TWO Tasmanian football heavyweights have urged fans not to be divided by changing AFL plans, and stay focused on the dream of a Tasmanian team of our own.
Broadcaster Tim Lane and economist Saul Eslake have both backed a renewed push for a state team in the wake of AFL Tasmania's proposal to partially relocate one side for eight games a year instead of the current arrangement with Hawthorn and North Melbourne both playing games in the state.
Lane, in Launceston this week following Hawthorn's match, said it was "perfectly legitimate" that AFL Tasmania would look to make plans for the future, but he did not necessarily agree with what it had proposed.
"The way to unify Tasmania is to start from day one with a Tasmanian team, otherwise the vulnerability to regional division is too great," Mr Lane said.
Mr Lane said that while he was inclined to agree a sole tenant playing seven or eight games could weaken an argument for a state team, it was "perhaps worth a try" and not worse than the current arrangement.
Saul Eslake, a prominent Tasmanian economist who worked on the latest Tasmanian team campaign, was less kind towards the AFL Tasmania proposal, calling it "an insult" that could not work.
"This proposal is continuing the contempt that the AFL has always shown Tasmania," Mr Eslake said.
Suggesting the one-team proposal was a smokescreen to extend North Melbourne's matches in the state, Mr Eslake said Tasmanians should only accept a team of their own.
"I will never accept Hawthorn as a substitute, but they have been very good to, and for, Tasmania," Mr Eslake said.
"North Melbourne is the AFL's problem child, but that's not Tasmania's problem, it's the AFL's."
Both Mr Lane and Mr Eslake said Western Australia and South Australia would never have accepted a relocated side as their own, and nor should or would Tasmania.
North Melbourne responded to The Examiner yesterday, saying "we have a contract in place with Tasmania and look forward to continuing to work closely with our key stakeholders and all football fans to ensure we strengthen our relationships in the state".
Two key Kangaroos supporter groups spoke against the plan, echoing fan sentiment in 2010 at a proposed seven-game Tasmanian deal.
Graeme Siede, of the Arden Street Supporters Club, said its fans wanted a future in Melbourne and voiced their opinion against the 2010 Tasmanian push.
Annette Scott, president of the North Melbourne cheer squad, said while she enjoyed occasional trips to Hobart, "two or three trips was enough".
"The older people or the young families, you can't afford to travel," Ms Scott said.
Ms Scott spends three days a week putting together the Kangaroos' banners.