Tasmania deserves an AFL team, says Treasurer Peter Gutwein.
Mr Gutwein and Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett addressed guests at the President’s Function prior to Saturday’s Hawks versus Lions match at University of Tasmania Stadium on Saturday.
Mr Gutwein said the state government and Tasmanian football stakeholders had two major priorities – to strengthen the base of community football statewide, and to develop a pathway to “our own Tasmanian AFL team”.
“I want to be clear that we’re not looking to end our important relationships with Hawthorn and North Melbourne,” Mr Gutwein said.
“Rather, we need the AFL and our AFL partners ... to work with us to develop an appropriate transition plan over a sensible timeframe that will rebuild our football foundation, and also provide us with a national licence.”
Mr Gutwein said despite Tasmania being a proud football state, male participation rates were collapsing.
“We know that without a strong base, without a strong foundation, football in Tasmania will continue to decline.
“The Tasmanian football community is determined to define its own future, and present a united Tasmanian plan for football to the AFL.”
Mr Kennett said Hawthorn was happy to work with the state government and Tasmanian stakeholders to build up local football interests.
However, the last thing Mr Kennett said the club wanted was for a team to fail, and to fail consistently.
“We learn from that all the time,” he said.
“Now there’s a lot of examples around the AFL family at the moment, which should be of concern to everyone in terms of funding, in terms of player movement, et cetera,” Mr Kennett said.
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“I guess the challenge is at some stage for the government and the opposition working together … to set a date [to aim for], and then look at the ingredients you need to put together a team that is actually going to work.”
Mr Gutwein said he remembered the fight that Tasmania had to go through to have the Tasmanian cricket team enter the national Sheffield Shield competition in 1977.
“In the period since joining the national competition, on a per capita basis, we have produced more international cricketers than any other state or territory,” he said.
“I would argue that Tasmania should have, and deserves, that same opportunity for football.
“I believe we must strengthen and rebuild our football base, and with our partners work together. We must agree upon a sensible pathway that when the time is right, Tasmania should rightfully be able to enter the national football competition.
“It will not be an easy journey, and there will be those who will oppose us, there will be arguments made as there was with cricket – that we’re not good enough, that we can’t afford it, and if we do enter the competition we will never be successful.
“We are proud and confident. We know that Tasmanians deserve the same opportunities that the rest of the states of this country now take for granted.
“Tasmania, like every other state in this country, should be part of the national competition.”
Mr Kennett said the Hawks were “happy to be a part” of the process for Tasmania to enter the AFL, however, there was still a contract in place with Hawthorn for the next four years.
“In three years time, we will sit down with the [state] government, and we will discuss how that next contract will look,” he said.
“You’ve got to understand that from our point of view, our first responsibility is to our stakeholders, which is our members, and then to Tasmania.”