SOUTH Adelaide teenage star Jason Horne has long been pegged as one of the top draft prospects for 2021, constantly impressing regardless of the grade of football he’s playing in, Horne has shown he can step up to the level when required, earning a SANFL League debut as a 17-year-old and holding his spot ever since. The AFL Academy member has found himself being a big part of the Panthers 2021 campaign, playing mostly on the half forward flank and rotating through the midfield at times.
As South Adelaide continued their push for a top three spot to secure a double chance come finals time in Round 16, Horne had arguably his best performance at SANFL League level against Central District, recording a season-high 22 disposals and an equal team-high three goals, Horne lit up the second quarter in particular to help secure the 52-point victory and drawn attention for a Player Focus.
South Adelaide/South Australia
Position: Balanced Midfielder
Strengths: Contested ball, consistency, defensive pressure, scoreboard impact
15.7 disposals | 4.1 marks | 4.0 tackles | 2.6 clearances | 3.1 inside 50s | 0.8 goals (11 total)
2021 SANFL League, Round 16 | Central Districts 7.4 (46) def. By South Adelaide 14.14 (98)
#33 Jason Horne (South Adelaide)
Stats: 22 Disposals (14 kicks, 8 handballs), 7 marks, 2 tackles, 2 clearances, 4 inside 50s, 3 goals
Horne started the game in his usual half-forward spot, not taking long to get himself near the play as he pushed up to play as an extra midfielder, taking a spot in close at the first stoppage in the middle of the ground and pushing back defensively when Central District won the clearance. Not through lack of effort, Horne did not get his first disposal for a while, being around contests as an outlet handball option but not being used, or having a teammate give away a free kick as he was about to burst clear with the ball.
His first disposal came from a stoppage near the defensive 50, where he got separation from his opponent, won the ball mid air, shoved off an opponent but was then rushed into a handball as more pressure came, so his handball went straight up. This positional nous around stoppages was an obvious strength, with the next stoppage he attended seeing him position himself in a way that his opponent was forced into the congestion and he was able to win the loose ball and handball back to a teammate for his second clearance. His two running saw him impact the same bit of play as Centrals got the ball in the midfield, but Horne laid a tackle to get a stoppage.
Moved on ball after a brief stint on the bench where he was accountable for his opponent, following closely so he couldn’t be used as a handball option. Closer to the end of the quarter, Horne took an overhead mark on the wing as a teammate shepherded an opponent off, making it uncontested, and hit the ground running in an effort to keep South going quickly, running inboard with pace, but after being presented with no option he quickly shifted his balance to hit an impressive chip kick to a teammate on the forward flank. Finished the quarter with what looked like a promising play, winning the ball cleanly from the rucks hands in the centre and gaining good separation on his opponent, but was robbed of the clearance stat as the siren went.
After a solid first quarter where gut running was the highlight of Horne’s game, he was given the opportunity to play a bit more traditional as a forward, not running as far up the ground and getting involved in scoring chains in the forward half. His first touch of the quarter was crucial, as he swept up the contested ground ball from a hack kick forward and handballed to a teammate running past almost in the same motion, leading to the first goal of the quarter. He did a similar play only a minute after, sweeping up the ground ball as it went through four players, but was not quick enough this time as he gave away a free kick for holding the ball. Still attend a few stoppages around the ground despite playing a bit more in the attacking half, with one stoppage in particular impressing as he worked in tandem with Bryce Gibbs to get around two opponents, get possession straight from the ruck tap and handball to a teammate in close.
Horne still brought a lot of defensive efforts to the forward half, taking three intercept marks in the second quarter, all from opposition kicks coming out of the 50, and working hard to impact opposition disposals when he was close, smothering one kick on the boot and applying pressure where he could.
Horne also kicked all three of his goals in the second term as Centrals found it difficult to keep him from impacting play without giving away free kicks to him. The first goal came from a set shot which he earned after an opponent came and shoved him away from a marking contest inside 50, with Horne going back and converting with ease. His second goal was arguably his most impressive, as he swept the ball up off the ground from a poor Centrals handball, taking contact as he did but holding his balance then kicking it straight through from about 40 metres out. His third goal came from one of his intercept marks, a one handed hold above his head where he handballed to a teammate, got it back and won a free kick as he was held after disposing of it, then kicking the goal from outside 50.
Despite the scoreboard impact, Horne played just as much time through the midfield as he had the previous quarter, being a part of some handball chains from the centre stoppages where he spotted runners a couple of times and fed the ball out to them.
After such a big second quarter it is no surprise that Horne did not quite replicate that form in the third, although he still found ways to be impactful without racking up the same amount of stats. Often seen around the contests tight on an opponent to stop them from being used as a handball outlet option, or closing down on opponents to force a rushed disposal, his defensive work was at its usual high standard. He did things in the contest as well to make it difficult for Centrals to get easy ball, even diving to knock a ground ball away from an opponent and give his teammates time to come and lay a tackle.
Horne was used a couple of times as he made leads in the forward half, managing to get separation from his opponent to take the ball on the chest uncontested. The first of these marks was inside 50 on the boundary line, where he initially looked like he was going to have a shot on goal, but at the last second chipped it inboard for a teammate to take with ease and the second being marked outside the 50, with a similar chip to a teammate to take easily.
With the game itself dying down a bit Horne’s performance mirrored that, starting the quarter on fire but forgivably fading out towards the end, whilst still bringing the defensive work that sets him apart from many other 18-year-old footballers.
Started the quarter in the midfield, almost winning the first clearance but having his arms held as he went for it, smartly toe poking it lightly for his teammate to run onto. Followed this up at the next stoppage where a teammate tapped it back from the ruck contest, with Horne grabbing it and firing a backwards outlet handball quickly for his teammate to run and kick long. At the next centre stoppage, he moved through the open space to grab the ball from the rucks hands, continuing towards his defensive 50, then U-turning and kicking to his own 50-metre mark well.
Jason Horne has been lauded for his ability as a match winner at the Under 18’s level even as a 16-year-old, and the performance against Central Districts, particularly his second quarter, showed he can do it against bigger and more experienced bodies when things click the way they did. What sets Horne apart from not just other draft-age talents, but most other footballers out there is his defensive work and two way running which didn’t stop even as the game ran on and started looking like a sure thing for South Adelaide, which is a trait that is very difficult to teach players coming through.
The way Horne consistently impacts the contest as a half forward flanker, arguably the hardest position to fill in modern football, is a highlight of his game as a whole, playing essentially as an onballer for most of the game, running down to the other end of the ground to lay tackles or bump opponents around. Another particularly impressive part of Horne’s game was his stoppage nous, seemingly involved in any clearance he was around, whether it was winning it himself or getting a releasing handball, positioning well to quickly change what his role around the stoppages would be.
Picture credit: Nick Hook Photography