Collingwood great Nathan Buckley has slammed the treatment of North Melbourne youngster Jason Horne-Francis, saying recent comments about the rising talent were unfair.
Buckley said he was troubled by the lack of support for the 18-year-old who is in his first season of senior football after moving from South Australia.
Over the past few weeks, the No. 1 draft pick has seen his commitment and attitude questioned as he appears frustrated with the Kangaroos’ performances this season.
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But Buckley jumped to Horne-Francis’ defense, saying SEN breakfast the huge outside expectations placed on him are skewed and can do more harm than good.
“I’m hot under the collar around a specific issue,” he said.
“If I were Jason Horne-Francis’ parents, what would I think of the way he was 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 do we do to this kid?
“He’s an 18-year-old who’s probably struggling within himself. We see his behaviors sticking out which show quite clearly that he’s struggling within himself with the challenge he’s facing.
“It gets worse and worse as the expectations grow. Those expectations weren’t his, they were imposed on him from outside and that’s where sports media and social media become important.
“He’s the number one choice, he’s expected to be a certain player, he came into a club that struggled and he became the main story of North Melbourne Football Club.
“I thought last night, if I was the mother and father, would I want my son to be in this situation? And the answer is no.
“It would be better for him in his life not to have to be under that level of scrutiny before he was able to handle all of this.”
Horne-Francis has been the subject of constant speculation with reports he may want to release in North Melbourne after just one season. However, Buckley believes the discussion takes a cruel turn with the attacker’s character being questioned.
“He’s already being judged by the masses, by the football community, for something that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.
“He’s already been judged for, ‘Why don’t you stay with North, man? Why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that?’ Nothing happened, but our bias makes us judge the character of this kid.
“And he’s a kid. I see him struggling physically and I don’t feel comfortable with how the game doesn’t support that kid and the game being the industry.”
Horne-Francis will miss North’s next two games after being suspended for striking Giants midfielder Josh Kelly on Sunday.
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