That is the belief of leading AFL columnist Damian Barrett, who said the club is adamant the 19-year-old’s exit plea comes off the back of the uncertainty surrounding Clarkson’s future.
After arriving at Arden Street amid much fanfare, Clarkson’s tenure is threatening to be brought to an end before it even begins, with the four-time premiership winner currently stood down pending an AFL investigation into historical allegations from his time at Hawthorn.
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Barrett told AFL Trade Radio on Monday that North Melbourne is of the belief that Horne-Francis’ request to be moved, which comes barely a month after he stated his intention to see out his current deal, is “Alastair Clarkson doubt related”.
If Horne-Francis is granted his wish during the next two weeks, he could be potentially joined by another talented youngster in Tarryn Thomas.
According to SEN’s Sam Edmund, the 22-year-old midfielder is “wrestling with requesting a trade”, but is yet to officially do so.
Thomas is contracted at North Melbourne until the end of the 2024 season, and it would require a significant trade package from a rival to prise him out of Arden Street.
It is a stunning and unfortunate turn of events for the Kangaroos and for club president Sonja Hood, who triumphantly declared that she did not “need a Plan B” after managing to land the signature of Clarkson in August.
“I can’t remember a worse period of time for a club than what North Melbourne is going through now. With the Clarkson situation and Horne-Francis now as well,” said AFL great Kane Cornes of the Kangaroos’ current plight.
It remains unclear exactly when Clarkson will be able to resume his tenure at North Melbourne, after initially being slated to officially begin his role as the senior coach at the start of November.
The AFL is yet to determine the four-person panel that will conduct the investigation into the historical allegations at Hawthorn in a sign that the end of the saga could be some way off.
Clarkson’s former right-hand man, Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan, has also stood down from his role at the club. Both men have categorically denied all allegations of wrongdoing and have shown a willingness to comply with the impending AFL investigation.
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