Will Francis “Casino” Jackson ever learn his lesson?

By Louise Comra

Francis Jackson, Richmond’s head recruiter should buy Blair Hartly a beer. In fact, he should buy him dinner and a beer. The recent good publicity the Tigers recruiting has been getting has been all due to Blair not “Casino “ Jackson.

I want to first make the distinction between the fine work Blair Hartly has done as distinct from what Francis Jackson has done, which he seems to universally be getting credit for. Blair was responsible for Houli, Grigg, Maric and now Knights and Chaplin. That is trading not recruiting and yes, the club has been very good in that area of late.

I would just like to look at the last four/five years and you can analyse how many Francis would get a tick for right now. I think there are three categories. Fail, pass and jury still out. I understand it is subjective, but I can’t give him any more than 4 ticks over the past four years.

Let me start by throwing these names at you who are either all gone or are definite “fail” in my view. Relton Roberts, Ben Nason, Jeromme Webberly, AndrewBrowne, Dean Macdonald, Jaydon Post, Andrew Collins, Angus Graham, Mitch Farmer, Troy Taylor, . I don’t think is is too many arguments about any of these is there? I would also add Tom Derickx in . That is a lot of names in the space of a few years for a recruiter  who is getting  patted on the back.

Next category- Jury out.- Ben Griffiths ,Mat Dea, Tyrone Vickery David Astbury Jake Bachelor, Bret O’Hanlon, Todd Elton Conca,….happy to concede jury out with most of these but don’t have a lot of faith that the uncompetitive Griffiths nor the treacle slow Bachelor will be guys you want on your team in a Grand final. Conca is a “jury out” because he was pick 6…do you think he looks like pick 6 ? We passed on Heppell to take a guy who can’t kick left foot and is terribly undisciplined and is a nice footballer at best. Pick 6?

A lot of the above who gambles on guys from obscurity. Have a look at the phantom drafts leading into it and check out Derricks or Astbury and see where they were rated.our Francis just loves a gamble. To think Astbury was given Richo’s number 12..i can’t think of a single game where this guy would have made the best players yet his re-signing this year came under the heading of “Young Gun Re-Signs’ . Can you believe that?  Pick 18 for Griffiths…please.

Wins? Well, clearly Grimes as a pre-season selection (effectively pick 100 or so) was a great choice. Ellis and Morris look fine and Martin looks better that Trengove, so probably have to concede them as wins. The manager of Dimmeys could have got Martin right

Given all of this, i think the media is  being very kind to Francis and the club. Do you know that Richmond have only 9 people in recruiting (3 full time 6 part time) compared to Hawthorn (27) and Collingwood (30).

I am not sure if you agree but I just think Francis Jackson is getting credit for Blair Hartly’s hard work.

Editor’s note: The views contained in this article are the view of the author  alone.


  1. I’m sorry, but this reads like a post on Bigfooty and it makes you sound like an absolute idiot. I’d like to first point out that Collingwood and Hawthorn have both recently won premierships and have experienced success, while Richmond have made the finals twice in the past 30 years, and hence has struggled on the membership/attendance front compared to these two. Although, once it experiences success, I am hopeful that we will again draw massive crowds as the Tiger Army returns to full strength.

    Secondly, a couple of years ago the Tigers had nearly $5 million in debt. Whilst other clubs have spent significant amounts of money on recruiting/development, Richmond have had a limited capacity to do this, and instead have been forced to spend a large portion of their income on repaying that debt. This is why the Hawks and Pies have so many more recruiting staff. Richmond don’t have 9 recruiters because F J is lazy – they just don’t have as much money as the Pies or Hawks.

    Now I’ll move onto the players. Firstly, almost all of the players listed listed in the third paragraph (bar Post) were drafted with pick 40 or later – or in Farmer’s case, traded for a player who was homebound anyway (Schulz). I know that a big part of recruiting is the ability to find diamonds in the rough, but you could pick literally any club in the AFL, trawl through their selections from the past few drafts, and come up with a similar list of players who didn’t make the grade.

    And apparently the jury is out on Ben Griffiths – did you notice that he actually made significant strides in 2012 as a key defender and has been dogged by many injuries his whole career? O’Hanlon looked like a good prospect. Vickery was very good in 2011 but was hampered by injuries this season – his presence in the forward line, when fit, takes the pressure of Jack significantly. Batchelor makes the occasional howler but is generally quite accountable and composed for a 20 year old. And while I admit I’m unsure about Dea and Astbury, it’s impossible to make a judgment on Elton, given he has only been on the list 1 season. And as for Conca, he is actually quite good on his left foot and is looking promising this season. Heppell has been way over-hyped in his early career. It looks like you’re just reiterating a whole bunch of mainstream opinions from the media and from Bigfooty which represent a very skewed version of reality. Mainstream society loves to exaggerate Richmond drafting blunders because of how frequent and catastrophic they have been in the past.

    Then you say we should look at phantom drafts in order to get a more accurate measure on where players like Astbury and Derickx should be drafted…I’d like to know whose phantom drafts you were looking at. Because a lot of keyboard jockeys simply watch Youtube highlights while copying others’ phantom drafts and reading posts of others on Bigfooty, who in turn have sourced their info from the same sources…the cycle goes on. Are you really so idiotic that you believe that a team of professional recruiters know less than these online “experts”? I’d be more worried if FJ’s draft selections closely resembled the Interwebz consensus.

    I’m sorry, but every paragraph of this article makes me angry, at the ignorance and ill-considered nature of each point you make. You’re massively overstating the credit FJ is receiving, in addition to overstating how bad he’s been. And Hartley’s good work has not gone unnoticed at all, among knowledgeable observers.


  2. Skip of Skipton says

    Who was head recruiter in ’04 when both Buddy and Roughy were passed over?

    Very hasty judgement writing off 1st to 4th year young blokes when they’ve been drafted into a club trying to fight its way out of 30 years of mediocrity and loserdom. Get a serious grip.

    Ease up on David Astbury (pick 30 something) who had a bad knee injury. Your coach has rated him highly from the outset, and that is why he was getting played in the seniors from day one. Is an 18 year old first year key position prospect meant to be Richo from day one?

  3. Brian wallace says

    I liked the article-didn’t like the retort from Adam B. Carlton have 6.5 million debt Adam and still have more recruiters than Richmond who have 1.9 million in debt.

    I don’t think too many would argue that the jury is out with Ben Griffiths-I think the author has got that right. I support Geelong and I don’t think too many neutrals would say he has “made it” or even close. He has always been injury prone hence why other recruiters overlooked him. I think he will end up being Richmon’d s Gumbleton, who teases you but ultimately will end up wasting five years on your list. I think that was the exact point she was making-Jackson gambled on Griffiths when other clubs didn’t.
    I don’t know enough about the others she mentioned but none of them jump out at me as good players.I do like Ellis though.

  4. There’s a difference Brian. The Tigers have been in debt for many years, which has affected their ability to enhance their football/recruiting departments in the first place. On the other hand, Carlton is not only a larger club than Richmond but has benefited from having a billionaire president. I’m not sure exactly, but I think it is highly likely that the reason that the Blues are currently like Alan Bond – the reason they have so much debt is due to large amounts of spending.

    And I admit I’ve had worries about Griffiths in the past – especially because Fyfe was selected directly after him and is a star already – but he is no less injury prone than Griffiths. And I agree, he hasn’t quite “made it” – but he did show plenty of promising signs. Said often, but often forgotten: big men take longer to develop.

  5. Brian wallace says

    Adam, I am confused about why Carlton is a “larger” club than Richmond? You have more members than them, so why are they larger?

    As I said, despite a huge debt they aehv had for some time, they manage to devote more resources to recruiting than Richmond, who from what I have been told, have the smallest recruiting team in the AFL.

  6. Forget definitions of a “large club” for the moment. It’s a trivial point. Carlton make way more money from pokies than Richmond and until recently, have had more members.

    And as for the point about Richmond having the smallest recruiting team, that may have been true in the days of Terry Wallace (for whom the nickname “Casino” would be more apt) but I’d want to see some recruiting department spending figures to verify your claim, Brian.

    I did manage to find out that Richmond increased its football department spending by 13% and is now up to sixth-last out of all clubs in that category. Not sure about the recruiting department, though.

  7. Brian wallace says

    Ok,so Carlton aren’t a bigger club as you calimed.They have 6.5 million in debt, just announced a loss of 600k and have 8k less memebrs than you guys. By any measure, they are not a larger club.Sorry, I didn’t think it was a trivial point but rather an innaccurate one.

    The point about the recruiting team was told to me by a friend who works for Collingwood and I also was referrfing to the original post. It shouldn’t be that hard to verify-why don’t you ask the club?

    I understand we (Geelong)have 15 working in recruitment(part time and full time)

    Interstgin that Jayden Post , at 24 has chosen to play local footy after no club showed nay interest in him at all. What doe that tell you about him?

  8. What does it tell me about Post? Nothing, really. I already knew Post was a mistake. Despite his ability in the air, he’s too slow off the mark, too inaccurate by foot and a bit on the slow side mentally as well. And Dayne Beams went 3 picks later. Pretty shattering. But there will always be 2nd round picks who don’t make the grade. Nonetheless, our recruiting has improved massively from when Greg Miller was in charge.

    Richmond have 3 full-timers, and 8 part-time recruiting staff now, plus Blair Hartley as the opposition list analyst. Not that much less than Geelong anymore. But of course, Geelong are noted for their exceptional recruiting.

    By the way, Carlton spent the 5th most in the AFL ($18.2m) on their football department, of which recruiting is a subset of, and the most ($2.4m) in fitness and conditioning. Ahead of Richmond in both cases.

  9. Brian wallace says

    RE Post-I was merely pointing out there was no interest in a 23 year tall who had played 30 odd games. It doesn’t reflect well on Jackson, as it is yet another failure. The real art of recruiting is getting pick 30 plus right. Richomnd have 3 ful time and six part time not 8.

    Who cares what Carlton spend on fitness? I am most curious why you made the original comment that Carlton are a “bigger” club? You now have to go to fitness spending to back up your point!

    Perhaps it would be eaiser, given you are such a fan, to point out all of Jackon’s sucessess that may differ from the original article? I just don’t know enough about the names mentioned.

  10. Quick Q. Who gets the credit for picking up Robin Nahas? He’s been a handy player in his time @ Tiger land.


  11. Brian wallace says

    probably Jackson…even a broken clock is right twice a day!

  12. The figure of 8 part-time staff I mentioned is including a couple of occasional international recruiters. So you’re right in that 3 full-time and 6 part-time staff conduct recruiting in Australia. And Carlton DID spend more on their football department than Richmond – I think this is highly significant in determining which club can be considered “larger” – although I regret using that term as it is very vague.

    And I already responded to the original poster in my initial comment, but I’ll add a few things since you’re interested:
    FJ started at the Tigers as a full-time recruiter in 2006, the year after Richmond made the infamous howler of Oakley-Nicholls at pick 8, who they apparently selected based on a brief highlights video. In FJ’s first year, the Tigers’ first pick was at 13, where they passed on very highly-rated junior key forward James Sellar and instead took a gamble on scrawny Tasmanian Jack Riewoldt – in a move that was considered audacious at the time. That draft also yielded Shane Edwards, Daniel Connors, Carl Peterson and Andrew Collins. Edwards is turning into a good goalsneak and Collins was serviceable before he was traded to Carlton. Although FJ was aware of Connors’ off field issues and hence he slid from being a potential first round pick to pick 58, it is mainly Connors’ own fault that he became a Laurence Angwin rather than a Stevie J. Also, we got Jake King in the rookie draft.

    2007 saw the Tigers pick Cotchin, which admittedly was no real drafting stroke of genius. It also saw the infamous McMahon-Ward trade, although that can be blamed on Terry W. However, Alex Rance at pick 18 is turning into one of the premier young key defenders in the competition.

    2008. Easily the dodgiest year of FJ’s recruiting tenure, I agree. In hindsight Tyrone Vickery was a risky selection at 8, but we needed a ruckman at the time. Post and Hislop were mistakes. However, we did manage to get Nahas in the rookie draft.

    2009. This was the first draft after Hardwick was announced coach, and in this draft we were looking primarily for kicking skills. All of the draftees had them, although some failed for other reasons – off field issues (Taylor), slightness of frame (Nason) or just not being able to adapt to the pace of the game (Webberley, who was dominating in the VFL). Having said that, Hardwick is a big fan of Dea, Griffiths looked promising this season, and I’m hoping Astbury is in for a big year.

    Anything onwards from that is probably too early to comment on, but many of our draftees from 2010 and 2011 already look like solid selections. But aside from 2008, FJ hasn’t actually made too many horrible mistakes. Although, I admit his drafting hasn’t been as good as Blair Hartley’s trading recently (which has been excellent)


  13. Brian wallace says

    Really good and balanced post.

    you did, however, leave out several of his “howlers” which made him look a tad better then he was.

    The OP mentioned Browne, Graham, Post, MaCdonald, roberts, …all gone and not mentioned by you.

    I just don’t think anyone other than a rabid tiger would think Ben Griffiths is anywhere near a pick 18 or Astbury is anywhere near what you tigers think he will be. Pick 6 is very, very early for Conca from what i have seen.

    Mind you, if you analyse us (cats) you wil find plenty of howlers there as well.

    Where is Helbig at?

    Carlton’s footy department spending is all fuelled by debt…anyone can rack up debt that doesn’t reflect hpw big you are. I repeat, Carlton have 6.5 m debt, you guys have 1.9.Not hard to have “spent” more in that situation

  14. Helbig is actually going pretty well. Had a few problems with injuries last year but I’m optimistic about him, as he is courageous and a decent user of the footy. Browne, Roberts and Graham were rookie draft selections – with these selections recruiters tend to feel more freedom to take risks. There have been literally dozens of rookie ruckmen selected who haven’t even made it to senior footy, and Graham and Browne, despite being obviously limited, did better than most. They were “lumbering” ruckmen who would have been serviceable under a 4-interchange, 0 sub system (especially Browne), but the sub rule has rendered those types of ruckmen extinct, with clubs favouring more mobile, versatile players to pinch-hit in the ruck.

    On that note, I’m amazed we managed to trade Graham to the Crows.

    And you may well right about MacDonald. He went on extended leave due to “personal issues” and didn’t return. I don’t know if the club could have possibly been aware of said issues before the draft so it’s hard to comment.

    I understand how you may think my opinions on Tiger players may be biased, but I think you suffer from a lack of actually watching Richmond’s youngsters – I myself would be very cautious in making judgments on the youngsters at Geelong (or indeed most clubs) simply because I haven’t watched them play as often as Richmond.

  15. And as for Post, we’ve already devoted plenty of time to him in this discussion. I agree he was a mistake. But I think if we conducted such an extensive analysis into the recent recruiting of most clubs, we’d find a few picks which failed to come into fruition

  16. Brian wallace says

    If your club wasn’t aware of Macdonald’s issues before they drafted him , then they didn’t do proper due dilligence.

  17. Brian – how you feeling about these comments now? Any credit for the job FJ has done?
    Carlton were probably not a good comparable club to be referencing, considering where they are at.
    Taking a quick look at playing list from the weekend, you’ve got 15 of the 22 that were drafted under FJ’s watch. To name a few: Riewoldt, Rance, Martin, Cotchin, Edwards, Griffith, Vickery, B.Ellis, Vlastuin…….
    Every recruiter would have a swathe of players that didn’t make it, but it’s starting to look like an elite group of players coming together at Punt Rd.

Leave a Comment