Can the NRL poach AFL’s spot in Tasmania?
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It has been in the works for almost a year now. A rumour that has had all rugby and league fans in Tasmania looking forward to a rare top-flight sporting opportunity in Hobart.
Next year, Bellerive Oval (or Blundstone Arena) will host two AFL games, with North Melbourne having a new part-time home in Southern Tasmania.
One of these games, though, will feature the new Greater Western Sydney Giants – a choice that has many die-hard Tasmanian AFL fans up in arms. After being an AFL heartland for decades, Tasmanians will be forced to watch the team that killed off Tasmania’s AFL bid for the next decade.
The thing that really has AFL fans so incensed in Hobart is that the Giants are from an NRL heartland, and that their most high-profile signing was an NRL superstar.
This is aside from the fact that this particular brand looks and sounds as if it should be playing ball in San Francisco and not Sydney. I can almost see Tim Lincecum and Brian “Fear The Beard” Wilson lining up for the “Giants” come next winter.
Tasmania is an AFL heartland, this cannot be taken away from us. But apparently the state as a whole has lost a little dignity through the North Melbourne deal, and I for one believe it may be a rather long nail in the coffin for a Tasmania AFL team bid.
So imagine my surprise when a rumour I had heard at the start of this year rang true. The NRL is also making its way to Hobart. That’s right. The NRL is coming to the ends of the earth (for rugby league at least).
A pre-season NRL match is set to be played in Hobart on the 18th February next year. And the two teams set to hit it out are two of the strongest clubs in the NRL over the last ten years. It’s not the whipping boys making the trip.
Instead, the Melbourne Storm and the Brisbane Broncos will be playing at North Hobart Oval. Funnily enough the game itself is being largely sponsored by a local Aussie rules football team. Tasmania last saw an NRL game way back in 1998 – before the Storm’s inaugural season.
All this means that I no longer have to watch GWS play to see a Bronco star in action.
Could this all be a start of a beautiful friendship? One can only cross their fingers and hope.