It has been a debate that is heard through the ranks of supporters, the Tasmanian Government and the AFL and one that has been going on for years, does Tasmania need their own AFL team?
With the introduction of both the Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney Giants in the coming seasons questions were onced again asked about the AFL expanding into Tasmania. Many people saw the expansion into those areas as a fruitless task due to the stranglehold that Rugby League has on those communities. To many it made sense for the AFL to grow into areas where they know they will see success and in many peoples eyes Tasmania is one of those areas.
Over 300 AFL players have come from Tasmania, some of which are the great names of AFL. Names like three-time Brownlow Medallist Ian Stewart, 12-time leading goalkicker Peter Hudson, St. Kilda’s only premiership captain Darrell Baldock and in more recent times Matthew Richardson, Rodney Eade, Brad Green, Alastair Lynch and Russell Robertson. There is no doubt that the Tasmanian system provides the talent that is needed at the elite level, can the same be said for Western Sydney?
In 2001 a Tasmanian team began in the Victorian Football League (VFL) under the name of the Devils. Can I just make a point here that the Tasmanian Devils sounds much, much better than either of Gold Coast Suns or Greater Western Sydney Giants. During the seven years that the Devils were in the VFL they finished third, three times, their best finishing position at any stage. It is worth taking note at this stage that they finished third in 2003, ’04 and ’05, without having any form of alignment with an AFL club which is very common amongst the VFL clubs. It is during the 2006 season that the Tasmanian team began its downward climb towards disbanding. It is also during the year of 2006 that the Devils formed an alliance with the North Melbourne Kangaroos Football Club, the Devils missed the finals and sacked their coach during that season. This is where the first two paragraphs are merged together, the Tasmanian Devils did better when they were not joined with an AFL club, they did better using their own homegrown talent, many of which have stepped up, or could have stepped up, to the AFL.
During Tasmania’s foray into the VFL they also had the largest attendances out of any VFL club, averaging 4,000 attendees at both their home grounds (Aurora Stadium and North Hobart Oval). It is worth noting that this was also before the Kangaroos aligned themselves with the Devils, after that the crowds also dropped off. The AFL has staged matches at Aurora Stadium since 2001, using the Hawthorn Football Club, and due to that fact has created a wonderful market in the north of the state.
Above is a list of average crowd attendances at the AFL matches held at Aurora Stadium since its inception in 2001, for a stadium with a capacity of 20,000 those averages show that the crowds are getting to the games. The other stadiums in use, while much larger, do not always see potential capacity crowds like that. Keep in mind, that like I said while they are larger, they are larger for a reason.
So to me it makes sense that Tasmania is seriously considered for an AFL team, the problem is that I am seriously beginning to believe that it may never happen. They have the talent pool ready to be tapped. They have the stadium ready-made, unlike GWS where a stadium is being developed in Blacktown, NSW. They have proven crowd attendances, which should be a major selling point for the AFL. Behind the VFL, the Tasmanian Football League would have to be the best state league in the country, the NSW-ACT league and QAFL aren’t exactly major drawcards.
While I do hope the GWS and GC teams succeed, which they will due to the concessions granted by the AFL, I would love to see a team in Tasmania, I believe they deserve one.