Rugby League

‘Clearly right at the top’: Horne-Francis firms as North’s No.1 draft pick

North Melbourne football chief Brady Rawlings has indicated star South Australian midfielder Jason Horne-Francis is all but a lock as the No.1 overall pick in November’s AFL national draft but says the Kangaroos could yet bid on Nick Daicos or Sam Darcy.

Industry sources say it would be a surprise if the rebuilding Kangaroos bid on Daicos, set to head to Collingwood as a father-son, and Darcy, set to head to the Western Bulldogs as a father-son, for they want to make the exciting Horne-Francis the stand-out top selection in what is the club’s first No.1 pick.

South Australia’s Jason Horne-Francis (centre) is a hot favourite to be the AFL No.1 draft pick this year.Credit:Getty Images

Regardless of whether they follow the lead last year of the then bottom-placed Adelaide and made a bid on a player – in that case Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan – which was certain to be matched, the Kangaroos are ready to embrace the dynamic Horne-Francis.

“He is clearly right at the top with Nick Daicos and Sam Darcy throughout the year. There are a couple of others that are very appealing at that pointy end,” Rawlings said on Thursday.

“I think what you saw from Jason, especially in that last month of footy in the SANFL, we have seen that for two years at SANFL level. Going into this season, he was well and truly at the top and he has had a terrific year. You can’t put any better performances together than what Jason Horne-Francis has done over the last couple of years.”

Rawlings said Horne-Francis, who has been compared to Patrick Dangerfield and Nat Fyfe, had “all the attributes we look for” and “can change a game”. The South Adelaide onballer had 24 disposals, three goals, 18 contested possessions, 11 clearances and 10 score involvements in the SANFL preliminary final.

Horne-Francis, 18, is seen as the reason why the Kangaroos knocked back “spitball deals” from Adelaide and Richmond through the trade period for the No.1 pick.

Daicos, the son of Magpies’ great Peter, has already signed a four-year with the Magpies, including two for his standard first contract, while Darcy is the son of former Bulldogs captain Luke Darcy, the latter now on the club’s board.

Rawlings said the Kangaroos would still assess whether to bid for either Daicos or Darcy.

“We will run through that over the next couple of weeks … we will start crunching the numbers in terms of our order,” he said.

Industry sources say Greater Western Sydney, with the No.2 overall selection, is mulling whether to bid for Darcy, which would push Daicos further down the draft order.

Rawlings, meanwhile, said the Kangaroos were delighted to hold on to emerging ruckman Tristan Xerri, declaring St Kilda’s offer for the 22-year-old had not been good enough. Xerri, stuck behind Todd Goldstein and now perhaps Callum Coleman-Jones, is already contracted for next season.

The Kangaroos were content with what unfolded through the trade period. They traded Robbie Tarrant, pick 40, and a future second-round pick to Richmond for Coleman-Jones, picks 42 and 47, and a future fourth-round pick.

Rawlings said veteran midfielder Ben Cunnington, recovering from a testicular tumour, is due back in time for pre-season training in December, but the Kangaroos will take a cautious approach with him.

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