Monday, June 11, 2012

Tassie in the AFL...One Day...maybe..maybe not

A June 3rd Tim Lane article in The Age , which came to my attention via Robert Shaw on Twitter , once again raises the issue of why Tasmania doesn't have a team in the AFL.

Darrel Baldock and the Saints Cup
These two are proud, passionate Tasmanians who want to see a Tasmanian team represent their state. A state that has produced bona fide footy legends such as Peter Hudson, Royce Hart, Ian Stewart and Darrel Baldock, the captain of StKilda's only Premiership team in 1966.

Other recent players are Paul Sproule, Michael Roach, Rodney Eade, Matty Richardson, James Manson, Alistair Lynch, Darrin Pritchard, Brodie Holland, Russell Robertson, the Febey twins, the Gale and Rawlings brothers, Graham Wright, Adrian Fletcher, Andy Lovell, Paul Williams, Daryn Cresswell and Doug Barwick. There were many more who crossed Bass Strait in the 60s 70s 80s and 90s, not forgetting Robert Shaw himself.

Along with some local talent, about half of the above mentioned played in the 1990 Tasmanian state team captained by Pritchard that defeated Victoria by 33 points at North Hobart Oval. They would have made a decent team for the regular AFL season.

Current players are a bit thinner than in the past, but include Jack Riewoldt, Grant Birchall, Aaron Joseph, Justin Sherman, Aaron Cornelius, Tom Colyer and Brad Green to name a few.

So, why is Tassie constantly snubbed by the AFL when looking for expansion teams.  Here's 3 reasons straight off the bat.  The first 2 you'll have heard before.  The 3rd, however, is, in my view, the killer.

3 reasons why Tassie isn't in the AFL

  1. The lack of Big Corporates. 

    The small Tasmanian business environment was thought not to be robust enough to afford a VFL license back in the 80s when West Coast and Brisbane joined.  Its exodus of youth to the mainland proves its economy cannot sustain its own population, let alone a footy team. The population has remained at a relatively constant number of 450 - 500,000 for the past 30 years.  Adelaide, Port Adelaide and yes, even Fremantle had the big corporate backing to enter the League, whereas Tassie has always been viewed as a risk.
  2. The AFL's profit motive.

    The AFL's business argument cannot be denied. Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney had so much more potential than Tasmania. They've considered the risk and gone for untapped markets with large potential. Tasmania is on a hiding to nothing. It has an already-converted, small population, most of which happily support an existing AFL team and have done for years.  Where's the upside compared to Western Sydney, a population of 2 or 3 million, a population 4 to 6 times the size of Tassie's, most of them rugby league supporters. The potential to convert half of them to AFL within a generation's time. Head Office call it 'demand-generation'. Sure, it's yet to come off, but you can't blame them trying.

    And now the killer.

  3. The placid acceptance by Tasmanian footy fans.

    ...of firstly Hawthorn, then North Melbourne, into its territory as adopted 'home' teams. On this point, Tasmanians have no-one to blame but themselves.  If Tasmanians truly were passionate about having their own team in the AFL, wouldn't they be rioting in the street against the Tasmanian Government's push for Hawthorn and then, adding insult to injury, North?  Where is the passion that was displayed by Hawthorn and Melbourne diehard fans when both faced extinction or merger in 1990?   Who can forget retired Hawks ruckman Don Scott ripping the Melbourne emblem off a Hawthorn jumper.  Who is the Tassie equivalent, shredding North and Hawthorn jumpers and proudly holding up Tasmanian's traditional primrose and dark green? What about the fight shown by Richmond, or by Footscray and Fitzroy?  Fair enough, Fitzroy fell by the wayside, but how did the others survive?  Mobilisation, voice, embarrassing the AFL into support for them.   The irrational overcame the rational. Heart outweighed the corporate dollar. In the 1990s there were money-raising tins in Tassie pubs for all of these Victorian teams.  Where the bloodyhell are the tins in Tassie pubs for Tassie's own team, today?  They certainly won't be in Melbourne pubs, that's for sure.
There will be a few, like Tim Lane, who carry influence and say it is socially unjust.  He points out the conundrum of a state that historically has uncontrollable passion in intrastate matches, but can barely raise a souffle as a whole.  Demetriou taking advantage and cunningly playing the North against the South. Tasmania's divided footy fans unwittingly playing right into his hands.  Is it a coincidence that an ex-Hawthorn and North Melbourne hack runs the AFL, and his teams are in Tassie? Would it be different if a Tassie legend like Huddo was the kingpin?

Maybe. But until the greater majority unite and vote with their feet nothing will change. Until a permanent ink blotch is put on Demetriou's roadmap to AFL assimilation, until fans turn up to Hawthorn games and uproot the goal posts like the Wynyard supporters did in the State Final in 1967, or storm Blundstone Oval with banners and pickards telling North where to shove it, until the heart and voice of a football state overlooked for too long stands up and fights as one, the status quo will remain.

Cue Peter Finch:

"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this any more!"

The reality is Tassie will never be a financially viable proposition for the AFL. The AFL will quite probably look to New Zealand first. Unless that riles the average Tassie footy fan enough to physically mobilise themselves, it'll be a Carlton / Kiwi Grand Final in 2022.

Yes indeed.  Tassie has simply gotten used to being the poor cousin.  Supporting other state's teams as their number one team.

No, you will not see Tasmanians rejecting Hawthorn or North Melbourne. Look at the next game at Aurora Stadium.  You will see a happily clad crowd of brown and gold, cheering on a foreign team as their own.

Richo in the old Tassie jumper
Or will we? C'mon Tassie, show us your true colours. Primrose and Green.

1) This is an Uglybustards report, don't get any of it confused with the facts.  

2) Uglybustard was a Tasmanian who fled the state.


Anonymous said...

what about tony martyn .. loved a smoke at half time....
and the population is wrong .. nudging a mill with the second heads...

f em off

Unknown said...

half the triple premiership Sandy Bay team of the 70s played VFL - tony martyn, michael seddon, john clennet, stephen mount, paul sproule, it goes on - gotta draw the line somewhere or i'd run outa space

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