In the AFL world, Jason Horne-Francis is hot property.
- Jason Horne-Francis is destined to end up at North Melbourne after the Kangaroos turned down trade offers for their top draft pick
- Horne-Francis was a star of the SANFL’s finals series with South Adelaide, and says he can make a “pretty big impact” in the AFL
- Fellow SA draft prospect Leek Alleer broke the national draft combine vertical leap record
And though the national draft is still more than a month away, he is already mentally wearing the blue and white of North Melbourne.
“It’s hard not to, and there’s a lot of media stuff about it,” he said in a break from testing for South Australia’s elite young talent.
“[North Melbourne] have spoken to me and said [they will select me], but I’m kind of excited to have footy as a job that you can do and love every day.”
The Kangaroos have the first pick in the draft and have shut down attempts from desperate Horne-Francis suitors, including Adelaide, which offered three first-round draft picks in a bid to snare a once-in-a-generation player.
The pressure of potentially being the top pick is a pressure cooker the 18-year-old would welcome.
“At the start, it was just trying to get my foot in the door and get me drafted, but obviously after getting my name out there a bit, a goal for me was to try to go number one.
“I feel like, for me, it’d be good.”
As well as starring for South Australia’s underage teams, Horne-Francis has become a star for South Adelaide in the high-standard SANFL competition.
The league’s head of talent Brenton Phillips said this was underlined in bold in the Panther’s heartbreaking preliminary final loss to Glenelg at Adelaide Oval.
“I haven’t seen too many 18-year-olds at that particular level pick up a side by the scruff of its neck and almost get them across the line,” Phillips said.
“He was able to do that, and that just probably highlights the maturity of him — the want, the work ethic and the competitive nature — and I think that ticks a lot of boxes for the AFL.”
Horne-Francis left school this year and joined the workforce, and credits this and the influence of stepfather and former AFL player Fabian Francis for maturing him as a person.
He believes he can hit the ground running next year.
“I feel like I can make an impact straight away, as in I’ve had that two years of league footy under my belt and it’s really helped me. So I feel like I can make a pretty big impact at the start,” Horne-Francis said.
Leek Alleer leaps into draft contention
While Horne-Francis was taking it easy at the AFL draft testing in Adelaide today, Leek Alleer was turning heads — something he has increasingly done in 2021.
He set a new national vertical leap record of 107 centimetres, above the previous record of 103 centimetres by Kyron Hayden and 102 centimetres by West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui.
That distinction is all the more remarkable considering the 20-year-old broke his leg and dislocated his ankle in a match in 2019.
“It was quite life-changing in a sense because it really opened my eyes and showed me that regardless of where you think you’re going, there are obstacles that are bound to come up,” Alleer said.
His young life has been full of adversity after fleeing war-torn South Sudan with his mother and little sister in 2006.
Once he arrived, he saw his uncles watching this “strange” game of Australian rules football, and gradually started playing it at school.
Now, after being remodelled as a defender and impressing at league level with Central Districts, Alleer’s name getting called out on draft night would be a triumph for more than just his family.
“[It would be big] for my community, just to represent them and show a lot of the young kids that whatever you put your mind to, you can do it,” he said.
Phillips says Alleer has similar traits to Port Adelaide defender Aliir Aliir and says both are leading the way in the sport for Australia’s growing African community.
“Those stories are great. They come to our country, embrace our game — or their game now — and they just go forward with it,” Phillips said.
“It’s amazing, I’d love to see more of them play the game.”
Alleer said he would love to follow in the footsteps of Aliir Aliir.
“He’s an idol of our community and he’s someone a lot of us young players look up to,” Alleer said.
The AFL draft will be held over two days in late November.