Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes believes Jason Horne-Francis’ decision to delay contract talks presents a unique opportunity for the AFL’s South Australian based teams.
The comments come after the No.1 draft pick was reportedly cautioned by North Melbourne after taking an interstate trip without their knowledge before succumbing to a soft tissue injury.
According to SEN, North was “unaware” and “unhappy” that Horne-Francis traveled home to Adelaide following the side’s round eight loss to Fremantle in Perth.
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With the squad having the ensuing Monday off, the 18-year-old did not miss any club activities but following four flights within a short space of time, was forced to miss round nine with hamstring tightness.
The Roos’ GM of Football Brady Rawlings has since said the club had no issue with Horne-Francis’ short visit to see his family, claiming the whole situation is a “non-story”.
The round seven Rising Star nominee is tied to Arden Street until 2023 under his standard two-year rookie contract, but is free to explore his options after that.
Speaking on SEN SA’s Breakfast with Kane and HayesyCornes said given the frustrations of the club’s deep rebuild and the league’s significant problems with homesickness, all factors combine to create an incomparable opportunity for both Adelaide and Port Adelaide to pounce.
“When you add all of these (factors) up and you put in Cam Zurhaar (putting contract talks on hold), when you put in the recruiters leaving, when you put in the losses by 50-plus points – Jason Horne-Francis, as competitive as he is – when you put in that North being talked about going to Tassie and they’re playing in front of 13,000 on a Sunday at Marvel,” Cornes said, building the case.
“There’s more than just this one story, it’s been a build-up of events that you would think Adelaide’s offer prior to the draft to get him, it’s a really good opportunity to explore getting a generational player back to a South Australian club.
“It doesn’t happen often. Matthew Pavlich nearly came back to Port, but there haven’t been many guns that have returned.
“Gavin Wanganeen came back to Port Adelaide from Essendon, if that doesn’t happen there’s no premiership.
“If Adelaide drafted Pavlich instead of Ken McGregor (in 1998), they progress through those preliminary finals in that 2006 era under Neil Craig.
“That’s the difference we’re talking about. If Port Adelaide drafted Pavlich, you go from being the best home-and-away side in the early 2000s to probably snaring one or two more premierships.
“This is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you might have and who knows what Horne-Francis is like in 10 years. Could he be the next Mark Ricciuto? I don’t know.
“This is an opportunity to absolutely prey on a club that is at its lowest ebb.”
However, does Adelaide or Port Adelaide have the funds to pull off a trade for someone who could potentially draw the most money of any third-year player in the sport’s history?
“I think you worry about that later,” Cornes said.
“The first steps are to be in constant contact with his management, which is what Jason Cripps (Port list manager) and Justin Reid (Crows list boss) would be doing right now.
“Checking in, asking how he’s going, encouraging him under no circumstance to extend his contract at North in a subtle way.
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“Whatever he does, just let him weigh up all the facts next year and don’t sign a contract because it becomes almost impossible if he signs a contract and then wants to come home.
“It’s not going to hurt him to remain out of contract, it’s only going to increase his price. That’s the first step that Port and the Crows have got to do … and then you worry about it at the end of next year.
“He could be the highest-paid third-year player in the history of the AFL. That sounds like a big call, but you think about what the stakes are for North Melbourne.
“Can you imagine if their number one pick, after everything they’ve been through … can you imagine if their greatest prospect walked out? They’re going to have to pay him almost whatever he wants.
“He probably becomes the highest-paid third-year player in the history of the game. I don’t know what that figure will be, but it’ll be a lot more than he deserves and a lot more than his performance has dictated to that point, I can guarantee you that.”
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