2022 Trade Period Analysis: Jason Horne-Francis & Junior Rioli, Port Adelaide

Welcome to the 2022 Free Agency & Trade Period analysis series. Over the next fortnight, the plan is to look at every player heading to a new club. It’s not going to be a ‘who won the trade’ series, but rather a look at how players fit into existing setups, or what changes they may force.

Port Adelaide have made out like bandits, trading pick 8, their 2023 first round selection, and some loose change from the side of the couch to obtain Jason Horne-Francis – on a six-year deal, likely under market value for $$$ considering how much he’ll be worth in two or three when he fulfills his potential – and Junior Rioli.

Horne-Francis is the missing piece to complete their midfield, and Rioli strengthens a forward line which looked like they’d be short of ground level class with the graduation of Zak Butters and Connor Rozee on-ball.

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Jason Horne-Francis

With Ollie Wines, Willem Drew, Zak Butters and Connor Rozee as the Power’s first-choice midfield of the future, nearly all bases are covered. The contested accumulator (Wines), the defensive minded (Drew) and the offensive magic (Rozee, Butters (I’m aware that’s underselling these two but roll with me for a second.))

What’s missing amongst those four is the genuine two-way, burst midfielder who’s a presence with and without the ball – which, coincidentally, is exactly what Horne-Francis will be.

Throughout Horne-Francis’ first season, it was clear he’d be a much different player to Hugh Greenwood (niche reference, but those who recognise it will appreciate it). All the stories about his alleged lack of professionalism and not following off-field requirements – e.g. the infamous ice bath – is for another time and a journalist with sources to report.

Now he’s back in Adelaide with everything tailored to his liking – at a club which hasn’t spent a year lurching between bad news and worse news – there’s a clear role for him to help make Port Adelaide better right away.

The Power finished 2022 with Travis Boak alternating between half-forward and on-ball – on paper it makes perfect sense to rotate with Horne-Francis in the same position.

Not only does it work from a pure football perspective, but there’s also the added intangible of learning from Boak as a leader.

Boak is the model of professionalism, at age 34 playing to nearly the same level he was a decade ago. It’s because of the way he works relentlessly to get the best out himself, and that example has to filter down to Horne-Francis.

Everything’s in place for the former pick one to explode at Port Adelaide … but I’d be lying if I said the match against North Melbourne isn’t one of my most anticipated of 2023, purely to see how both sets of players react.

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If you’ve missed any of the Free Agency & Trade Analysis posts, here’s where to catch up:

Friday 30th
Karl Amon, Hawthorn

Monday 3rd
Jayden Hunt, West Coast | Bobby Hill, Collingwood

Tuesday 4th
Blake Acres, Carlton | Liam Jones, Western Bulldogs | Daniel McStay, Collingwood

Wednesday 5th
Ben Long, Gold Coast | Zaine Cordy, St Kilda | Griffin Logue & Darcy Tucker, North Melbourne | Tom Berry, Gold Coast

Thursday 6th
Josh Corbett, Fremantle

Monday 10th
Will Setterfield, Essendon | Izak Rankine, Adelaide | Toby Bedford, GWS

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Junior Rioli

Rioli arrives with unquestioned credentials. It’s obvious what he can do if fit and firing, and his presence frees up both Zak Butters and Connor Rozee.

Assuming those two continue with a heavy dose of midfield minutes alongside Horne-Francis and Ollie Wines, it would have left the forward line light on for ground level pressure. The quintet of Charlie Dixon, Mitch Georgiades, Todd Marshall, Sam Powell-Pepper and Travis Boak (when the latter isn’t pushing up to contests) aren’t putting a hell of a lot of fear into opposition defenders when the ball’s in open play.

Adding Rioli into that group, with a clearly defined role as a permanent small forward, allow Port to create some more pressure and defend without the ball more efficiently.

As I covered in their post-season list and style analysis, their promising defensive numbers came from using possession as damage limitation:

2022 H&A SeasonUncontested Possession DifferentialAFL Rank
Port Adelaide+8701st
Fremantle+6432nd
Carlton+6223rd

To be roughly 25 percent ahead of second is a staggering gap and it did work as damage limitation…

– 5th in points against from turnovers
– 6th in points against from opposition’s defensive half
– 4th in points against from opposition’s forward half

…but it restricted Port’s ability to score far too much:

– 13th in points for from turnovers
– 15th in points for from defensive half

Rioli ideally allows Port to be a bit more aggressive moving into the forward half, knowing they have someone at ground level who can help lock it in and create turnovers in damaging positions. It makes sense on paper, assuming the Power make the requisite tweaks to their ball movement.

The question mark is whether Rioli can provide his best form after a tumultuous few years. A two-year ban followed by the passing of his father is a heartbreaking one-two, and he was understandably open about wanting to use his next deal to set up a life post-football:

“If I could set myself up for the rest of my life, that’s all I want to do … I’ve been through too much in the last 18 months, so I just want to make the most of being in the industry I am now,” Rioli said in an interview last month.

If I had gone through the same heartbreak as Rioli, my career would be well down a list of priorities – and I send out some social media posts for a living. It’s not quite the same level as having to perform in a football state that can feel like a fishbowl at times. Maybe he’s in the same boat (or bowl), but maybe long-term security for his family allows him to relax and recapture his best. Time will tell.

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In case you missed it, the Look Back/Look Ahead series recently wrapped.

Every team’s list was analysed in depth, with a key question picked out for 2023. In some ways the posts work hand-in-hand with these individual analyses, understanding needs and priorities.

Here are all the links to catch up on:

North MelbourneReadWest CoastRead
GWSReadEssendonRead
AdelaideReadHawthornRead
Gold CoastReadPort AdelaideRead
St KildaReadCarltonRead
RichmondReadWestern BulldogsRead
MelbourneReadFremantleRead
BrisbaneReadCollingwoodRead
SydneyReadGeelongRead

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