Tasmanian AFL bid

The Tasmanian AFL bid refers to several Australian rules football teams that have proposed to eventually join the Australian Football League (AFL) and the AFL Women's (AFLW).[1] Proposals have been made on several occasions since the expansion of the Victorian Football League into an Australia-wide competition started in 1987.

Tasmania Devils

AFL Tasmania's logo for Tasmanian teams.[1]
Names
Full nameTasmania Football Club
Nickname(s)Devils
Club details
Colours     Bottle green
     Primrose
     Maroon
CompetitionTAC Cup (2019)[1]
TAC Cup women (2020)[1]
VFL (2021 or 2022)[1]
AFL (TBA, target 2025) [2]
CoachAdrian Fletcher (TAC Cup)
Ground(s)Bellerive Oval, Hobart (capacity: 19,500)
 York Park, Launceston (capacity: 21,000)
 Macquarie Point Stadium, Hobart (proposed) (capacity: 30,000)

Australian rules football in Tasmania

Australian rules football has been played in Tasmania as long as the mainland states with the first clubs formed in the early 1860s. The state hosted the national football carnival in 1924, 1947 and 1966.

In 1960, the Tasmanian state side defeated a Victorian state side made up from some of the best players from the Victorian Football League.

The largest attendance at a football game in Tasmania was set at the 1979 TANFL Grand Final with 24,968 spectators watching Clarence defeat Glenorchy by three points at North Hobart Oval.

AFL team proposals

1990: Tasmania defeats Victoria

1990 Tasmania v. VictoriaGBScore
Tasmania2014134
Victoria1417101
Venue: Bellerive Oval

On the 24 June 1990, Tasmania's state team defeated the Victorian state team in front of a full house at Bellerive Oval fuelling the first calls for the state to house its own AFL team.[3] Colin Alexander kicked 4 goals for Tasmania during the match.[4]

1991–1997: 14th, 15th & 16th AFL licences

In 1991, Fitzroy played three games in Tasmania.

In 1992 Roger Curtis, then president of successful Tasmanian State League side Clarence, flagged the inevitable decline of Tasmanian football without the presence of its own AFL side.[5] Curtis said that "The only way to get the kids playing football here is to give them access to the best product available and that, of course, is AFL football...You would have to call the side 'Tasmania' as fans simply won't follow a relocated side with its traditional name, even if it was Collingwood".[5]

In April 1994 The Tasmanian Sports Minister, Peter Hodgman, spoke to the AFL about the possible introduction of a local team to the league and had raised the possibility of state funding.[6]

Between 1994 and 1997 the bid was prepared for a Tasmanian team that involved the construction of a 30,000-capacity stadium at the Hobart Showgrounds in Glenorchy, at the cost of approximately $30 million.[7]

2008–2011: Tasmania beaten by Gold Coast and Western Sydney

"Tasmanians already watch AFL"

Andrew Demetriou, former AFL CEO and North Melbourne and Hawthorn player responding to questions regarding why Tasmania is not a priority in 2009.[8]

The AFL's continued rejection of the Tasmanian AFL team has raised significant controversy, with the Government of Australia launching a Senate inquiry in 2008 which AFL Commission CEO Andrew Demetriou and chairman Mike Fitzpatrick both declined to attend.[9] At the enquiry, Tasmanian senator Kerry O'Brien brought into question the AFL's commitment to the game in Tasmania, and stated that he believed that with continued neglect, the popularity of soccer could overtake Australian rules football in Tasmania.[10] There are already more children playing soccer than Australian rules football in Tasmania.[11]

The AFL argued that the New South Wales based participation numbers were in excess of that in Tasmania,[12] furthering their argument that a team in Western Sydney was a higher priority. The Senate enquiry found that insurmountable cultural barriers would make such a move non-viable.[13]

In April 2008, Tasmania's former premier Paul Lennon revived the push for an AFL team by travelling to AFL House in Melbourne where the latest bid was officially launched. Although Lennon subsequently retired in May, the responsibility of steering the bid went to Economic Development Minister Paula Wriedt. Wriedt said Tasmania only made the case for a Tasmanian team, and were not trying to beat the Gold Coast or Greater Western Sydney to be the 17th or 18th club.[14]

AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou has said: "They probably do deserve a team, we shouldn't dismiss the contribution that Tasmania has made to our game... They are absolutely entitled to put forward a proposal, but the commission has already decided where the 17th and 18th teams are going."[15]

The bid received a significant boost on 30 July 2008, with the announcement that the confectionery company Mars committed to being the proposed club's major sponsor.[16]

Some media commentators have speculated that the AFL holds Tasmania open as a soft target for relocation of struggling Melbourne clubs. In 2010, there was increased speculation due to North Melbourne's commitment to move four home games annually to Hobart's Bellerive Oval.[17]

2011–2017: Off the AFL agenda and bare draft crop

In April 2014, AFL deputy chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he supported a "single team representing Tasmania". He stated Tasmania would be the next team to join the AFL, but that this would not happen for at least a decade.[18]

The Herald Sun's Fox Footy 2015 Footy Fans Survey of 14,000 fans that covered a wide range of topics included a question asking "Where should the AFL invest its expansion resources?" The results for the particular question had 78.03% supporting Tasmania as the location the AFL should focus its expansion resources on with the next region New Zealand on only 8.75%.[19]

In 2016, the Garlick report confirmed that a stand-alone Tasmanian team would have to wait until current broadcast deals expire at the end of the 2022 season to enter the AFL.

For the 2016 AFL National Draft no Tasmanian players were drafted. The following year only one player was drafted.

In April 2017, the Tasmanian Government indicated its interest in relocating the Gold Coast Suns to Tasmania in the event the club collapses.[20]

In September 2017, the AFL awarded a licence for an AFL Women's team for the 2019 AFLW season for a combined "Tasmania-North Melbourne" team. The submission for a licence was a joint project of the North Melbourne Football Club and the Government of Tasmania.[21]

Early 2018: AFL steering committee and A-League team bid

In early 2018, AFL Tasmania CEO Rob Auld resigned, and the following day Burnie and Devonport withdrew from the Tasmanian State League, citing lack of funding making them unable to field sides, thus leaving the competition without any team from North Western Tasmania.

The same week, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan was quoted as saying he “had a really clear plan for Tasmania”; that week, the AFLX launch took place as well as an announcement that the Gold Coast Suns received $25 million in subsidies for 2017.[22]

On 16 February 2018 the A-League, a key rival of the AFL, announced it would expand its competition by two teams for the upcoming 2019-20 season and flagging that a Tasmanian bid was a key contender, though the bid was rejected in June 2018 after being cut from the FFA shortlist.

On the 23 February 2018 during an interview on SEN, newly appointed AFL Tasmania CEO Trisha Squires did not have a position on whether Tasmania was better off with two fly-in-fly-out Victorian sides or its own side.[23] She also described talk of a standalone Tasmanian team as a "distraction".[23]

Subsequent to these events, a steering committee was formed in March. On 3 July 2018, the committee delivered its findings. [24]

McLachlan announced the following recommendations to rebuild and unify Tasmanian football over the next three years:[25]

  • The AFL will invest an extra $1.4 million in Tasmania in 2019.
  • Create three regional administration hubs to help run community football.
  • Generate AFL affiliation with community leagues.
  • The TSL will remain the state's top-tier competition and continue to receive AFL funding.
  • Extend Tasmania's junior pathways from under-12s to under-18s with more opportunities to play in intrastate tournaments. Junior levies will also be removed.
  • A full-time under-18s Mariners program with Tasmania to compete in the TAC Cup from 2019.
  • Tasmania was granted a provisional licence to re-enter the VFL in 2021.
  • There will be greater investment in the talent pathway for women, with a girls’ side to take part in TAC Cup from 2020.
  • A Tasmanian advisory board, made up of Tasmanians, will be set up to oversee the changes
  • All programs are to be re-branded under a name to be decided by the Tasmanian people.

Mclachlan also stated the success of these plans would help determine a potential date for a Tasmanian team to enter the AFL.[25]

Late 2018: Political and social pressure and branding announcement

Several days later, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged $25 million in funding for a Tasmanian AFL team, contingent on the Labor Party winning the 2019 federal election.[26]

On the 26 June 2018, Tasmanian Nationals Senator Steve Martin moved a motion calling for the AFL to commission business plans for the inclusion of a Tasmanian team in the men's and women's national league.[27] At the time Senator Martin did so with the support of Coalition and Labor senators.[27]

On the 21 September 2018, Trisha Squires announced that representative Tasmanian football teams administered by AFL Tasmania would be known as the Tasmania Devils and would wear green, yellow and maroon.[1]

On 11 October 2018, Adrian Fletcher was named as the Tasmania Devils TAC Cup coach.

Early 2019: Guidelines set by AFL

On 22 March 2019, Caroline Wilson broke the story that the AFL had set Will Hodgman, Tasmanian Premier, guideline requirements to house an AFL team being:[28]

  • At least 50,000 members.
  • Up front capital of $40,000,000.
  • A unified Tasmanian football community.
  • AFL standard venues.
  • A minimum of 10 Tasmanian players in the AFL.
  • Designing a respectful exit strategy for current FIFO Victorian tenants North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

It was noted that Tasmania had 90,000 members for the existing mainland AFL clubs in 2018.

Late 2019: Taskforce formed

In mid-2019, a taskforce made up of people from the Australian business community was formed with the intent of gaining an AFL licence.[29] The taskforce is being chaired by Brett Godfrey.[29]

These taskforce members were:[30]

  • Brett Godfrey (chair)
  • Errol Stewart
  • Grant O'Brien
  • Julie Kay
  • Paul Eriksson
  • James Henderson

The Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania also backed the push for a stand alone Tasmanian AFL team, saying it would have substantial positive impacts on multiple facets of the state's economy, and reiterated that "A Tasmanian AFL team [should] play out of both the North and South of the state, with a relatively even number of games in both Hobart and Launceston each year...We believe this principle must be accepted as fundamental to further discussion about an AFL team in Tasmania to completely destruct any perceptions of a 'Southern' or 'Northern' team...Rather than seeing this as a challenge in the formation of the team, we see it as one of its strengths in being a unifying force within the state and maximising the resources of all regions." [31]'

On 23 August 2019, Caroline Wilson reported that the taskforce would be applying for a provisional AFL licence before the end of the year.[32] The taskforce has aimed to enter the competition in 2025, when the extended broadcast rights deal expires. Plans to build a new stadium and training facility at Hobart's Macquarie Point were also revealed, while the VFL team's entry could also be delayed to 2022 to develop local talent. On the 8 November 2019 the Taskforce run petition surpassed 60,000 pledges in support of a Tasmanian AFL team.[33]

Honour board

Tasmania Devils Honour Board
NAB League
Year Position W-L-D % Coach Captain Best & Fairest Leading Goal Kicker
2019 14/18 (12/13) 4-11-0, lost Wildcard Final 80 Adrian Fletcher[34] Nic Baker
Jared Dakin
Oliver Davis
Jackson Callow (24)[35]
2020 Cameron Joyce
VFL
2021
2022
2023
2024
AFL
2025

VFL teams

Tasmanian Devils Football Club (2001 – 2008)

In 2001 the Tasmanian Devils Football Club was formed and competed in the Victorian Football League until 2008.

During the 1990s, Tasmania had shown strong interest in joining the AFL and after rejected bids in 1995 and 1997 the Australian Football League instigated the formation a Tasmanian team for the newly re-constructed Victorian Football League. The Tasmanian Devils Football Club formed in 2001 and was admitted into the VFL in its inaugural season the same year. The AFL continues to own the club.

The nickname "Devils" was chosen as the moniker for the club after the tenacious marsupial predator the Tasmanian devil which is indigenous to the island of Tasmania. The club colours green, red, gold (and black) were inspired by the original State of Origin "map" guernsey and are also Tasmania's sporting colours.

The Devils established home grounds in both Hobart and Launceston to deal with the long-standing north-south rivalry. Originally northern home games were played at Ulverstone, Devonport, Burnie and at Launceston's Aurora Stadium while North Hobart Oval hosted games in the south. At the end of the 2005 season the team moved from North Hobart Oval to Bellerive Oval for home games in the south and began playing all northern home games at Aurora Stadium.

2001 and 2002 brought mediocre results but, under the direction of coach Matthew Armstrong, the Devils made the finals for the first time in 2003, finishing a respectable third. The 2004 and 2005 seasons saw the Devils again making the finals.

At the start of the 2006 season the Devils and the Australian Football League's North Melbourne Football Club began a partial alignment, allowing North Melbourne listed players to play for Tasmania when not selected in the seniors, and arrangement which lasted from 2006 until 2007. This was unpopular among local fans, significantly harming the popularity of the club; and the season proved to be a disappointment on-field, with the Devils finishing ninth and missing the finals.[36][37] During the 2006 season, Armstrong stepped down as coach due to internal pressure from the playing group, ending his six-year term as Devils coach. North Hobart premiership coach and former Devil Brendon Bolton was made stand in coach for the remainder of the year.[38]

Tasmanian and former Sydney Swan Daryn Cresswell was named coach of the club for 2007 after a successful career as an assistant coach at Geelong and the Brisbane Lions; however, hampered in part by Cresswell's off-field issues which included a gambling addiction and eventual fraud conviction, the club finished wooden spooners both seasons he coached the team, winning only six of a total 34 games.[36][37]

At the end of the 2008 season, AFL Tasmania decided to withdraw the Devils from the VFL competition in favour of restarting a new Tasmanian league encompassing the entire state.[38]

Tasmania Devils (2021 or 2022)

The AFL plans on fielding a Tasmanian team in the Victorian Football League in 2021 or 2022 as a potential precursor to a team entering the Australian Football League.

Victorian AFL clubs in Tasmania

As Tasmania is the last Australian state to house an AFL team, and is also a heartland state of the code (unlike New South Wales and Queensland), the league has often used the state for Melbourne-based clubs to host games in Tasmania subsidised by local and the Tasmanian state governments. Both of the current deals with Hawthorn and North Melbourne will expire in 2021.[39]

Supporters

Guernsey sponsors
Period Front sponsor Back sponsor
2019 AFL Tasmania + NABCripps Nubake

Tasmanian news website and newspaper The Mercury has been a vocal supporter of the bid.[40][41] Kevin Sheedy has argued that Tasmania is not too small for an AFL team. He stated that population is irrelevant, and that a Tasmanian side could draw support from abroad in a similar way to the Green Bay Packers.[42] In 2008 Tasmanian bank MyState Financial offered $300,000 over three years in sponsorship of a team.[43]

Government supporters

  • Tasmanian Government – $19,000,000 over 5 years (2015 deal with Hawthorn)[44]
  • Tasmanian Government – $2,500,000 over 5 years (2017 deal with North Melbourne Women's team)[45]
  • Hobart City Council – $600,000 over 2 years (2014 deal with North Melbourne)[46]
  • Spirit of Tasmania – $1,800,000 over 3 years (2016 deal with North Melbourne)[47]

Corporate support

  • MARS – $4,000,000 over three years (2008 proposal)[48]
  • MyState Financial – $300,000 (2008 proposal)[43]

Media supporters

  • Kevin Sheedy[42]
  • Tim Lane[49]
  • Mitch Robinson
  • Nick Riewoldt
  • Matthew Richardson
  • Andy Maher
  • Caroline Wilson
  • Brian Carlton
  • Jack Riewoldt

Venues and travel

Left: Bellerive Oval would serve as the club's home ground in Hobart.
Right: Tasmania's potential second ground, UTAS Stadium (York Park) in Launceston.

Due to the population split of Tasmania between Hobart and Launceston it has been proposed that a future Tasmania club use two home grounds Launceston and Hobart which are approximately 200 km apart.

It has often been suggested that the home games could be split between the two population centres with Hobart hosting six games a year and Launceston hosting five.

Hobart

Hobart is Tasmania's largest city with a population around 230,000 which is comparable to Greater Geelong. The record crowd for an Australian rules game in Hobart was 24,968 for the 1979 TANFL Grand Final at North Hobart Oval. In August 2019 a Tasmanian Parliamentary Committee heard from the Tasmanian Football Board regarding a new purpose built stadium at Macquarie Point as part of a bid for an AFL team.[50]

Launceston

Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania housing nearly 90,000 people which is comparable in population to the Federal Division of Fremantle. The northern half of Tasmania is home to half the states population. It is the economic centre of Northern Tasmania. The record crowd for an Australian rules game in Launceston was 20,971 at York Park an AFL minor round fixture in 2006.

References

  1. "THE DEVILS ARE BACK - AFL Tasmania". AFL Tasmania. 21 September 2018. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  2. Wilson, Caroline (23 August 2019). "Tasmania set to apply for a provisional AFL licence". The Age. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  3. "SPORT Belconnen loses way to Bullants". The Canberra Times. 64, (20, 152). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 25 June 1990. p. 23. Retrieved 23 February 2018 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  4. "Australian Football - 30 years on - 1990 State of Orgin: Tasmania v Victoria". australianfootball.com. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  5. "Troubled Tassie wants its own team in AFL". The Canberra Times. 66, (20, 744). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 29 January 1992. p. 38. Retrieved 23 February 2018 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  6. "AFL clubs oppose push for more sides". The Canberra Times. 69, (21, 546). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 13 April 1994. p. 38. Retrieved 23 February 2018 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  7. "Ditch AFL bid: clubs". Examiner. 20 February 1998. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  8. https://www.foxsports.com.au/afl/brisbane-lions-star-mitch-robinson-on-tasmanias-footy-crisis/news-story/752c43c07c7b1ee51ed3865209966c29
  9. "Soccer could beat AFL". The Mercury. 28 March 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  10. "Soccer could beat AFL". 28 March 2009.
  11. Colebatch, Tim (1 January 2007). "Soccer on rise as AFL treads water".
  12. Answers to questions: AFL – Mr Phil Martin (question 4)
  13. AFL tells Senate to mind their own business
  14. "Tasmania's bid for AFL team faltering". The Australian. 16 July 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  15. "AFL expansion plans yet to include Tassie". The Canberra Times. 16 July 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  16. "Tasmania given sweet boost to AFL bid". ABC News. 1 August 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  17. Don't knock North for looking at Hobart, The Roar, Retrieved on 29 July 2010.
  18. The Examiner – No Tasmanian AFL team for at least a decade, says McLachlan
  19. "Nation backs push for Tassie AFL team". Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  20. Tasmania launches new bid for AFL team, offering to relocate Gold Coast Suns
  21. "AFLW: Tasmania-North Melbourne and Geelong win licences to field teams from 2019". ABC News (Australia). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 September 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  22. "The AFL propped up on Gold Coast Suns with $25m after sponsorship woes". Financial Review. 4 February 2018. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  23. "AFL Tassie boss has no idea what's best for footy". Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  24. Steering committee aims to unite Tasmanian football
  25. AFL boss Gillon McLachlan to deliver Tasmanian football blueprint
  26. Shorten's $25m Tasmanian AFL pledge welcomed, but doubts powerbrokers will be swayed
  27. "Subscribe to The Mercury". www.themercury.com.au. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  28. Wilson, Caroline (22 March 2019). "'No longer if but when': Push grows for a Tasmanian AFL team". The Age. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  29. Ryan, Peter (25 June 2019). "Riewoldt to join Tasmanian AFL taskforce". The Age. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  30. Partridge, Josh (7 June 2019). "Task-force meet for first time". The Examiner. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  31. Inglis, Rob (27 July 2019). "State's peak tourism body enters Tasmanian AFL team debate". The Examiner. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  32. Wilson, Caroline (23 August 2019). "Tasmania set to apply for a provisional AFL licence". The Age. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  33. Stubbs, Brett (8 November 2019). "Tasmania to cut apron strings by joining the AFL as its first sporting goal". themercury.com.au.
  34. Martin, Corey (12 October 2018). "Fletcher to drive Devils' full-time TAC Cup return". The Examiner. Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  35. "Season Statistics for 2019 NAB League". SportsTG. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  36. "The power and the passion: Scott Wade reflects on a career at the coalface of Tasmanian football". The Mercury. Hobart, TAS. 12 March 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  37. Scott Rollinson (9 March 2016). "AFL Tasmania chief Scott Wade's resignation was a 'mutual decision', AFL says". Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  38. Tasmania Devils history
  39. Are all signs pointing to a Tasmanian AFL team?
  40. "Our crusade to end Tassie's footy snub". The Mercury. 11 March 2008. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2008. And today ... the Mercury launches its season-long campaign, Tasmania – It's Time, to reignite the push for a Tasmanian team in the AFL.
  41. The Mercury – C’mon Tassie, we need a team effort
  42. Tasmania not too small for an AFL team: Sheedy
  43. "Tas bid gains momentum". The Advocate. 26 August 2008. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  44. "Tasmanian Government signs new five-year deal with Hawthorn". Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  45. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-27/tassie-kangaroos-tasmanias-new-afl-team/8994214
  46. "North Melbourne deal seals three AFL games a year in Hobart". ABC News. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  47. Wilson, Caroline (18 February 2016). "North Melbourne set to beat Hawthorn to Tasmanian academy". The North West Star. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  48. Pierik, Jon (31 July 2008). "Tasmanian AFL team secures major sponsor". Herald Sun. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  49. THOMAS-WILSON, SIMEON (8 July 2015). "Tasmania should cash in on support for AFL team, says leading football commentator Tim Lane".
  50. https://www.themercury.com.au/sport/local-sport/macquarie-point-multipurpose-stadium-would-be-ideal-for-tasmanian-afl-team-parliamentary-committee-hears/news-story/664be9ce62cd66c10efb611bab22a642
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