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Tasmania keen to become a one-club state

Isaac Smith of the Hawks in action during the AFL Round 10 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Aurora Stadium, Launceston. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)
Isaac Smith and Jack Ziebell battle during last year's Hawks-Roos game in Launceston
We're an attractive proposition for a club that might want to embrace Tasmania as their primary development market without having to relocate
AFL Tasmania chief executive Scott Wade

TASMANIA is pushing to become a one-team AFL state and might overlook existing incumbents Hawthorn and North Melbourne for another club prepared to embrace the Apple Isle as its primary development market.

AFL Tasmania chief executive Scott Wade told AFL.com.au on Wednesday the ideal AFL model for Tasmania would involve one existing club playing eight matches a year, splitting those games evenly between Launceston's Aurora Stadium and Hobart's Blundstone Arena.

Hawthorn has played 'home' games at Aurora Stadium since 2001 and is contracted to play four home and away games a year there to the end of 2016.

North began playing games at Blundstone Arena in 2012 and has one season to go on a three-year deal to play two games a year.

Wade said the current two-team model had not seen Tasmanians embrace either Hawthorn or North as their own team.

"Hawthorn has done a magnificent job for a long time, and North has made a good start, but to be honest most Tasmanians don't see either as their team," Wade said.

Wade said the Hawks were AFL Tasmania's first choice to become Tassie's sole AFL team given they had embraced the state first.

But he said if the Hawks declined that opportunity, North would not necessarily get second bite at the Apple Isle.

"We actually believe that we're going to be able to present a proposal whereby the state of Tasmania may well be an attractive market for a number of AFL clubs," Wade said.

"We're an attractive proposition for a club that might want to embrace Tasmania as their primary development market without having to relocate.

"We think Tasmania can be a market for a club to prosper. 

"(We want) an AFL club in Tasmania that we can develop a long-term relationship with, whereby the club is one Tasmanians call their own."

AFL Tasmania director James Henderson told News Limited the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and St Kilda were teams that could be attracted to play in Tasmania.

Wade did not expect the proposed one-team model would come in before the expiration of Hawthorn's current contract at the end of 2016.

Tasmanian sports minister Michelle O'Byrne told AFL.com.au the state government welcomed AFL Tasmania's one-team proposal as a step towards Tasmania eventually having its own AFL team.
 
"Our ultimate goal is for Tasmania to have its own team and we know that the AFL in the past has recognised the strength of our case," Ms O'Byrne said. 

"While there are arrangements in place for both Hawthorn and North Melbourne to deliver the elite AFL product at both ends of Tasmania, we will welcome any opportunity to take the next step and for Tasmania to have its own entity join the AFL." 

Wade said AFL Tasmania was working closely with the AFL and its deputy chief executive officer Gillon McLachlan on its proposed new model for Tasmanian football. 

Wade said the ultimate decision on which team played in Tasmania from 2016 would rest with the AFL, as would the decision on whether to extend North's Hobart contract beyond 2014.

The AFL declined to comment when contacted by AFL.com.au.

In late 2010, the AFL attempted to broker a deal for the Roos to play seven games a year in Launceston and Hobart as the AFL's sole Tasmanian team.

That deal fell over partly because then Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett convinced the Tasmanian government to extend its Launceston deal with the Hawks, but North chairman James Brayshaw said at the time the Roos' refusal to consider relocation had also been a factor.

Brayshaw has remained steadfast that North won't relocate under his chairmanship, but in March the club's board successfully opposed a constitutional motion that would have severely restricted the Roos' ability to play more than four games outside Victoria a season.

North told AFL.com.au it was committed to completing its current contract, with any proposed changes to the Tasmanian football model a matter for AFL Tasmania.

Hawthorn declined to comment.

St Kilda CEO Michael Nettlefold said the Saints had "a great affinity" with Tasmania, having played home games in Launceston from 2003-06, but said the club's only focus outside Victoria for the "forseeable future" was New Zealand. 

The Saints played the first home and away game in New Zealand in Wellington this Anzac Day and will play a further four games there over the next two years. 

Nick Bowen is a reporter with AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nick