AS NORTH Melbourne went a long way to confirming themselves as wooden-spooners on Saturday, the hottest draft prospect in the open pool put in a dominant performance.
Jason Horne has stamped himself as one of the leading talents in the 2021 NAB AFL Draft crop over three seasons and did so again on the weekend for South Adelaide's senior SANFL side with three goals and 22 disposals in a trademark powerful showing.
His trio of goals once again showed his prowess: one from a standard set shot, the next from a twirling snap under pressure after a clean ground-ball get and the last a long 55-metre bomb that sailed through.
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The 18-year-old, who idolises Fremantle champion Nat Fyfe, is ready-made and the Kangaroos are now in prime position to grab him with their first choice after slipping six points and plenty of percentage behind 17th-placed Adelaide and 16th-placed Collingwood on the ladder.
A North win over Richmond on Saturday, as their fast start indicated, would have set up a huge clash in round 23 between the Roos and Crows for 'The Horne Ultimatum' but they now have one hand on their first wooden spoon since 1972 with a clash against Sydney this weekend.
They would need to win their next two games and for Adelaide and Collingwood to both lose their remaining two games to move out of last on the ladder.
With father-son guns Nick Daicos (Collingwood) and Sam Darcy (Western Bulldogs), who are the other No.1 pick contenders, off-limits to rivals, Horne shapes as the obvious candidate for the Roos given his ready-to-play approach, versatility and football nous.
Horne told the Road to the Draft podcast in June that he was aiming to be the No.1 pick.
"At the start it was just about getting drafted and being happy with whatever happens. And now I can see where I can go and I can go that high and it is a bit of a competitive thing that I want to go No.1," Horne said.
"I'm happy when and where I go but it will be a reflection on the hard work I've put in."
Finn Callaghan, the Vic Metro wingman, is another in contention at the top end of the draft with clubs hopeful a NAB AFL Under-19 Championships will see other prospects emerge as sturdy top-five candidates.
Adelaide will surely ask the question of what it takes to prise the top pick out of the Kangaroos' grasp with a trade.
The Crows have been the beneficiary of such a move previously, sliding back two spots in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft in exchange for a future first-round pick from Greater Western Sydney as the Giants moved up ahead of the bid for Academy prospect Tom Green.
Would Adelaide bundle its top pick at this year's draft (currently No.2) and a future first-round pick to get access to the home-grown Horne? And would North Melbourne accept it?
The Roos were open to moving their first pick last year (No.2 overall pre-draft) once they realised they would be able to get Will Phillips a couple of spots back down the list however no deals were forthcoming.
A No.1 pick hasn't been traded since the famous Trent Croad deal in 2001 that saw the Hawks land Luke Hodge, whom recruiters think Horne shares a similar competitive streak.