At the start of the year, I was chatting to a mate of ours who watches a lot of SANFL footy. He could not have been more confident that Jason Horne-Francis was going to be a once-in-a-generation player. After what I’ve seen this year, I have zero doubt that he is 100% correct.
For those long-time listeners of the pod, you will know I’m big on SANFL form heading into Draft Night. While the youngsters coming out of the NAB League will always show their worth in time, I love the exposed form you see when possible draftees are playing against seasoned footballers at the SANFL League level.
In years gone by, we’ve seen players like Dylan Stephens (71 avg), Connor Rozee (72 avg) , and Jackson Hately (68 avg) make an instant impact at AFL level, putting up solid numbers in their first seasons straight out of the SANFL. While I believe Horne-Francis is a class above those three, the argument for playing consistent senior footy is strong.
The reason Jason Horne-Francis will be cut above the others also comes down to the fact that 2021 was not even his first taste of senior footy. Horne-Francis played 20 SANFL games in 2021 to add to the 9 he played in 2020. Probably not since Bryce Gibbs have we seen a youngster play as much senior footy before being drafted as Jason Horne-Francis. With the grounding that Horne-Francis has had over the last two years, it’s hard not to see him being a star at the highest level.
Horne-Francis averaged 74.2 Fantasy Points this season which you may think is low when compared to Nick Daicos who averaged 120+ against kids in NAB League. To highlight the strength of the SANFL and Horne-Francis’ scoring ability, it’s important to note only 13 players averaged over 100 this season and Horne-Francis split his time between the midfield and forward line with South Adelaide.
He proved himself more than capable up forward, slotting 15 goals for the season while still averaging 16.6 disposals per game. His kick-to-handball ratio was lovely, averaging 11.4 kicks and 5.2 handballs a game along with 4 tackles and 3 clearances.
Jason Horne-Francis also put together a very consistent fantasy season. He only had two games of scores under 50, while in notched up 13 scores of 70+ from his 20 games in 2021. I simply can’t see that level of scoring dropping off whatsoever in the AFL.
I understand these stats may not satisfy the doubters and the Daicos super fans out there but once again you have to remember, this is an 18-year-old up against real men, playing at a top 3 club in the best league outside of the AFL.
What I liked most about Jason Horne-Francis’ season is the way he finished it off. He scored three fantasy hundreds in the last seven games of the season.
This was of course highlighted by his 112 point score in the Preliminary Final display against Glenelg (if you haven’t seen the highlights, I implore you to check them out). He almost single-handedly kept his side in the match by saying “jump on my back boys, I’ll carry you to the promised land” and almost got them into a Grand Final.
On that same day, he was menace up forward with six shots on goal, kicking a game-high three goals. He also helped himself to 24 touches and 11 clearances (3 more than any other player on the ground).
I’m a firm believer that this kid is going to be something very special. He’ll walk right into that North Melbourne side in Round 1 and complement their young brigade extremely well.
Heck, there is even a sneaky chance that he could have centre/forward dual position status next year. While that won’t last in the long run, I have confidence in 2-3 years we will be seeing a 100+ average player. He simply has it all.