Three-time premiership Lion Alastair Lynch says it’s only a matter of time until Tasmania gets its own AFL team.
An AFL licence was conspicuous by its absence in the plan for Tasmanian football handed down by the Gil McLachlan-led steering committee last month, which instead proposed a full-time TAC Cup program and a provisional VFL licence.
Lynch, who played 306 games for Fitzroy and Brisbane before retiring in 2004, said his home state was a certainty to join the AFL but might need to wait as many as 30 years to see it happen.
“The problem is over the past 10 or 15 years it’s been taken for granted,” Lynch said.
“It’s almost like a safe political seat - ‘Tassie’s AFL so we don’t have to worry about them, we’ll look at the developing markets where we can generate more eyes on the box in Gold Coast and GWS’.
“If we get football in Tasmania strong again that’ll create the foundations to have a team in the future and I think at some stage we will.”
Tasmanian football has endured a lean run in recent times, with regional leagues reporting a dramatic reduction in junior numbers and AFL draftees well down from the 14-strong haul in Lynch’s draft year of 1986.
Last month saw just 9007 attend Hawthorn’s UTAS Stadium clash with Gold Coast - the smallest home and away crowd recorded in Launceston since the Hawks’ maiden visit in 2001.
“I’m not overly concerned about one - I think it’s the only crowd under 10,000 Hawthorn has had so I don’t see that as a big issue,” Lynch said.
“I think that would be vastly different to the support you would get for our team - I think Tasmanians would get behind it.
“There’d be a period where it takes time for them to convert back from their Richmonds (and other traditional teams) … it’ll take a generation but if you’ve got a Tasmanian team, Tasmanians are passionate about their own.”
The state’s push for an AFL side took an unexpected turn last week when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged $25 million of funding to get a team off the ground.
The AFL is yet to acknowledge the announcement but Lynch said any support from the political sphere was welcome.
“I think there’s a role for all governments - state government more so with the funding of North Melbourne and Hawthorn which generates enormous income into the state.
“I think there’s a role for them to redirect some of that profit or turnover back to grassroots footy and there’s a role for federal government, state government and corporate support to fund a Tasmanian team.”