AFL legend Leigh Matthews has slammed Jason Horne-Francis' description of his move from North Melbourne to Port Adelaide as 'courageous' after being subject to boos as a result. The No.1 draft pick from 2021 has been the subject of heavy scrutiny over his rookie season with the Kangaroos and since requesting a trade to his home state.
Commentary over the 19-tear-old's burgeoning AFL career reached a boiling point when former AFL players David King and Kane Cornes argued on SEN Radio over who bore responsibility for Horne-Francis copping boos from Western Bulldogs, Collingwood and Sydney fans to start the season. Speaking to The Age prior to Port Adelaide's win over West Coast on the weekend, Horne-Francis said he could understand animosity from North Melbourne fans, but didn't understand why he was being singled out by other fanbases.
Describing his trade request as 'courageous' in that same interview however, left premiership coach Matthews aghast. He said he considered the move 'weak', and said it was likely fans were seizing on that as an excuse to boo him.
Discussing the comments on 3AW, Matthews said if he was in Horne-Francis' corner he would be focusing on not taking that kind of attention seriously. He also had some sympathy, saying part of the reason was purely due to his status as the top draft pick, something with pressure attached that Matthews said he wouldn't want his son to be subjected to.
" I think it's weak to go back to Adelaide, I'm on that side of it," he said. "You do what you like, but courage is seeing it out and staying more than leaving in my view. Where the courage sits is different the way I see it.
" I reckon supporters who (boo Horne-Francis say) he's just a player in an opposition jumper and we can boo him because yeah he was the No.1 pick and walked out on North Melbourne, that's enough for me to boo him.
"'Don't take it personally' is what I thought you would be saying to Jason because the more you talk about it, the more supporters have a reason to bloody boo you because you're in an opposition guernsey."
Jason Horne-Francis opens up on confusion over booing
Horne-Francis also said his father had held reservations about him being selected first overall, something he says he understands now. "My dad always said to me he hoped I wouldn't go No. 1 in the draft and me then being the 18-year-old was always like: 'Yeah sure, Dad.' But I'm seeing what he meant now," Horne-Francis told The Age.
Matthews said fans had no perspective on what was going on in the day to day lives of players, and the resulting criticism was often too harsh. " F ans don't know the individual player," he said.
"We know the draft age is very young, you're an 18-year-old playing elite level sport. If I had a son, I wouldn't want him to be the No.1 draft choice. You get a $10,000 term deposit, that's good, but the scrutiny you get is massive."
In his conversation with The Age, Horne-Francis admitted the heavy scrutiny had occasionally gotten the better of him. "I don't think many players like it when they get booed. I try not to take it in, but I do hear it. With all the pressure on the outside I can let it get into my head a little bit," he said.
"I understand the North supporters' side of it. I was a young kid and I made the courageous decision to come home, and they are understandably disappointed. I'm just a bit confused about why Collingwood, Sydney and Bulldogs supporters, why they would boo me."
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