Hawks face uncertainty in Tassie

REIGNING AFL premier Hawthorn resumes its relationship with Tasmania on Saturday with both club and state seeking to prolong a prosperous partnership amid worrying signs of irreconcilable differences.

It is no exaggeration to say this could be make or break time in the 12-year affair.

Since the club's last post- premiership season of 2009 witnessed the 20,000-fan blockbuster against runaway ladder-leader St Kilda, the AFL has stayed true to its word that it should not have rostered such a mouth-watering clash in Launceston.

It subsequently established a formula for Aurora Stadium's four annual fixtures consisting of one expansion team, one Perth or Adelaide side, one Queensland or New South Wales "Victorian aligned" club and one poorly- supported Melbourne club.

This had two knock-on effects.

First, it has seen average crowds plummet by a whopping 4183, from 17,420 in 2009 to 13,237 last season, which also witnessed the lowest ever AFL crowd here of 10,513 for the mauling of Greater Western Sydney.

Second, Hawthorn has become increasingly invincible at the venue, winning 14 of the past 15 matches - some might say sufficient reason to ask the club to start paying for the privilege.

Saturday's match against Brisbane also marks the beginning of year three in the latest five-year deal.

That deal is with the AFL and Tasmanian government which are both in the process of undergoing significant changes in personnel.

Before Saturday's state election, the Hawthorn deal was raised about as frequently as the mating rituals of the lesser bilby (macrotis luecura). All major parties (and Labor) knew it was not exactly a vote-getter to discuss extra AFL when some petty- minded people might consider health, education and law-enforcement slightly more important.

So quite where the victorious Liberals stand on a deal struck and repeatedly renewed by their opposition remains to be seen.

So quite where the victorious Liberals stand on a deal struck and repeatedly renewed by their opposition remains to be seen.

Hawks chief executive Stuart Fox fired an early warning shot ahead of any contract renegotiations by telling The Examiner that the club would not walk out on the deal unless made to by either the state government or AFL.

And why would it? Last year Hawthorn made a net operating profit of just over $3 million, coincidentally about the same amount of money it received from Tasmanian taxpayers - although strangely it failed to make this link in the relevant press release.

A Hawks side that has since lost its biggest drawcard should still be good enough to continue its trend in results at the venue. The concern will be if it also continues the trend in attendances.


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