‘‘COULDN’T we just make it one meeting?’’
‘‘What, with people from Hobart and Launceston in the one room?’’
‘‘Well it’s not the Middle East.’’
How ironic that such a splendid snapshot of Tasmania’s North-South divide, courtesy of the ABC’s brilliant Utopia series, should come in the same week that the state was attempting to celebrate sporting unity.
Three days after the satirical sitcom took aim at the apathy of supporters in the South of the state, the North presented a compelling counter case.
Tasked with finding a need for a 60,000-capacity stadium to be built in Hobart (that was just after the Salamanca monorail suggestion), the wonderfully useless Nation Building Authority concluded that AFL is mostly played in Launceston and the A-League and NRL aren’t very likely while Test cricket even struggled for numbers at Ricky Ponting’s farewell match with schoolkids getting in free.
But then along came a State League grand final that offered a foolproof solution to Tasmanian parochialism.
At half-time in a match between two Launceston teams, in glorious sunshine at the state’s home of footy nearly half of the 5842 attendance seemed to be out on the oval enjoying kicking footballs around.
This was real Tasmanian sporting Utopia.
For one afternoon, footy could forget about peptides, tanking, racism and torn ACLs.
The only link to Essendon was in North Launceston’s nickname and the only hint of bad weather was in its vanquished opponents.
Being the fourth consecutive all-Northern grand final, it was almost enough to make AFL Tasmania relocate to Launceston, but not quite.
There wasn’t even any biffo on show. Well, apart from the development league final between Clarence and Lauderdale.
Interestingly, just as Tasmanian sporting venues have been thrust into the spotlight, A-League big guns Melbourne Victory and Sydney are about to face each other in the state.
When Victory began gracing Tasmania nearly a decade ago, it played a succession of pre-season matches at Aurora Stadium, attracting impressive crowds of 6834, 8061, 4720, 6257, 4670 and 6300 for what were ultimately meaningless friendlies.
Then, for reasons not fully known outside Melbourne and Hobart, the matches were relocated down south, first to Kingston’s Twin Ovals and now to North Hobart Oval, both of which aren’t fit to mow the turf at Aurora Stadium.
Meanwhile Bellerive Oval will soon unveil its latest redevelopment less than a year after the 20,000-capacity Aurora Stadium further demonstrated its versatility by attracting the largest crowd ever for a Tasmanian cricket match at Ricky Ponting’s testimonial.
The image-obsessed spin doctors on Utopia eventually came to the right conclusion, which was that Tasmania is not crying out for a new stadium.
They didn’t mention it, but that’s because the state already has a perfect one in Inveresk.
So as Tasmanian-born cast member Luke McGregor said when asked what he would say to someone who was thinking of building a stadium: ‘‘Don’t.’’