Elite passage is crucial for young players

North Launceston talent Tarryn Thomas.
North Launceston talent Tarryn Thomas.

Brendon Bolton’s desire for the full-time Tassie Mariners program highlights the importance of the State League as the current pathway, believes AFL Tasmania chief executive Rob Auld.

The Carlton coach on Wednesday used his time on stage at A Celebration of Tasmanian Football to call for the revival, believing being able to play against the best talent in the country each week would be a good starting point for a Tasmanian AFL side

The Mariners competed in the TAC Cup from 1995-2002, while in 2017 it was the recently concluded academy series, with an extra game this weekend against South Australia.

Six Mariners, Launceston duo Jake Hinds and Chayce Jones and North Launceston’s Tarryn Thomas, were selected in the Allies squad for the national championships.

Tigers’ Hugh Dixon, Burnie’s Thomas Mundy and Hobart City’s Nicholas Hutchinson were the other Tasmanians picked.

With recruiters not willing to consider young talent at the local level, the State League gives these young players’ another opportunity to impress.

“What I think has got merit is the absolute need for our overall competition environment to always offer the most elite environment that we can manufacture,’’ Auld told Fairfax Media.

“It is just an absolute flawed assumption that they would just flow back to community leagues and be noticed, so that competition arm (the State League) is vital right now.”

Auld, who has met Bolton over the issue, said he “wasn’t sure” the TAC Cup was the solution. 

“It only really gets serious in the last six or eight rounds, where it actually becomes the best of the best.

“We have to make sure there is enough stretch and ambition in it so these kids get tested, and that flies in the face of conversations about getting rid of the State League.”

The VFL could also soon play a role in the recent talent drought, with no player drafted from Tasmania last year.

Auld confirmed AFL Tasmania were in discussions with North Melbourne about the potential of there being spots on the Roos’ list for Tasmanian-based players in their standalone VFL side, which would give the state’s young talent a taste of the higher level.

Also on Wednesday, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan reiterated his desire to see Tasmania become a “one team state”, which is also a view stated in the Future Directions of Tasmanian Football report.

“I’m respectful to the two clubs [Hawthorn and North Melbourne], because there is another four years [of their contracts] left,’’ Auld said.

“But whatever will deliver the best outcome for football in Tasmania is what we will chase and we won’t be waiting four years to decide what that is.”

On whether it should be Hawthorn, North Melbourne, or a Tasmanian side, or the current arrangement, Auld said it should depend on what was best for the state at the time.