Coast's turn to take the events praise

Last weekend, it was the North- West Coast's turn to stage two of the bigger events on the sports calendar _ and it flew the Tassie flag with pride.

The success of the AFL Aurora Challenge practice match at Devonport and the Classic Bitter Tasmanian Golf Open at Ulverstone cannot be questioned.

Professionally organised and run, and lauded by our interstate visitors, they only accentuate the folly of centralising sport in Hobart.

The Tasmanian Golf Council is one of the few statewide bodies which still sticks to the policy of rotating its premier event through the three regions.

Some of Hobart's golf power brokers will raise the capital city argument that Royal Hobart and Tasmania should always host the Tassie Open.

What they fail to appreciate is the benefits of spreading the game around.

By hosting the Tasmanian Open, clubs and their members get enormous satisfaction and exposure and invariably spend hundreds of volunteer hours improving their courses.

Despite drought conditions on the North-West Coast, Ulverstone was presented in magnificent condition and represented a particularly tough challenge for the players. If the idea of the Tassie Open, and other similar events, is to help prepare our leading amateurs, then adjusting and mastering different conditions is surely the goal.

The clash between Richmond and Hawthorn at Devonport on Saturday again showed Northern Tasmania's enormous passion for AFL football.

The crowd of 7144 was excellent _ the highest for any AFL pre-season game excluding the two Ansett Cup semi- finals.

One can only guess how many more fans would have attended if local hero Mathew Richardson and Brownlow Medallist Shane Crawford had played.

The Devonport City Council, with the co-operation of the NWTCA, moved cricket off the oval for two weeks to allow extra grass on the wicket _ a significant concession duly noted and appreciated by both clubs.

The oval was picture perfect and bringing the boundary in 5m eliminated any worries about the bike track.

While the changerooms and player facilities at Devonport don't come close to AFL standards for Ansett Cup and roster matches, they are perfectly adequate for practice matches and are just as good as many other regional centres around Australia. In fact, the size of the ground and the way it contributed to such an entertaining game should not be underestimated.

The players were able to run hard, find some open spaces and attack the ball _ all things that are limited at small grounds like North Hobart. One can only wonder whether this Saturday's second Aurora Challenge match between Geelong and the Western Bulldogs will in fact be North Hobart's last big game.

The size of the crowd, particularly after just 5000 attended an official Ansett Cup match earlier this month, will be interesting.

The Premier, Mr Bacon, has already stated that North Hobart isn't a future option, especially with York Park completed in June and work on stage one at Bellerive due to start this winter. Compare the Devonport crowd support to others around Australia and you can see why Victorian-based clubs believe Tasmania is an untapped membership market.

The biggest mistake an AFL club could make is deciding to play in Hobart thinking that they will capture the whole Tasmanian market.

Hawthorn has already indicated that it will approach the AFL about a guarantee of at least one practice match and one Ansett Cup game in Tasmania each year.

If it threw in a roster game and perhaps one more Ansett Cup-practice match game and spread them throughout the State, the Hawks would reap membership rewards.

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