Australian rules football in Tasmania

Australian rules football in Tasmania known as "football" officially and locally, has a history dating back to the 1860s, with the state having the distinction of being the first place outside Victoria to play the sport.

Australian rules football in Tasmania
An AFL match in progress at Aurora Stadium in Launceston between two Melbourne based teams - Hawthorn Hawks and the Western Bulldogs in 2008 attracts a crowd of 19,378 fans.
Governing bodyAFL Tasmania
Representative teamTasmania
First played1864 (1864) New Town
Registered players32,138 (total)
4,500 (adult)
Club competitions
Audience records
Single match24,968 (1979). TFL Grand Final Glenorchy v Clarence (North Hobart Oval, Hobart)

Despite not being represented in a national competition, it remains the most popular sport in the state, and has the second highest participation rate in the country.[1]


The 1850s

Organised "Foot-ball" matches have been recorded in Van Diemens Land since 1851 and matches in southern Tasmanian towns of Hobart and Richmond between 1853 and 1855[2][3][4] significantly pre-date those recorded across Bass Strait in suburban Melbourne.

Sean Fagan claims that early matches played in Tasmania may have been an early form of rugby football, pointing to early mentions of goal posts with cross-bars and offside rules of later Tasmanian clubs.[5]

However, apart from the fact that they were organised and played, few details of these matches actually survive, and the popularity of football in the fast-growing colony of Victoria quickly eclipsed the following that the pastime had in newly named colony of Tasmania.

The first clubs

The "football" club formed in New Town in 1864 is believed to be the earliest in Tasmania - but disbanded soon after. By the mid- to late 1860s, more stable clubs, including Derwent and Stowell Football, emerged.

It was not until the adoption of "Victorian Football Rules" in 1866 that Tasmanian football was properly organised and recognised, and even by then some clubs may have for a brief time continued playing by their own rules.

In 1871 the Break O'Day club was formed and in 1875 the Launceston Club was created. Other clubs to start soon after were Longford (1878), Launceston Church Grammar School (1876) and Cornwall (1879), which became City in 1880. The City and Richmond clubs were formed in 1877 and the Oatlands and Railway clubs in 1879.

New Town formally started in 1878 and along with City and Richmond formed the basis of the game in Hobart, while in Launceston the abovementioned clubs formed the basis for the NTFA.

On 1 May 1879 members of the Tasmanian Cricket Association met and decided to form a club for their members, to be called Cricketers. They initially adopted English Association Rules (soccer) before succumbing to the pressure to play Victorian Rules.

Local leagues

The history of local Tasmanian football differs considerably from any of the mainland states. Whereas mainland states had a major population centre around which a single dominant league was based, Tasmania's population was more evenly distributed. The consequences of this on Tasmanian football history are three-fold: firstly, a strong intrastate rivalry not noted in any mainland state; secondly, three different top-level football leagues in different regions of the state; and thirdly, the ability for teams representing very small towns to be competitive in the top leagues.

The Tasmanian Football League, based around Hobart, began in 1879. The Northern Tasmanian Football Association, based around Launceston, began in 1886. The third top-level league, although not recognised as such until later, was the North West Football Union, contested by teams on the north-western coast of the state west of Latrobe, which began in 1910.

The leagues were small in the pre-WWI era, with only three clubs competing in the TFL and NTFA, and four in the NWFU. Intrastate games between representative teams in the leagues were a regular fixture during these years. In the 1920s, the TANFL (as the TFL was now known) and NFTA expanded to four teams apiece, and the NWFU to six.

After World War II, all leagues underwent further expansion. The TANFL switched to a district-based selection, and expanded to six clubs. The NFTA also expanded to six teams. The NWFU expanded from six teams to as many as fourteen, with a short-lived incorporation of four Circular Head-based clubs, but eventually contracted back to eight.

The local leagues were extremely popular and attracted large crowds. The TANFL Grand Final between Glenorchy and Clarence at the North Hobart Oval in 1979 attracted a record crowd of 24,968 which, although ostensibly small in comparison to mainland crowds, represented 15% of Hobart's population at the time.

Statewide Competition

There were always attempts made to somehow consolidate the major Tasmanian leagues into one statewide competition. The earliest and longest-lasting was the Tasmanian State Premiership, which began (officially) in 1909 as a single Grand Final game between the TANFL and NTFA premiers, for the right to be the State Premiers. The Hobart-based teams initially dominated, winning the first fourteen such contests. In 1950, the NWFU Premier was also invited to contest for the State Premiership. The final State Premiership was played in 1978.

The next attempt at statewide competition was the Winfield Statewide Cup, a seven-week tournament played prior to the 1980 season amongst all twenty teams in the TANFL, NTFA and NWFU, plus one team from the Circular Head Football Association (Smithton, who would join the NWFU that season). The competition was not popular with the northern clubs, who believed the organisation of the league biased towards the Hobart-based league. In response, they refused to play another Winfield Statewide Cup. Instead, the NTFA and NWFU joined to form the Greater Northern Football League, which resembled the old Statewide Premiership format, with the winners of the individual leagues playing off for the GNFL premiership. The GNFL experiment lasted only the 1981 and 1982 seasons.

In 1986 and 1987, a true Statewide League was finally realised, when five of the northern clubs left their respective leagues to join the TANFL, renamed the TFL Statewide League: North Launceston, East Launceston and City-South left the NTFA in 1986 (the latter two merging to form South Launceston), and Devonport and Cooee (which was renamed Burnie for the move) left the NWFU in 1987. The two northern leagues merged to form the Northern Tasmanian Football League.

From that point, Tasmanian local football slowly dwindled as teams began to lose money. Clubs began to leave both the NTFL and the Statewide league throughout the 1990s, returning to local or amateur competitions with lower travel costs, or in some cases (such as the TANFL's Sandy Bay Football Club) fold completely. Only six teams remained in the Statewide League by 2000, and after one of the most poorly attended Grand Finals in seventy years, the league folded. The clubs that survived returned to the NTFL and the newly formed Southern Football League.

The Tasmanian Devils and the VFL

Upon the disbanding of the TFL in 2000, the Tasmanian Devils was formed in 2001 and admitted into the Victorian Football League in its inaugural year. The team played home games in Launceston, Hobart, Ulverstone, Burnie and Devonport during its time in the league. The Devils attracted a strong following in comparison with many other VFL clubs at the time.

From 2005 until 2007, Tasmania was one of two VFL clubs to which the AFL's North Melbourne Football Club was affiliated, meaning that up to six of North Melbourne's reserve players would play for Tasmania. The Devils were wound up at the conclusion of the 2008 season in order to make room for the return of the TFL in 2009.

The Return of the Statewide League

After an eight-year absence, the Tasmanian Football League made a return in 2009. Ten teams were initially represented: from the south, North Hobart, Glenorchy, Hobart, Clarence, Lauderdale; from the north, Launceston, North Launceston, South Launceston; and from the north-western coast, Burnie and Devonport. All clubs except for Lauderdale had at some stage been part of the original Statewide League.

The league's membership underwent changes in 2014. South Launceston left the league and was replaced by the newly established Western Storm, based in western Launceston; North Hobart was disbanded and reincorporated into a new club called Hobart City;[6] and Hobart, which was to have been a joint partner in the Hobart City club before withdrawing from the deal,[7] was replaced by the Tigers FC, based in Kingston.[8]

Interstate Competition

Tasmania was a strong competitor in early Interstate matches in Australian rules football, before being incorporated into the Australian Alliance representative team.

Tasmanian VFL/AFL Bids

With a historically strong supporter base for Australian rules football, one of the highest participation rates in the country and strong local leagues, Tasmania had held back from expressing serious interest in the VFL. But, with the relocation of the Sydney Swans and admission of teams from Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, Tasmania began a push to enter the national competition.

Between 1996 and 1998 a bid was prepared that involved the construction of a 30,000-capacity stadium in the Hobart showgrounds in Glenorchy, at the cost of $34 million. The stadium would have been the team's only home ground, but the appeal was unsuccessful and the stadium was not built.

On several occasions the AFL has dismissed notions of admitting a Tasmanian side into the national competition, frequently citing a relatively small state population and a lack of sponsorship interest. The intrastate rivalry Hobart and Launceston about where a home ground would be located has also contributed to problematic bids.

A government-backed Tasmanian bid was prepared in response to the AFL admitting new licences for the Gold Coast and Western Sydney for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. While the AFL admitted that the state had put together a stronger business case, it was once again rejected by the league. AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou was quoted to have said to the Tasmanian premier Paul Lennon "Not now, not ever".[9] Hobart's major daily newspaper The Mercury started a petition in response to this news on 16 April 2008.[10] The premier vowed to bypass the AFL CEO and take the appeal directly to the AFL Commission.

On 30 July, the Tasmanian government announced that it had secured a major sponsor, Mars for the bid in a deal worth $4 million over 3 years. It was long doubted by the AFL that the Tasmanian club would secure corporate interest before a proposal is accepted by the AFL and this announcement came as a major shock as it was before a sponsor could be found for either the Gold Coast or Western Sydney Clubs and as AFL clubs Richmond[11] and Western Bulldogs[12] was left without a major sponsor for 2009. In addition to the Gemba financial audit of the bid to meet the AFL criteria, the Tasmania team had secured more than 20,000 potential members, ahead of the Gold Coast and Western Sydney bid in raw numbers.[13]

AFL Matches

It was not unusual for teams from the mainland leagues to play exhibition games in Tasmania during the early years. More recently Melbourne-based teams from the AFL have entered into deals to play home-and-away games in Tasmania.

Fitzroy Football Club

North Hobart Oval (1991-1992)
The Fitzroy Football Club was the first to do so, playing two home games at North Hobart Oval in each of 1991 and 1992.

Hawthorn Football Club

York Park (2001-)
Since 2001 Hawthorn has successfully cultivated a following in Tasmania, where the membership base has increased from 1,000 to more than 9,000. Recent studies have valued Hawthorn's economic impact in Tasmania and national brand exposure to total $29.5 million in 2014.[14] Since 2006, Hawthorn has increased its presence in the state as part of an agreement with the tourism component of the Tasmanian government, whereby they are contracted to play four games in the state and the Tasmanian Government will be the major sponsor for the club. This relationship was renewed for a further period for five years (2012–16) in November 2011. Subject to AFL consent Hawthorn has offered to play an additional home game in Tasmania as part of the new deal, provided the number of rounds in the home/away season is increased by the AFL to accommodate an 18 team competition.[15]

On July 31, 2015, Hawthorn extended their partnership with Tasmania for a further five years.[14]

St Kilda Football Club

York Park (2001-2006)
The St Kilda Football Club began playing home matches in Launceston at York Park (later known as Aurora Stadium) in 2001, supported by the Tasmanian government in an attempt to build a local following and leave open a possibility of future relocation. St Kilda ended its arrangement after 2006.

North Melbourne Football Club

Bellerive Oval (2012-)
The North Melbourne Football Club has confirmed that it will play two games per year in Hobart at Bellerive Oval starting from 2012.[16]


In 2007, there were 4,500 senior players and a total of 32,138 participants in Aussie Rules in Tasmania.[17] A total participation per capita of 5% is the second-highest participation in the country, behind the Northern Territory.[1]


Attendance Record

Major Australian Rules Events in Tasmania

Tasmanian Football Team of the Century

In 2004 the Board of Management of AFL Tasmania named a Team of the Century for the state. It had 18 on field and seven interchange players as well as an umpire, coach and assistant coach.

Team of the Century
B: Verdun Howell Tassie Johnson Ivor Warne-Smith
HB: Barry Lawrence Laurie Nash Brent Crosswell
C: Rodney Eade Ian Stewart Arthur Hodgson
HF: Darrel Baldock (c) Royce Hart Daryn Cresswell
F: Horrie Gorringe Peter Hudson Alastair Lynch
Foll: Percy Jones John Leedham (vc) Terry Cashion
Int: Neil Conlan Darrin Pritchard Paul Williams
Michael Roach Len Pye Rex Garwood
Matthew Richardson
Coach: Roy Cazaly

Notable Tasmanian players

Tasmania has supplied over 300 players to the elite level, including three Australian Football Hall of Fame legends: St Kilda and Latrobe premiership captain and three-time Wander Medallist Darrel Baldock, dual Leitch Medallist and twelve-time league goalkicking champion Peter Hudson and three-time Brownlow Medallist Ian Stewart.

Other players from Tasmania include Hall of Fame inductees Royce Hart, Vic Belcher, Horrie Gorringe, Matthew Richardson, and Laurie Nash; and others including Grant Birchall, Darrin Pritchard, Viv Valentine, George Vautin, Arthur Hodgson, Rodney Eade, John Klug, John McCarthy, Michael Gale, Brendon Gale, Alastair Lynch, Adrian Fletcher, Simon Atkins, Claude Bryan, Jack Cashman, Jack Gardiner, Pat Hartnett, Fred Pringle, Alan Scott, Ted Terry, Ted McDonald, George Challis, Athol Webb, Brad Green, Brady Rawlings, Jack Riewoldt, Russell Robertson, Jade Rawlings, Brodie Holland, Ray Stokes, John Bingley, James Manson, Doug Barwick, Graham Wright, Peter Jones, David Neitz, Nick Riewoldt, Scott Clayton and Garry Lyon.

Representative Side

The Tasmanian representative team have played State of Origin test matches against all other Australian states. They still play at U19 level.

See Also Interstate matches in Australian rules football

A combined state team usually plays other state competitions around Australia, such as AFL Queensland in 2007, 2009, and 2010.

Governing body

The governing body for Aussie Rules in Tasmania is AFL Tasmania.

In 2009 the three main community football leagues The Northern Tasmanian Football League, Northern Tasmanian Football Association, and the Southern Football League established the Tasmanian Football Council which is a united body that represents community Footballs interests in the state. The council has membership with the Australian Amateur Football Council.

Leagues & Clubs

State Leagues/clubs (past and present)

Current clubs

Former clubs

Tasmanian Football League

Northern Tasmanian Football Association

North West Football Union

Local Leagues

Defunct Local Leagues


  • Northern Tasmanian Junior Football Association (NTJFA)
  • Northern Tasmanian Junior Football League (NTJFL)
  • Southern Tasmania Junior Football League


  • Masters Australian Football Tasmania


  • TANFLUA - Tasmanian Australian National Football League Umpires Association
  • NTFUA - Northern Tasmanian Football Umpires Association
  • NWUA - North West Umpires Association


Tasmanian Women's Football League

The Tasmanian Women's Football League (TWFL) was established in 2007 and there are now 8 women's teams in the league statewide. These are:

Burnie Dockers, Clarence Football Club, Evandale, Glenorchy Football Club, Launceston Football Club, Mersey Leven, South East Suns, Tiger City.[18]

Grand Final results

  • 2008 - Clarence Roos...[18]
  • 2009 - Clarence Roos...[18]
  • 2010 - Launceston FC...[18]
  • 2011 - Clarence Roos...[18]
  • 2012 - Clarence Roos...[18]
  • 2013 - Clarence Roos...[18]
  • 2014 - Burnie [19]
  • 2015 - Clarence Roos [20]
  • 2016 - Burnie [21]

Tasmanian State League Woman's

On Wednesday 19 April 2017, AFL Tasmania announced the formation of the TSLW. A five-team woman's league which will comprise:

  • Clarence
  • Burnie Dockers
  • Glenorchy
  • Launceston
  • Tigers FC.[22]

They will compete over a 15-round season, commencing on Saturday 29 April 2017.[22]

Regional Women's Leagues

  • Blues
  • Claremont Women
  • Demons Women
  • Port Women
  • South East Suns Women
TWL North[24]
  • Evandale
  • Prospect Hawks
  • Rocherlea
  • Scottsdale
TWL North West[25]
  • Circular Head Giants
  • Devonport Magpies
  • Latrobe
  • Penguin
  • Ulverstone

Principal Venues


  1. "" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-05-18.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. City confident; Tigers realistic
  7. Archived 10 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Munts93, "Tigers to withdraw from TSL", Hobart Football Club, 8 August 2013.
  8. Kingborough unveils plans for State League
  9. "Official Website of the Australian Football League > News Article > AFL says no to Tassie". Archived from the original on 3 June 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2008.
  10. Petition for a Tassie AFL team | Mercury - The Voice of Tasmania
  14. "Hawks extend stay in Tasmania for a further five years". Hawthorn FC. Hawthorn Football Club. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  15. From the President: Committed to Tassie – Official AFL Website of the Hawthorn Football Club Archived 13 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  16. Stubbs, B., Herald Sun, "North Melbourne seals Tassie deal", 20 December 2010, Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  17. More chase Sherrin than before -
  18. "Fox Sport Pulse". Ladder for Tasmanian Women's Football League 2016. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  19. "2014 Premiers! - Tasmanian Women's League - SportsTG". SportsTG. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  20. "TWL Grand Final: Clarence v Burnie". The Examiner. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  21. "Glenorchy win first TSL title in 17 years". ABC News. 17 September 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  22. Edwards, Phil (19 April 2017). "TSLW set to kick off". The Examiner. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  23. "Ladder for 2017 SFLW Women`s League". SportsTG. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  24. "Ladder for TWL North 2017". SportsTG. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  25. "Ladder for TWL North West 2017". SportsTG. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  • AFL Tasmania
  • Australian Football League
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