NTFA yet to be consulted by the AFL-led steering committee

UNDER REVIEW: The Northern Tasmanian Football Association is reviewing its competition structure.
UNDER REVIEW: The Northern Tasmanian Football Association is reviewing its competition structure.

The state’s largest football competition is yet to be consulted by the AFL-led steering committee tasked with devising Tasmania’s talent pathway from 2018 and beyond.

Speculation is rife among Northern Tasmanian Football Association clubs that the State League, according to one source, is “dead and buried” and that preparations are being made to accommodate Launceston and North Launceston.

The NTFA Council was presented with a proposed competition restructure model last week whereby three senior tiers would be introduced – premier, division 1 and division 2.

Premier division clubs would be required to field both senior and reserves teams each week, and roll out an under-18s side with a minimum 30-player squad.

They would also have to field teams in the Northern Tasmanian Junior Football Association or enter into an alignment with a junior club and run an Auskick program.

The division 1 competition would see clubs require seniors and reserves with a documented plan for junior development, while division 2 would be a one-club, one-team competition with a minimum 30 registered players needed.

Premier and division 1 clubs may also apply for a licence in the NTFA women’s competition, while a percentage of less than 30 “may lead to a show clause for inclusion the following season”.

NTFA president Paul Reynolds said the proposed restructure had been on the board’s agenda for some time and was not related to the steering committee’s investigation or forecast recommendations.

“We’re undergoing a restructure, not because of the uncertainty, but because we need to and it will put us in a position regardless of what the decision is,” he said. 

“If it turns out there is no TSL next year and those two clubs wished to come and join the NTFA – we would certainly consider any application. We had a very good NTFA Council meeting and the clubs will need time to digest the document provided and understand what the detail would be like.”

BEMUSED: NTFA president Paul Reynolds.

BEMUSED: NTFA president Paul Reynolds.

Reynolds said he has not been contacted by the high-profile conglomerate for his input as NTFA president or Tasmanian Football Council chairman. 

It is a situation he finds bemusing considering State League clubs would likely fall back into regional football should the under-siege competition be scrapped. 

“I’ve spoken to AFL Tasmania CEO Trisha Squires but not the committee per se… but we haven’t been consulted at all,” Reynolds said.

“In away it’s a bit bizarre. 

“If there is a fear that by consultation it’s going to send a message that a decision has been made – that’s probably erroneous.

“I would have thought that any decision they make will have an impact on regional football, community football and there should be some consultation going ahead.”

The committee was set up on March 21 and a return to three regional competitions with a re-established Tasmanian VFL and full-time TAC Cup is understood to be one of several options being considered.

That proposal has been rejected by all seven State League presidents, including North Launceston’s Thane Brady and Launceston’s Sandra Boland, who are calling for the State League to remain with $1.3 million in AFL funding, a VFL team and a full-time Mariners program.

The TSL was reformed in 2008 with existing licence agreements stating that clubs must be given 12 months’ notice of any foreclosure. 

Reynolds disagrees with TSL presidents that lower-level competitions need to be better policed with a salary cap and drawing away its best players with stacks of cash.

“I’ve found them a little bit confronting at times. The reality is that the NTFA has three players that played senior football in the statewide competition last year. 

“Two of them had to for work. Other players have come from the development league and under-18s because they’re disgruntled and don’t want to travel.

“It’s a nonsense and I think a request for a third team in Launceston is just bizarre.”

The steering committee is being chaired by AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and includes Squires, industry coaches Chris Fagan and Brendon Bolton, former St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt, league administrators Rob Auld and Simon Laughton.

Committee recommendations are expected to be released publicly on Saturday, June 30.