The coach overseeing the latest A-League inroads into Tasmania believes the state should be part of a further competition expansion.
In the space of six days next week, Tasmania will double the number of A-League matches it has hosted and Western United coach Mark Rudan has a simple answer for whether that should become a more regular occurrence.
"I think the state gets overlooked a lot in national sport," Rudan said. "They have a very strong case to have their own team and if there is a genuine interest there and we are looking to expand the game, then why not?"
UTAS Stadium, which will host United matches against Central Coast Mariners (April 17) and Wellington Phoenix (April 22), will be the fifth home venue for the franchise which was formed in 2018 and is based in the western Melbourne suburb of Truganina.
United joined the A-League in 2019, with NSW outfit Macarthur following a year later, but Rudan is adamant that the competition, which replaced the National Soccer League in 2004, must expand beyond its current 12 teams.
"I am in a unique position to understand the challenges and, at times, frustrations of the state being overlooked."— Rob Shaw (@TheShawThing) April 5, 2021
The Tasmanian steering the @wufcofficial@ALeague move into his home state.@FootballTas@FootballAUS@OfficialBHAFC@utasstadiumhttps://t.co/0zlkE3KcKx
"We certainly have to increase and I think 16 is a good number so we are four short.
"More teams means more opportunities. I began playing in the National Soccer League in 1993 when there were 16 teams. There were a lot of opportunities for young players coming through but now we're seeing talented footballers walking away from our game through lack of opportunities and that disappoints me greatly.
"I think the NSL was fantastic and it's better to have 12 professional clubs but I would like to see 16 at the very least and the question should not be 'Why Tasmania?' but 'Why not Tasmania?'
"It's great for us to bring games to Tasmania. I know there's been a lot of talk to try and get a Tasmanian side into the comp, but it's up to us to grow the game and we have this opportunity to do that."
The same Launceston venue hosted Tasmania's only two previous A-League fixtures, when Melbourne Victory drew 1-1 with both Gold Coast United (in front of 5268 supporters in 2012) and the Mariners (6238 in 2013), but Rudan believes the state has a geographical advantage for inclusion in the comp.
"Having worked with Fox Sports, I understand the importance of kick-off times to becoming a really good TV sport.
"Tasmania is in that Eastern Seaboard timeslot. People might say that there is not enough population there, but everything is geared towards TV and how the game can be watched at a reasonable hour and that ticks a big box for the people of Tasmania whereas we have teams in Wellington and Perth that are three hours away."
Having closely observed the transition from the NSL to A-League, the 45-year-old former junior international believes the code is heading in the right direction.
"The code had to become fully professional. Professionalism is the most important thing so that players are earning a living from the game.
"In the NSL, we still only had three or four clubs that were fully professional so the clubs could not provide the financial security for players to become full-time - 80 per cent of players had to work as well as play."
Moving between Australia's biggest two cities, Sydney-born Rudan has witnessed many similarities as United sought to establish itself.
The question should not be 'Why Tasmania?' but 'Why not Tasmania?'Western United coach Mark Rudan
"Being from the west of Melbourne is no different to the west of Sydney. The area is full of hard-working, blue-collar, passionate people and a lot of immigrants looking for a new life. We want to engage with that community and it's important they feel a part of us.
"It's been hard work but very rewarding at the same time. Building a club is tough and there's a lot of work involved building a culture and values which I try to do wherever I go."
The son of Croatian parents, Rudan grew up in a generation which saw the likes of Mark Viduka, Vince Grella, Harry Kewell, Craig Moore, Josip Skoko and Zeljko Kalac go on to play top-tier European soccer.
He is concerned that this trend may be drying up and believes soccer has a long way to go to become the dominant football code in Australia.
"There is either a realistic answer or an idealistic answer to that," he said.
"People say football is this Goliath waiting to emerge, and in terms of junior numbers it is the biggest sport and the girls' game especially has exploded incredibly.
"And the Women's World Cup coming up (in 2023) is another opportunity for us as a nation to grasp an opportunity and take it forward which we did not do when we won the Asian Cup on home soil (in 2015).
"We cannot keep missing these big opportunities and that was one we really missed.
"We have to look at what the AFL and rugby union and rugby league do well and need to get better at that. To brainwash young kids we need more opportunities and in Victoria you'd be hard-pressed just to find a rectangular ground. It's a really tough struggle but the opportunities are there for sure.
"I think we have a long way to go to overtake AFL. Living in Melbourne, AFL is an absolute beast. The first 20 pages in from the back of a newspaper are all AFL with stories about how a young player did after coming on at three-quarter time - every minor detail.
"I cannot understand it but I have appreciation for how well AFL instil the game into the people of Victoria. But there's a hundred years of history gone into that, and the NRL, and we've only been a national competition since the late '70s."