Don’t knock North for looking at Hobart

18 Have your say

    North Melbourne's Brad Scott talks to his players at 1/4 time during the AFL Round 17 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Essendon Bombers at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. Slattery Images

    North Melbourne's Brad Scott talks to his players at 1/4 time during the AFL Round 17 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Essendon Bombers at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. Slattery Images

    Given North Melbourne’s recent history, it’s not surprising to see the club cop some criticism as the prospect of playing four home games a year in Hobart becomes more likely. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go ahead with it.

    Assuming there’s a financial component on top of the usual membership and revenue boost associated with such forays, playing games in Hobart makes too much sense. The place is footy-mad, has a population bigger than Launceston – or Darwin for that matter – and is yet to really feel the presence of an AFL club.

    That combination provides the perfect opportunity for a club like North to come in and try to emulate the success of Hawthorn’s Tassie push playing out of Launceston.

    So long as it’s done right, with no mention of the move being a “short-term fix” and with a genuine commitment to Hobart, the potential is too big to ignore.

    Naturally, though, North Melbourne’s involvement has irked a few people. A day after Jeff Kennett suggested any move into Tasmania would be a precursor to permanent relocation, Caroline Wilson yesterday wrote a particularly scathing piece in The Age.

    “The truth is North Melbourne is pushing to move part-time to Tasmania because it cannot afford to sustain itself at Arden Street and Etihad Stadium – when it assured its members and fans that it could and would. It has taken less than three seasons of the new board to break that promise,” Wilson wrote.

    To be fair, you can at least understand where she’s coming from.

    Chief executive Eugene Arocca did say in February 2008 that the days of the “travelling Kangaroos” were over. President James Brayshaw did make a big song and dance about the club’s future being in Melbourne after rejecting the AFL’s Gold Coast relocation offer in 2007.

    And yes, the Kangas have gone through three “second homes” in just over a decade, much to the disappointment of fans in Canberra and on the Gold Coast.

    But this is more about the future than it is the past. And even then, it’s not like Brayshaw and Arocca have only just started to look beyond Melbourne for new opportunities – throughout 2008 and 2009 the club were pushing for an annual Subiaco home game, and the club are also building strong ties with Ballarat.

    Their commitment to their fans was to have 11 “home games” in Melbourne. As the Hawthorn example shows, that’s still going to be possible.

    The system of clubs being able to sell away games as part of membership packages has ensured the Hawks still sell 11 Melbourne games to their Victorian-based members, and the same will be true for North.

    In fact, the Hawthorn example is able to dispel quite a few of the myths being put out there by those opposed to any games at Bellerive Oval. You don’t hear people question whether the Hawks are really “a Melbourne club” or if they are living up to the expectations of their Melbourne fans.

    And why would they? Before playing out of Launceston you would hardly call Hawthorn a powerhouse club, or even a “big” club. Now, thanks to their Tasmanian partnership – and a premiership as well, it must be said – they are definitely one of the powerhouse clubs of the comp. They have over 50,000 members for the second year running, something no one thought possible not too long ago.

    If anyone doubts whether Hobart can have a positive impact at North Melbourne, one look at what Hawthorn have done provides a handy reminder of what’s possible.

    For some, though, that simply isn’t enough. Wilson’s piece contains several attacks on Brayshaw’s reign as president and the club as a whole since the Gold Coast offer was turned down.

    She even goes as far as criticising the club for entering negotiations with the Melbourne Tigers over sharing their Arden Street facilities with the NBL club, despite shared facilities being quite common among AFL teams. (See the relationship between Carlton and the Melbourne Storm, and now Melbourne and the AAMI Park tenants.)

    Meanwhile, Arden Street aside, she makes no mention of the promises that have been met by Brayshaw and his team. These have included increased football department spending (to the tune of $3 million), increased sponsorship (up nearly 200%), increased membership (from around 23,000 up to almost 30,000) and the dissolving of the shareholder structure.

    There’s no mention of being on track for a third-straight profit, either. And when she presents the club’s average home game crowd figure for this year, there’s no mention of the horrible fixture handed down by the AFL, with six home games against interstate teams.

    While several media outlets have hinted that an arrangement for North to play in Hobart is imminent, we can only wait and see.

    The Tasmanian government have ruled out sponsorship as an option (they are the major sponsor of the Hawks) however that’s not to say they won’t be involved in any deal. Both Cricket Tasmania and the AFL are also pretty keen to get a deal done, which reportedly could see North pocket as much as $3 million per year.

    Unfortunately, though, that money, if it does eventuate, will come with a hefty serve of innuendo.

    “We are the North Melbourne Football Club, we are based out of Arden Street and that isn’t going to change,” Brayshaw said the other week.

    “We are not relocating anywhere, and I don’t know how many times I have to say that,” Brayshaw said yesterday.

    Judging by some of the reactions so far, he’ll be trotting out these lines for a while yet.

    Michael DiFabrizio
    Michael DiFabrizio

    Michael DiFabrizio is based in Mildura, Victoria. He has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, leading to appearances on ABC News 24 and in the Age. Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelDiFab.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • Roar Guru

      July 29th 2010 @ 7:51am
      mds1970 said | July 29th 2010 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      It’ll be a hard sell for North Melbourne to convince Tasmanians that this move will be different from their pushes into Sydney, Canberra and Gold Coast – especially now that they’ve gone back to using the North Melbourne name.
      The club was in trouble a couple of years ago, and must have been sorely tempted to accept the Gold Coast offer. But having turned it down and decided to keep their future in Melbourne, the current administration have done a good job – the club is now profitable with memberships and sponsorship levels on the rise.
      Selling games to Tasmania is a risk – but they’ve already taken the biggest gamble of all by rejecting the Gold Coast deal, and it seems to be working for them.

    • July 29th 2010 @ 8:07am
      Joel said | July 29th 2010 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      I think it would be a good solution both for Tasmania and North Melbourne for them to play out of Hobart. Tasmania is too small to support a full time AFL club and the state is further hampered by a parochial split. If North Melbourne establish permanent roots in Hobart, they could build a rivalry with Hawthorn which would turn that parochial sentiment into an asset instead of a liability and give Tasmania eight games and two teams.

      • July 29th 2010 @ 10:17am
        JamesP said | July 29th 2010 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        “Tasmania is too small to support a full time AFL club ” Rubbish. As Jeff Kennet said yesterday, it the state can support 4 + 4 games, from clubs that are not even its own, then all it needs is an extra 3 and its got 11 home games.

        “further hampered by a parochial split” Now you’re on the money – surely the biggest obsticle to Tasmania having their own team…

    • Roar Guru

      July 29th 2010 @ 8:49am
      Michael C said | July 29th 2010 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      The annoying thing as a North supporter –

      A. our history re Canberra, Sydney, Gold Coast is not endearing

      B. our VFL ‘feeder’ team history includes Tassie and Murray Kangaroos, surely if we were still or planning an alignment to Tassie in the VFL then it’d be a logical move, otherwise……..I dunno.

      C. there’s been a fair push to improve facilities in Ballarat to hopefully allow matches to be played there for 4 points – – – does this Hobart move mean that Ballarat is not an option for North Melbourne??

      D. given the North Ballarat feeder arrangment and North’s supposed close relationship with the city of Ballarat, if North opts for Hobart for 4 games a year, what’s then the best Ballarat can hope for?? A nab cup game???

      I’d rather North be seen to stand for something long term – – – so far, the ‘attentions’ of North Melbourne FC seem to be too easily cast upon the next pretty girl walking past. At some point, North needs to commit to a long term relationship. And if that is based around the new Arden St development, then let’s be very careful about something as much as 4,…..not 3, but FOUR games a year in Hobart.

      • Columnist

        July 29th 2010 @ 11:03am
        Michael DiFabrizio said | July 29th 2010 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        Really good comment, MC.

        The Ballarat thing is interesting as Ballarat have been talking up their chances of a game, or games, in the home and away season after their ground gets done up. Although that may rest on Australia winning the 2022 World Cup bid, as it could be used as a training venue, so nothing on that front seems likely in the short-term. I’d say stick with what’s already being done in Ballarat regardless as for all we know Tasmania might have its own team by 2022!

        But that is a good comment about the next pretty girl walking past and committing to a long-term relationship. The Kangas do have to be careful with how they approach this and need to truly be committed to Hobart if they go down there.

        • Roar Guru

          July 29th 2010 @ 11:17am
          Michael C said | July 29th 2010 @ 11:17am | ! Report

          Hopefully all this rot about the WC bid can soon be put behind and the real sports that live here can get on with doing real ongoing business instead of all the illusionary stuff that the FFA are trying to create.

          Because – – if anything like this were to rely on being a training venue for some international soccer team for a few weeks 12 years into the future,……well, that’s a pretty flimsy pretext.

          • Roar Pro

            July 30th 2010 @ 3:00pm
            gazz said | July 30th 2010 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

            Interesting comments Michael C. inciteful much?!

    • July 29th 2010 @ 9:05am
      Mark Young said | July 29th 2010 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      Replace the name North Melbourne with Cronulla and Hobart with Central Coast and exactly the same issue is striking Rugby League. Is the League ruthless enough to apply ‘survival of the fittest’ principles to force a club to modernise or die?

      I think they should. My team the Balmain Tigers did nothing for ten years and were slowly dieing, so they teamed up with another struggling team to produce a very good team which has heaps of support, stable management and finances and of course A PREMIERSHIP!!! MARSHALL MARSHALL FLICK PASS TO RICHARDS!!! TRY!!!!! So it can work. But it can also stuff up though as North Sydney Bears fans will attest to.

      I think the best option for both the AFL and teh people of Tasmania is to give them the GWS franchise. That way the game can play in front of a decent sized crowd who have paid to come and are interested in the game. (For gawds sake AFL fans please take that with a grain of salt!!! I’m stiring, having a joke!!!)

    • July 29th 2010 @ 9:51am
      Mathew said | July 29th 2010 @ 9:51am | ! Report

      They made their choice. They chose to be a Melbourne club, now they have to stick with it. So they miss out on $3 million – deal with it. The worst part is this is Gold Coast all over again. Going to a place that wants its own team. The best way for that to happen is by relocation. Ah, the similarities…

    • July 29th 2010 @ 10:36am
      Wayno said | July 29th 2010 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      Wasn’t there a bit of acrimony when the Tassie Devils ended their VFL alignment with North Melbourne. I was doing some work in Hobart at the time and seem to recall lots of folks there thinking North had screwed them one way or another, don’t exactly remember what the problem was though.

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