It’s time for a Tasmanian AFL team

Typewriter S Roar Rookie

By , Typewriter S is a Roar Rookie

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    An odd thought occurred while watching AFL in recent weeks: has Tasmania been taken for granted? Do they deserve their own team?

    When Caroline Wilson made a comment to the effect the AFL is trying to end Hawthorn’s deal with Tasmania as “it had not developed”, I felt anger on behalf of Tasmanians wanting a team. The Hawthorn plan was an unfair experiment.

    I am not sure how many Tasmanians have played for Hawthorn. I am sure there are many Tasmanians who follow a Melbourne-based team because their local hero played in the VFL or AFL, such as ‘Percy’ Jones at Carlton or Max Walker at St Kilda.

    The recent game Greater Western Sydney game in Tasmania highlighted why the Hawthorn experience may not replicate a Tasmanian-based team outcome. Firstly, if you follow a team other than Hawthorn or GWS, would you pay X dollars to watch the game? If your weekly ritual is to go with mates to a local ground to watch players you know, paying only Y dollars, what would break your routine?

    West Australian fans have shown what happened when they had their own team in AFL.

    A lot of my friends fly to interstate games to watch GWS play. Melbourne games are popular for the ability to fly there and back in the same day. Very few go to Tasmanian games for varying reasons – cost, flight times, flights via Melbourne, school holidays.

    The Sydney derby had me thinking of the cliche quote ‘build it and they will come’. It is true for the second team in Sydney, as it probably would be for Tasmania. Who would have thought a team located in working class rugby league heartland would be a success? But the game of two Sydney sides had gate A open with long queues to enter.

    I remember the 2012 game at the Olympic Stadium. Nearly every family at Auskick had access to free tickets. In 2017 GWS home games get larger crowds than rugby league games. Free tickets to GWS games are not so easy to obtain.

    In 2013 at a fan forum Kevin Sheedy discussed the fact that GWS was happy for all fans to come to watch its games and that if they have two teams to follow, that’s okay. He expressed the hope that fans would eventually follow only GWS. Most GWS fans I know used to support another team. I still follow two teams.

    The boost to the broadcast rights allocated after the inclusion of GWS and Gold Coast well and truly covered any losses incurred by the two teams.

    If Tasmania had its own team, another would be required to prevent a weekly bye, but perhaps there is a way to test the waters before including a new state into the AFL fold.

    Why not add another team to AFLW? St Kilda, Geelong and North Melbourne want to be included, and Tasmania would make that group an even number. Yes, there are only two expansion slots for 2019, but we weren’t supposed to have AFLW until 2020. Rules can be broken.

    The addition of a fully-fledged Tasmanian AFL team would make the competition truly national. The time is now for the dream to become a reality.