North Launceston president Thane Brady has weighed into the State League debate, calling on the AFL to show Tasmania more respect by boosting funding to the competition.
In an in-depth and frank assessment of the state of Tasmanian football, the outspoken club figurehead said a statewide competition remains pivotal to a healthy future and the prospect of our own AFL team.
"If we are committed to forging ahead with an AFL team of our own, or simply wish to save Tassie footy from falling off the cliff, we must significantly restructure our foundations of football," he said.
"Breeding players for a Tassie AFL team can only occur by raising the standard of the TSL to something close to the South Australian competition.
"This takes investment that's currently lacking, yet achievable if the leadership and support is provided."
Writing exclusively in The Examiner, Brady said the State League is akin to a Tassie footy university but runs "on an oily rag" so cannot be compared to better-funded competitions in South Australia and Western Australia. Why can't we instead demand more of the AFL to show our state the respect it deserves?"
OPINION - by Thane Brady
With another review into Tasmanian football, the release of the Carter Report and the end of the Tasmanian State League licence coming up (in 2023), it's inevitable we again have the debate about the merits of a Tier 1 competition in the state.
AFL Tasmania has not assisted the situation by declaring everything is on hold until the review is released. Even the huge piece of the jigsaw puzzle - the implementation of a statewide salary cap for all competitions other than just the Tier 1 standing out by itself - has been paused.
The AFL is the master - It owns and manages the Tier 1 competition, however, as a member of the TSL pack it feels like the old neglected dog who is rarely shown any love, supported or rewarded for good behaviour.
The argument for Tasmania being the only state not to have a Tier 1 competition is, for me, like advocating to shut down every university in the state.
Tier 1 competitions are aspirational. They are the universities in football - the finishing schools. Players come into the system raw but enthusiastic. They work hard, commit themselves to draining every ounce of their talent and fully developing their abilities leaving nothing on the table.
Tier 1 clubs offer the players the best competition, the best coaching, the best equipment, the best facilities and support staff.
Like every sport, competition drives athletes - many say it's the best form of talent development. The TSL is the Tier 1 competition in Tasmania and is without doubt miles above any other competition we have.
My club currently has five graduates on an AFL team list and more than 100 players who have graduated out of our program competing in community comps across the state. Regardless of where the player ends up they are better for the experience of playing in the highest competition in the state.
Former TSL players, some with only a handful of senior games, dominate local competitions and are prized on the open market where clubs pay handsomely for their services.
So why the knockers and calls to tear it down? Self-interest? Jealousy? Lack of understanding? Tall poppy?
Why can't we instead demand more of the AFL to show our state the respect it deserves?- Thane Brady, North Launceston Football Club president
These same people jump straight onto a TSL graduate who makes it in the AFL - we are all proud Tasmanians then!
Without a TSL Tier 1 competition we are failing our young people instead of supporting and encouraging aspiration.
If we shut down the footy university here and the player is not drafted out of the under-19 NAB league representing the Devils, then the future is either regional footy, where one can live on birth talent alone, or pack the bags and head over to the mainland, possibly never returning and therefore weakening our footy stocks.
As custodians of the game is that really an option we could live with or be proud of? As a person who leads a team of committed people focused on mentoring and helping the next generation of Tasmanians, I couldn't sell these young people out!
The TSL runs on an oily rag. With no AFL teams in our state, the Tier 1 competition does not receive the same support of other states like South Australia and Western Australia. So, the knockers have a crack at the standard of TSL compared to SA and WA without acknowledging the money invested is like comparing apples with oranges. Why can't we instead demand more of the AFL to show our state the respect it deserves?
If we are committed to forging ahead with an AFL team of our own, or simply wish to save Tassie footy from falling off the cliff, we must significantly restructure our foundations of football.
Breeding players for a Tassie AFL team can only occur by raising the standard of the TSL to something close to the South Australian competition.
This takes investment that's currently lacking, yet achievable if the leadership and support is provided.
If we desire our own AFL team and we want our local footy to survive and prosper time is running out to have the conversation: compared to other Tier 1 competitions in Australia, at what level should Tasmania's highest competition be - 20, 50, 70 or 100 per cent equivalent?
Should our players have to continually leave the state to follow their AFL dream, or could we provide a platform equal to South Australia where they can be recognised without splitting up families or putting up roadblocks?
Are we happy to take the risk of weakening Tasmanian community football even further by cutting off the stream of ready-made senior players that the TSL delivers?
Is it time for a Team Tasmania approach rather than handballing management responsibilities off to AFL House that upon every assessment has failed our state significantly?
Ultimately the future is in our hands. Are we finally ready to stand together to save our game?