Tasmanian football celebrated passionately at gala dinner in Melbourne

TASSIE TWO: Nick and Jack Riewoldt at the Celebration of Tasmanian Football gala event in Melbourne on Wednesday. Picture: Alex Fair
TASSIE TWO: Nick and Jack Riewoldt at the Celebration of Tasmanian Football gala event in Melbourne on Wednesday. Picture: Alex Fair

The past and the present of Tasmanian football came together in Melbourne on Wednesday in a show of solidarity for the game in this state, but the elephant in the room was one that was obvious for all to see.

The Tasmanian Football Foundation’s A Celebration of Tasmanian Football was billed as more of a “party” than a campaign meeting for any future Tasmanian side in the national competition.

However, several prominent Tasmanian-football identities used their time on stage to let their frustration known about the lack representation for the state in the big league.

One of those was Brisbane coach Chris Fagan, who reiterated his comments to Fairfax Media on Tuesday that he believed it was cultural injustice that Tasmania, being a traditional football state, did not have the opportunity to compete in the competition.

It brought a round of applause from the 500-strong crowd.

Fagan was speaking while on stage at Melbourne’s Crown Casino with the state’s other AFL coaches Rodney Eade and Brendon Bolton, with Eade agreeing with Fagan, and Bolton suggesting returning to a full Tassie Mariners program could be a strong starting point.

The other most vocal voice on the issue was Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale.

When questioned on the issue by fellow North-West Coast product Russell Robertson, Gale said while his main dream would be to see a Richmond premiership, a Tasmanian side would be second on his wishlist.

The “elephant” was addressed by the man who has copped the most criticism on the issue, AFL chief executive office Gillon McLachlan, who told the crowd that Tasmania remained an important part of the football landscape.

Other than those moments, the night was one of more reflection and celebration, with Fagan, Eade and Bolton sharing how their experiences in Tasmania had helped them become senior coaches.

Richmond great Matthew Richardson shared how growing up in and around football on the North-West Coast had helped inspire him, while the 1990 Tasmanian side that defeated Victoria was honoured.

Greats such as Peter Hudson and Ian Stewart were also celebrated, with Stewart saying Darrel Baldock was the best player he had ever seen, while modern day warriors Jack and Riewoldt, Jackson Thurlow and Ben Brown all shared their Tasmanian experiences, as did umpire Scott Jeffrey,