said he could not understand the commentary, vitriol and “surprise that (Horne-Francis is) frustrated” at North.
“He’s playing in a team that is horrendously bad,” he explained.
“He wants to be a star. He knows deep down he is capable of being a star. Why wouldn’t you be a little bit frustrated and disappointed?
“The frustration is there, and he doesn’t know how to handle it because he’s 18 years of age.”