Government regards Hawks as top priority

THE incoming Liberal state government says keeping faith to the current arrangement with Hawthorn is its number one priority, ahead of establishing a potential Tasmanian-based AFL team.

The promise came a day after Hawthorn president Andrew Newbold signalled the club's intentions to meet   premier-elect Will Hodgman to extend its relationship with Tasmania, but the Liberals fell short of committing to extending the deal yesterday.

The current $15 million five-year state government sponsorship deal with Hawthorn to play four home and away games in Launceston ends after the 2016 season.

There are fresh murmurs that negotiations surrounding a Tasmanian side are taking place behind closed doors between AFL House and AFL Tasmania.

A Southern media outlet said yesterday that a report investigating the social and economic impacts of purely a Tasmania side was being compiled.

For the state to secure its own team, the report said Tasmania's long-standing North-South parochial divide must end and the team ``must  be embraced by the entire state''.

It said games would be played at both Aurora Stadium and Bellerive Oval.

A Liberal spokeswoman said: ``The Liberals strongly support and will honour the current deal with Hawthorn as we recognise the significant economic benefits it has delivered to Tasmania.

``A team of our own is an aspiration that the state should hold but the first and most important step is to increase the number of AFL games that are played at both ends of the state.''

The most recent pitch for a Tasmanian AFL team was made in 2008 by the then Lennon government, in which the comprehensive financial audit by Gemba was produced.

Confectionary company Mars signed a three-year $4 million deal to be the team's sponsor, but the bid was rejected by the AFL in favour of the Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.

In more recent times, the relocation of a Melbourne-based team such as North Melbourne, Melbourne or the Western Bulldogs has been mooted.

AFL Tasmania chief executive Scott Wade said last year that his preference was to have one team playing eight games across the state.

AFL Tasmania could not be contacted yesterday.

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