Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Brisbane eye Tasmanian AFLW market

Lions pride: Burnie's Brittany Gibson and her Brisbane Lions AFLW teammates could play in Launceston next year. Picture: Getty Images
Lions pride: Burnie's Brittany Gibson and her Brisbane Lions AFLW teammates could play in Launceston next year. Picture: Getty Images

How strangely apt that all these AFL clubs feeling they may have missed a boat should suddenly be targeting an island.

The limit to which those clubs are prepared to go to help Tasmania is almost enough to warm a Liawenee heart in mid-June – in the unlikely event any of them know where Liawenee is.

North Melbourne pledged “to build a model that provides the best possible outcomes for Tasmania”.

Hawthorn “is committed to playing at least one home game in Launceston”.

Brisbane would probably say much the same thing but declined to respond to my emails.

After all these years of feeling used by the national winter sport, finally Tasmania is feeling the love.

And not a hint of self-interest anywhere.

Well, apart from the reported $100,000 from the Tasmanian Government, associated facility upgrades and the chance to monopolise an untapped footy-mad market while jumping on the latest AFL-branded bandwagon.

The huge success of the inaugural AFLW season left the clubs that took part joyous and those that didn’t jealous. 

Adelaide, Brisbane, Greater Western Sydney and Fremantle cornered their respective states with Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Carlton and Collingwood scrapping over the Victorian marketplace.

When unsuccessful in their initial bids, North Melbourne, St Kilda, Geelong, Richmond and West Coast all received provisional licences and are therefore expected to be viewed more favourably than the rival bids from Hawthorn, Essendon and Gold Coast received by the AFL on Friday.

With their men’s teams already on FIFO terms with the state, North Melbourne and Hawthorn were swift to talk up their value to Tasmania, while conveniently ignoring the reverse.

The Kangaroos’ submission was particularly gushing. Executive officer Carl Dilena devoted a dozen paragraphs to detailing how important Tasmania has suddenly become to the club.

“Tasmania has understandably been crying out for greater representation on the national stage and our proposal seeks to deliver this through a genuine joint venture approach,” he said.

Nice to know you’re in our corner Carl.

The “phenomenal numbers” of the club’s Next Generation Academies in Tasmania “highlight the great work we continue to do”.

Humility appears to be well below an AFLW franchise on the agenda at Arden Street.

After several more paragraphs detailing how the club had single-handedly rescued our state from its self-imposed mire, it promised “to build a model that provides the best possible outcomes for Tasmania”.

Well bravo.

And ditto to Hawthorn whose ground-breaking female chief executive Tracy Gaudry also staked a claim on Tasmania’s best emerging female talent.

Obviously, neither club was simply seeking to corner a market with a view to cementing their AFL team’s standing in the state, and daggers to anybody who would dare suggest such a thing.

North Melbourne and Hawthorn were swift to talk up their value to Tasmania, while conveniently ignoring the reverse

In a stance strangely familiar to its voters, the Tasmanian government said while it would prefer its own team it would, in the meantime, go along with backing a visiting side.

Sitting alongside the Premier on an ever-weakening fence running from Bellerive to Inveresk was AFL Tasmania which said it had worked with both North Melbourne and Hawthorn “and would welcome either club being granted an [AFLW] licence”. 

“Throughout the entire process we have advocated strongly for the best outcome for Tasmania,” AFL Tasmania spokesperson Trish Squires said.

The development of the women’s game has been fascinating to observe, both within Tasmania and nationally.

The number of teams in Tasmania has grown from seven to 62 in the past two years and the women’s State League has enhanced talent pathways.

All those responsible for this are to be commended.

However, when the AFL suddenly trumpets a gender it conveniently ignored for 120 years, it sounds somewhat hollow.

It may be a radical suggestion, easily dismissed as the ramblings of a madman, but since everybody involved appears to be seeking “the best possible outcomes for Tasmania” why not just grant the state its own team in the competition?

Play games in Launceston, Hobart and also the North-West, since that region supplied four of the five Tasmanian-born players in the inaugural TSLW season.

While you’re at it, give Tasmania its own AFL team funded, like Gold Coast and GWS, by the AFL.

I know, carried away, sorry, heading back to my corner now.