AFL Carlton v North Melbourne: Jason Horne-Francis the Rising Star nomination for Round 7
North Melbourne coach David Noble has backed Jason Horne-Francis after he went toe-to-toe with Blue Jack Silvagni.
In just his seventh game the 18-year-old, taken as the number one pick in last year’s AFL draft, went toe-to-toe with Silvagni, playing his 84th match, at Marvel Stadium after he collected Silvagni with a late hit.
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Horne-Francis was finally rewarded with a Rising Star nomination this week after seven solid outings for the Kangaroos which have yielded just one win.
But having dismissed his altercation with Silvagni as an act of frustration, Kangaroos coach David Noble said Horne-Francis’ want to stand up for himself and his team, to show controlled aggression, was one of the reasons they locked on him as the top draft pick.
“That’s what attracted to us about Jason as the number one pick,” Noble said.
“We saw a fair bit of that when he was playing at South (Adelaide). There were a few teams that tried to rough him up over there.
“We liked the fact he was prepared to stand his ground, but what I loved about it was the next contest he went after the ball and put his mitts on the ball again.
“That’s what you want as a coach, fly the flag but don’t give up possession of the ball.”
Video of the incident showed clearly that Silvagni was disparaging the Kangaroos and while Horne-Francis said he didn’t “take it to heart” it deserved a reaction on behalf of his teammates.
“(Silvagni) just said that we weren’t very good and I wasn’t very good but it was a lot of heat of the moment and didn’t take anything to heart,” Horne-Francis said on Tuesday.
“It’s just in my nature, sticking up for my teammates, it’s something I love doing and I think a lot of it was just heat of the moment but that’s something that comes naturally.
“For me that’s just how I want to be playing week in, week out.”
North first-gamer Miller Bergman could be headed for surgery after being subbed out of the loss to Carlton with a shoulder injury, sustained as he gathered his first ever AFL possession.
“We‘ll get a surgeon to have a look at Miller’s shoulder in the coming days to see if any intervention needs to occur from that perspective, but we won’t know a lot until that happens later in the week,” North General Manager of Football Performance, Dan McPherson, said.
But Tarryn Thomas was cleared of a hamstring issue by scans following Saturday’s game.
Rising Star opens on Silvagni’s ‘sh**’ sledge
Passion for his new club flared Jason Horne-Francis in a fiery moment against Carlton on Saturday night, but the young North Melbourne star says he doesn’t hold a grudge against Jack Silvagni over a pointed “heat of the moment” sledge.
Silvagni said to Horne-Francis “your team is s--t”, after the No. 1 draft pick had given away a free kick for a heavy bump from behind during the third quarter.
Horne-Francis and Silvagni had moments earlier engaged in a push and shove, after Horne-Francis remonstrated a heavy bump on his teammate Tarryn Thomas.
“It did (anger me) a little bit, but it’s all good,” Horne-Francis said of Silvagni’s sledge.
“I think a lot of it was just heat of the moment. Everyone says a few things in the heat of the moment so I don’t think anything was taken too personally.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for all the players in the AFL.”
A shining light in what has been a bleak start to the season for the Kangaroos, Horne-Francis was awarded the Round 7 NAB AFL Rising Star nomination for his performance against the Blues.
The 18-year-old logged 20 disposals, three clearances and three score involvements, playing a mixture of forward and midfield.
“I’m really happy with my role and what Nobes (coach David Noble) has got me to do as that half-forward and mid who can get my explosiveness in there when we need it,” Horne-Francis said.
“I like being up and around the ball but that can’t always be the case, so I’ve just got to adapt to the role I’m playing now.”
Horne-Francis has worked closely with North Melbourne midfield coach Jordan Russell but also still consults his father Fabian, with the pair continuing their weekly goal-setting ritual this year.
“My dad and I sit down each year before the season and each week as well and set little goals that we want to achieve,” Horne-Francis said.
“The goal for this year was just to earn the respect of the players and the community and hopefully I can play most games this season which will help me develop as a player even more.”
A Fremantle fan growing up, Horne-Francis idolised Nat Fyfe.
But he won’t get the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with the two-time Brownlow Medal winner on Friday night when the Kangaroos take on the Dockers in Perth,
Fyfe is sidelined with a back injury, but the third-placed Dockers still present a daunting task.
“That will be tough this week, but it will be really exciting,” Horne-Francis said.
The unheralded Blue you can’t ignore
When you’re playing in the same side as the Brownlow Medal favourite, your performances can often get overlooked.
Patrick Cripps has been the star for the Blues so far this season and most likely added another three Brownlow Medal votes to his tally with a 35-disposal game against North Melbourne on Saturday night.
But Carlton fans would have been left just as pleased about a less-heralded player who is similarly enjoying a career-best season.
Adam Saad finished sixth in Carlton’s best and fairest in his first season at Princes Park last year and – like a raft of teammates – has taken his game to another level in 2022.
Saad’s match against the Kangaroos might just have been his best yet for the Blues, coach Michael Voss describing it post-match as “pretty special”.
“Some of Saady’s close-outs and winning ground ball and you think he’s out of it and he gets back into it,” Voss said.
“It was a pretty special night from him tonight.”
Players with Saad’s skill set don’t grow on trees.
He’s lightning quick, reads the play as well as anyone, breaks the lines, is strong in one-on-one contests, is a good mark for his size and rarely wastes the ball by foot.
Carlton paid heavily for Saad during the 2020 trade period, after he declared he wanted to leave Essendon and join its arch rival.
The Blues gave up their prized pick 8, which the Bombers used on talented young wingman Nik Cox.
However, they are now reaping the rewards of that decision – exactly as was intended.
“Few in the competition are better to watch when in full flight than Adam and we can’t wait to see his electrifying pace added to our backline,” Carlton list manager Nick Austin said after the trade for Saad went through in 2020.
“In addition to his attacking qualities, Adam has shown a consistent ability to shut opponents out of the game and it is that flexibility which will really add to our playing list.”
That electrifying pace was on show against North Melbourne, as was Saad’s ability to shut-out opposition players.
Champion Data statistics showed he had nine different opponents on the night, who combined for only 12 disposals and one goal between them while Saad was on them.
At the same time, Saad helped himself to 25 disposals – at 88 per cent efficiency.
The 27-year-old also recorded an equal-career-high 12 intercept possessions – five more than any other player on the ground.
He ranked fourth on the night for metres gained with 470m, while also taking six marks and playing a hand in an incredible seven score involvements coming off halfback.
Overall, Saad recorded 121 ranking points to be rated behind only Cripps, Sam Walsh and Todd Goldstein.
That further boosted his average ranking points this season to 107 points a game – a 28 per cent lift on last season’s average of 83 points.
If not for the dominance of his captain Cripps, Saad might be getting a lot more public attention.
Voss labelled his side’s win over the Roos a “complete performance”.
Saad is similarly looking a complete player this season.
Carlton’s game is built on contest and a lot of it centred around having a strong ruckman in Marc Pittonet in the early rounds of the season.
He might not be a big name, but Pittonet had been playing a vital role before going down against Fremantle with a posterior cruciate ligament injury, which will sideline him for up to three months.
Enter Tom De Koning.
The 22-year-old was playing just his 28th AFL game against North Melbourne on Saturday night but is the player who looks set to carry the Blues’ ruck department through the middle part of the season.
Coach Michael Voss could not have asked for much more from De Koning against the Kangaroos.
He didn’t win every hitout by any stretch, but he did play with plenty of heart.
De Koning contested 63 ruck contests including 23 centre bounces, facing off against experienced North Melbourne veteran Todd Goldstein for a large part of the night.
He won 20 hit-outs, but it was De Koning’s work after the ruck contests that most pleased his coach.
“I thought Tom was huge tonight,” Voss said.
“Any time Tom found himself in an inferior position he was on the ground and he laid four tackles in the immediate area where he was able to strip the ball and we got it back and we got the ball going our way.
“He’s on a learning journey and the fact we can get eight to 10 games under his belt (will be good). He’ll have moments where he might drop his intensity, but if he’s well supported by the guys around him, we know that he’s got that in him.”
The big positive for the Blues was that it didn’t matter much that De Koning and back-up ruckman Jack Silvagni convincingly lost the hit-outs against the North Melbourne pairing of Goldstein and Callum Coleman-Jones.
The Kangaroos won hit-outs 56-30, but the Blues won clearances 45-34.
Most importantly, Carlton dominated centre clearances 22-8.
Voss said the period without Pittonet would be a continuing challenge – but not just for De Koning.
“That’s all our challenge,” he said.
“I don’t just throw that to Tom, I throw that to all of us and he’s one part in that. He spoke about it during the week and said, ‘I feel like I’m ready to do it’. We’re ready to give it to him and back him in. I don’t have that confidence off convenience. I have that confidence off a body of work that he’s had. He’s going to get some continuity there. He’s going to be mentored by Kreuz (ruck coach Matthew Kreuzer) and Pitto through this period of time and he’s got a midfield that’s there for him.”
BLUES UNEARTH ANOTHER GEM IN FIERY WIN OVER ROOS
Carlton coach Michael Voss has praised his team for its first “complete” performance of the season after the Blues turned a weakness into a strength in a 50-point belting of North Melbourne.
Carlton led by just eight points at halftime at Marvel Stadium before putting the Kangaroos to the sword with a nine-goal-to-three second half.
Seven of those second-half goals from the Blues came in the third quarter, after Carlton had entered the match having not won a third term for the season.
“It was a more complete performance,” Voss said.
“We could have come into halftime and really strayed from what we were doing but felt really confident with the process we were going with and we needed to just keep doing it.
“The boys really brought into that, didn’t deviate off the plan and we were able to execute across the whole night, which was really pleasing. Even in the last two or three minutes, I thought we played with a really high intensity.”
Jack Carroll made a splash in his AFL debut, scoring a goal from his first kick and going on to record 19 disposals and eight marks.
Voss said the 19-year-old midfielder looked a player of the future.
“As you saw tonight, he’s got some natural instincts when it comes to the midfield role,” Voss said of Carroll.
“He hunts the ball really well, he’s tough as nails and he works hard. I think the Carlton faithful are going to be very happy watching this man develop over the long term.”
Carroll got an opportunity due to a corked calf which ruled out fellow onballer George Hewett.
However, Voss said Hewett “should be fine” to return for next Sunday’s clash with Adelaide.
Defender Liam Stocker was subbed out of the match in the third quarter with a shoulder injury after a heavy collision with North Melbourne’s Tarryn Thomas and will be assessed in coming days.
“We feel like it’s not too bad, but like all these we take a couple of days to assess it,” Voss said.
Match report: Blues flex new-found muscle in fiery clash
The Blues are flying in 2022 and now sit 5-2 after taking care of business against the Kangaroos.
It was a similar story again for the Roos, who despite a tight opening half, were blown out of the water.
North Melbourne had won four out of their last five encounters against Carlton, but the rejuvenated Michael Voss-led Blues outfit prevailed by 50 points at Marvel Stadium.
The Roos were in the contest early but failed to execute on their opportunities going forward.
Bad kicking is bad football and several sprayed shots on goal hurt the David Noble’s side from the get-go.
Carlton’s physicality at the coalface was intimidating for the Kangaroos, who hardly had an inch of space to operate in.
The Blues owned the stoppages and regularly did as they pleased, with the likes of Patrick Cripps (35 disposals), Sam Walsh (29 disposals) and Matthew Kennedy (24 disposals) giving their forwards the best chance possible to score.
With Ben McKay ruled out through suspension, North Melbourne’s defence was severely undersized and Carlton’s twin towers in Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow feasted, kicking four and three goals respectively.
McKay’s marking was a standout for the Blues as well, as he made the most of mismatched opponents.
The big Blue clunked 11 marks, four of which were contested.
North Melbourne trailed by just eight points at the main break, but the Blues showcased their class in the second half and the floodgates opened.
Second half fade-outs had become a bad trend of the Blues’ gameplay in the opening rounds of the season, but Voss’ troops were not going to make the same mistake again against the lowly ranked Roos.
The Blues kicked seven goals to two in the third term to stamp their authority on the contest.
From then on it was party time for the ‘Blue Baggers’ who put their foot on the gas and breezed away to a percentage-boosting victory.
Highly-touted Blues youngster Jack Carroll made his AFL debut for the Blues and was in the thick of the action early, getting his hands on the footy and booting a first-term goal.
Carroll finished the game with 19 disposals and eight marks and looked the part in his first game at the highest level.
His third term was impressive, racking up seven disposals and acting as a key architect in Carlton’s dominance.
North Melbourne also blooded youngster Miller Bergman, brother of Port Adelaide’s Miles, after Aidan Corr was a late out under the Health & Safety Protocols.
Bergman struggled to have an impact on the game in the first half recording just the one disposal, before a shoulder injury prematurely ended his night during the second term.
Will we ever see the McKay Bowl?
Despite both being in the AFL system for over seven years, brothers Harry and Ben McKay have still never played against each other.
This time around, it was Ben who was unavailable after he was given a one-match ban for rough conduct against Geelong.
The pair have a combined total of 116 games experience and would potentially go head-to-head, given Harry plays forward and Ben down back.
Will 2023 finally be the year we see the family rivalry?
Still got it
North Melbourne veteran Todd Goldstein has been forced to spend more time in the forward line this season due to the emergence of Tristan Xerri as the club’s first-choice ruck.
With Xerri ruled out for a month with a foot injury earlier this week, Goldstein relished the opportunity to be the main man again.
Goldstein gave Blues youngster Tom De Koning a lesson in ruck craft, monstering the inexperienced big man around the ground.
Goldstein took three big marks in the first quarter alone and worked tirelessly, amassing 18 disposals and 36 hit outs.
Thrashings become the norm
The Roos are having a 2022 to forget at the moment, with just one win from seven games.
And that win came against a heavily depleted West Coast Eagles outfit.
The Kangas have lost their last four matches by an average of over 60 points and have been destroyed by the likes of Brisbane, Geelong and the Western Bulldogs during the past month.
Can David Noble get the Roos flailing season back on track and give the fans something to smile about?
BLUES 5.2 8.5 15.8 17.12 114
KANGAROOS 2.3 7.3 9.4 10.4 64
BLUES:Cripps, McKay, Walsh, Saad, Carroll KANGAROOS: Goldstein, Scott, Davies-Uniacke, Simpkin
BLUES: McKay 4, C. Curnow 3, Martin 2, Owies 2, Carroll, Walsh, Newnes, Cerra, Weitering, Cripps KANGAROOS: Larkey 3, Zurhaar 2, Coleman-Jones, Davies-Uniacke, Mahony, Curtis, Greenwood
BLUES: Stocker (shoulder). KANGAROOS: Bergman (shoulder).
UMPIRES O’Gorman, Glouftsis, Toner
VENUE Marvel Stadium
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
DYLAN BOLCH’S VOTES
3 P. Cripps (CARL)
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2 H. McKay (CARL)
1 S. Walsh (CARL)
Originally published as AFL Carlton v North Melbourne: Jason Horne-Francis the Rising Star nomination for Round 7