One can only think Premier Will Hodgman’s epiphany last week to relocate the Gold Coast Suns to Tasmania should they fall over was nothing more than a daydream.
The first-term Apple Isle leader’s suggestion came in a week everyone seemed to jump on the Suns’ bashing bus following the AFL’s 17th club’s 102-point loss to Greater Western Sydney.
Of course Mr Hodgman was not going to close the door on such a suggestion nor the hope Tasmania will one day boast its own AFL club to make the league a “truly national competition”.
It would be politically deadly to do so, even though the Suns moving South and Tassie having its own team are at Leicester City-like odds. Tasmania’s geographical location, economy and low population have for a long time been thrown around as reasons why it wouldn’t work.
Most of them valid, especially when a crowd of only 8758 people turned up to watch North Melbourne take on flag favourites GWS in Hobart last Saturday.
However, media reports did hit a raw nerve with Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane, who is never shy of speaking his mind.
Round 1 – Hodgman speaks
“Tasmania’s economy is strong and business confidence levels are high. We are a hotspot destination for investment and the nation’s premier tourism state. Why wouldn’t companies want to support a Tasmanian team?”
Round 2 – Cochrane’s response.
"Oh come on, the only thing Tasmania has over the Gold Coast is unemployment. They talk about it as a basket state not a growth state.
"That guy is a riot — that Will Whatever-his-name-is. He should be appearing on Saturday Night Live. I thought April Fool's Day was last week. If you look at where Brisbane and the Suns are sitting on the ladder you might say we're struggling… but football in this state is in great shape.
“And I don't think there's anyone in Australia who would say Tasmania's in better shape than Queensland.
"You're looking at the opportunities in a state with well beyond five million people compared with a state of 700,000 where most of the population is either retired or unemployed.
"People say we're still being funded by the AFL. If we can't raise the money, how the hell would it work economically in Tasmania?
"The Queensland Government and the Gold Coast City Council have over $200 million invested in our stadium. I suppose Will's going to write that cheque to move us is he? This is a nonsense story."
Round 3 – Mr “Whatever-his-name-is” hits back.
"Qld unemployment 6.4%; Tas 5.8%. Tassie more natural tourism awards than Qld. You employ a Tasmanian (Rodney Eade) as your coach".
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan continues to say that Tasmania deserves a stand alone AFL side, but will do nothing to make it happen because of a lack of confidence that it will succeed. Let’s just stick with the five-year deals in place with the Hobart Kangaroos and Launceston Hawks.
At least we are guaranteed seven games of AFL a season until the end of 2021.
However, it is looking more likely that the island state will field its own team in the newly formed AFLW competition from 2019 – a more realistic, yet second choice ambition.
AFL Tasmania chief executive Rob Auld is confident it can happen for the women’s side to partner with an existing club – most likely the Kangaroos or Hawthorn.
McLachlan is quoted as saying he would like to see an AFLW team in Tasmania (we’ve heard that before) “sooner rather than later”. Sounds promising!
It is now down to the AFL Commission and the executive to see if they have faith in Tasmania or if they will continue to ignore a traditional heartland.
To hand the state an AFLW team, but not solely based in Tasmania would be a display of no confidence and more a “here you go, now shut up” gesture.
If it is purely Tasmanian, then that will be something to celebrate and more than a pipedream, like a men's side in the national competition.