A new partnership between Tasmanian football and North Melbourne will open up a VFL pathway to the state's top-end talent.
Eight players - one from each TSL club and another from the state's North-West - will be given a spot on North Melbourne's VFL development list with a view to representing the Roos periodically throughout the season.
It is intended that all eight players will get the chance to play for the Roos' VFL side in 2021 while still regularly lining up for their TSL clubs.
Six of the eight players have already been locked in; Miller Hodge (Launceston), Tom Donnelly (North Launceston), Harrison Gunther (Glenorchy), Jake Steele (North Hobart), Elijah Reardon (Kingborough) and Bailey Boag (Burnie), with the remaining two spots to be filled before the new season begins.
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North Melbourne football boss Brady Rawlings, who played 245 games with the Roos after being drafted from Devonport, said the aim of the partnership was to put talented Tasmanian players aged 19-22 under the eyes of recruiters.
The Kangaroos will cover all costs of the arrangement, which will see players fly up the day before the game to take part in training and meetings before playing and returning to Tasmania.
"It's really for players we think have got some AFL attributes that might still harbour ambitions to be drafted," Rawlings said.
"We're not in this to win games of footy - otherwise we would have been going to get Sam Siggins and Josh Ponting - we're here for opportunities for players that missed out on the draft of late.
"We're not going to try and pick players so we win that week, it's all about development for our own players in the VFL and development for these Tassie players.
"We just want to provide a pathway for your current 16, 17, 18-year-old player that's coming through and he sees Tom Donnelly or Miller Hodge getting a game at VFL and it shows there's that opportunity for him in future as well and that there's a pathway for players.
"It's not just AFL or nothing, they can still get exposure by staying in Tasmania and playing VFL footy for North Melbourne."
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The new partnership extends North Melbourne's increasing ties to the state which also include an AFLW alliance, Next Generation Academy, four games a season at Bellerive Oval and a host of Tasmanian-born personnel.
"We're committing to this program for the football in this state, but it's not the only commitment we make to Tassie - we've got the most Tassie players on our list in AFL, the most in AFLW, we've got a president, a GM of footy, senior coach and our head of recruiting all from Tassie," Rawlings said.
"So we feel like there's plenty that we've got here that hopefully gives a lot of Tasmania some faith that we're trying as much as we can to help out Tassie footy."
The Kangaroos VFL program will be headed up by the club's development coaches including Leigh Adams - another former Roo and a Tassie Devils best and fairest winner in 2007 - and ex-Collingwood star Gavin Brown.
The eight Tasmanian players will have access to online coaching sessions over the course of the season to familiarise themselves with North's set-up, with 'one or two" of the group set to pull on a Roos guernsey each week.
Rawlings said further development opportunities could also extend to TSL coaches and Tassie Devils juniors.
"We think we can spread the games out pretty well and give most [of the eight] guys an opportunity depending on discussions with their coaches as to whether they're ready," he said.
"We'll also be giving opportunities throughout the year to players in the Devils program if the coaches feel a 19-year-old is up to taking the next step and we can bring them up and play them without having to have them on the list.
"The other thing with this program is we're very open for a TSL coach to come over and be involved on a weekend when there's a bye or no clash and they can sit in the box - we're very open to that to promote professional development for Tassie coaches as well."
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