Ex-teammate reveals tension between Jason Horne-Francis and Cam Zurhaar
Jason Horne-Francis is expecting an unfriendly reception when he faces North Melbourne for the first time this weekend.
A former North Melbourne teammate of Jason Horne-Francis has given some insight into the lingering tension between the Kangaroos and their former No.1 overall pick, as the 20-year-old prepared to face his former club for the first time. Horne-Francis requested a trade at the end of a tumultuous rookie season with the Kangaroos in 2022, winding up in Port Adelaide.
Since his move to Port Adelaide, Horne-Francis has been subjected to boos by fans of rival clubs, leading to widespread condemnation from many. St Kilda coach Ross Lyon called out Saints fans for doing so, confused as to why Horne-Francis' trade request from the Kangaroos had anything to do with them.
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However the young midfielder will face a completely different test when he faces off against his former teammates in Hobart this weekend. Former Kangaroos young gun Atu Bosenavulagi told the The Advertiser that there was no doubt lingering tension, particularly between Horne-Francis and North Melbourne midfielder Cameron Zurhaar.
Bosenavulagi, whose AFL career began at Collingwood before he was traded to North Melbourne alongside Jaidyn Stephenson, said Zurhaar and Horne-Francis 'were always at each other’s throats' during training, with the former taking several potshots at Horne-Francis following the trade to the Power. He took a dig at the sight of his former teammate wearing a North Melbourne singlet soon after the trade had gone down, while he later used the promo code 'Hornetgone' - a reference to Horne-Francis' nickname at the club - on the website for his cooking business.
“There was a lot of banter internally with Jason, he was very competitive so had some beef – not serious beef – but there’d always be boys he had one-on-ones with and at times it got pretty physical, so I reckon it’ll definitely happen this weekend,” Bosenavulagi said. “I reckon Cam Zurhaar will definitely have a piece.
“I don’t think they like each other that much, so that’ll be one to expect. There’s a definite rivalry between those two.
“They had confrontations here and there, they were both pretty competitive at trainings, in the gyms, basically anything they did. A lot of times it got heated … and a few times it did go pretty far verbally.”
Alastair Clarkson attempts to ease Horne-Francis tension
The former Kangaroo said that though there would no doubt be some level of antagonism towards Horne-Francis, he doubted it would be a feature that dominated the game. The showdown comes a week after the Sydney Swans were heavily criticised for crude off-ball tactics directed at Collingwood's Nick Daicos.
North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson has sought to pre-empt any niggle on the ground, while also imploring Kangaroos supporters to concentrate on barracking for their battling team, rather than booing Horne-Francis. The veteran AFL coach reached out to Horne-Francis some weeks ago, hoping to put tensions to bed and praising the 20-year-old for his 'positive' response and comparing it to when Buddy Franklin left Hawthorn for Sydney.
“I texted (Horne-Francis) three or four weeks ago and said, ‘Mate, just get on with your life, don’t think that there’s any grudges here – we’ve moved on, you’ve moved on, all the best with it mate’,” Clarkson said. "And he responded positively, appreciated the text.
"It was really just an olive branch to say there’s no grudges here, you get on with your life and we’ll get on with ours.
“(Franklin) left Hawthorn not because he hated Hawthorn, but just because he wanted a different environment to play his footy … if he’s not happy, time to move to another club, and Jase is exactly the same. We got Harry Sheezel and George Wardlaw and another pick from Port that we might be able to use that will help us in the build of our footy club and we’ll get on with it … he’s been playing some pretty good footy for them, I’m pleased that he’s going well, hopefully he doesn’t go so well on Saturday against us.”
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