The AFL will be represented in every Australian state after the addition of Tasmania to its roster in 2028, it was announced today.
An as yet to be named team based in Hobart will become the 19th side competing in both the mens’ and womens’ national competition, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said at a press conference in the state’s capital.
“Our time has finally come,” said Tasmania’s Premier Jeremy Rockliff. “Today at midday, we changed the course of history for not only the AFL, but for Tasmania itself.
“This has been a hard fight by many, many Tasmanians over a number of generations, and I want to pay tribute to the believers.”
Saying the decision was long overdue he cited notable former players from Tasmania, including legends like Darrel Baldock, Michael Richardson and Royce Hart, as well as modern day stars Jack Reiwoldt, Lachlan Cowan and Alex Pearce.
Similar sentiments were echoed by McLachlan and acting Prime Minister Richard Marles, with McLachlan saying: “Today is about recognising Tasmania belongs in our AFL and AFLW competitions. Belongs in the national football conversation and belongs in the national fixture.”
Marles declared “[today] we resolve unfinished business in Australia’s national footy project”.
Questions, however, have been raised over Tasmania’s ability to host a team, with concerns about how competitive it would be.
The Gold Coast Suns, introduced in 2011, have struggled to make an impact in the AFL, having made zero finals and a best-placed finish of 12th in their 12 seasons.
The most recently introduced team, the GWS Giants, have had more success, making the grand final in 2019 and finals on four occasions since they were introduced in 2012.
Witnessing good news confirmed: A 19th AFL team being based in Tasmania will join the competition in five years time. Very historic stuff. 👏#Tasmania
— Kevin P (@KevinP63693059) May 3, 2023
However, McLachlan had no worries about the Tasmanian team’s ability to attract marquee players and be successful.
“There’s more mechanisms now and more liquidity in the player market and we believe we can use that to have a very competitive team from day one with much less impact on the competition,” said McLachlan.
“I’ve certainly spoken to enough star marquee players who love coming down here, starting young families… I’m not worried.
“The vision is that Tasmanians are playing for the Tasmanian team.”
The final hurdle for the Tasmanian team was the lack of a high-quality stadium. However, joint commitments from the AFL, Tasmanian State Government, and Federal Government to bankroll a $715 million stadium in Macquarie Point ensured Australia’s southernmost state would get their team.
The Albanese government will contribute $240 million, with the Tasmanian government investing $375 million, and the AFL promising $15 million to the project. The final $85 million would come from borrowings against land sale or lease for commercial uses.
WE BLOODY DID IT! 19TH TEAM IN THE AFL.
What a day
— Mitch Robinson (@MitchRobinson05) May 3, 2023
With this final hurdle cleared, a 15 minute zoom call with AFL club presidents was all that was needed to confirm the game’s 19th side. The decision was unanimous.
A name is yet to be settled on for the team, with trademark rights to the assumed name, the Tasmanian Devils, owned by Warner Bros.
Main image of Jeremy Rockliff screenshot courtesy the ABC.