Collingwood great Nathan Buckley has slammed the treatment of North Melbourne youngster Jason Horne-Francis, claiming recent commentary around the rising talent has been unfair.
Buckley said he was troubled by the lack of support given to the 18-year-old who is in his first season of senior football after relocating from South Australia.
In recent weeks, the No.1 draft pick has had his commitment and attitude questioned as he appears frustrated with the Kangaroos’ performances this season.
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But Buckley has leapt to Horne-Francis’ defence, telling SEN Breakfast the huge external expectations placed on him are prejudiced and may be doing more harm than good.
“I’m hot under the collar around a specific issue,” he said.
“If I was Jason Horne-Francis’ parents, how would I feel about how he has been treated by the industry?
“So I’m not just talking about the club, I’m not talking about the media, I’m not talking about anyone in particular, but I feel like – what are we doing to this kid?
“He is an 18-year-old who is probably struggling within himself. We’re seeing his behaviours that are coming out that are showing quite clearly that he is struggling in himself in the challenge that he is facing.
“It’s got worse and worse as the expectation has grown. These expectations weren’t his, they were placed on him externally and this is where sports media and social media becomes a big thing.
“He’s the number one pick, he’s expected to be a certain player, he’s gone into a club that has struggled and he’s become the main story out of the North Melbourne Football Club.
“I had a thought last night, if I was the mother and the father, would I want my son to be in that situation? And the answer is no.
“It would be better for him in his life to not have to be under this level of scrutiny before he is capable of handling any of this.”
Horne-Francis has been the subject of constant speculation with reports he may want out at North Melbourne after just one season. However, Buckley believes the discussion is taking a cruel turn with the forward’s character being called into question.
“He is already being judged by the masses, by the football community, for something that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.
“He is already being judged for, ‘Why don’t you just stick with North, mate? Why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that?’ Nothing’s happened but our bias has us judging this kid’s character.
“And he is a kid. I see him struggling physically and I don’t feel comfortable with the way the game is not supporting this kid and the game being the industry.”
Horne-Francis will miss North’s next two matches after he was suspended for striking Giants midfielder Josh Kelly on Sunday.
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