By ZAC MILBANK
South Adelaide sensation Jason Horne-Francis wasted no time in making his presence felt at elite level, earning the AFL Rising Star nomination for his performance in Round 7.
The 18-year-old, SANFL’s first No. 1 draft pick since Bryce Gibbs in 2006, had 20 eliminations, four clearances and four in the 50s for North Melbourne in their loss to Carlton at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.
Averaging 19.1 assignments, 10.9 possessions contested, 4.6 clearances and 3.3 tackles per game in his first seven AFL games, Horne-Francis was quick to establish a reputation imposing at Arden Street.
“Jason has done a really good job of coming on and playing to the level right away. He has well and truly deserved this recognition,” North Melbourne Football Performance managing director Dan McPherson told North’s website.
“I think the expectations are pretty high considering he’s a No. 1 draft pick. What he has to produce and how he has to perform to earn this nomination is probably higher than most.
“We expect him to continue to improve week by week, which he has done over the past few weeks. He has done a tremendous job so far this season as far as we are concerned.
Captain of the Torrens University SA U19 team last year, Horne-Francis transitioned into senior football with the Panthers seamlessly.
Measuring 185cm and 78kg, Horne-Francis’ impressive second SANFL League season saw him average 17 eliminations over his 20 games as he split his time between midfield and running back.
The Christies Beach FC product has also scored 15 goals in 2021 while averaging four makes, four tackles, three inside 50s and three clearances, to exemplify his all-around game.
A key cog in South’s third-place finish last season, Horne-Francis kept his best to last when he produced a stunning display in the preliminary round that yielded 24 eliminations, three goals and 11 clearances to underscore his breakthrough ability.