Grant O'Brien speaks in July, 2023 after being unveiled as the inaugural chair of Tasmania's AFL club. Picture: Alex Lee

THE INAUGURAL chair of Tasmania's AFL club insists he won't be deterred by ongoing debate and political upheaval surrounding the island state's entry to the national competition.

Unveiled as the new club's first leader on Friday, former Woolworths chief executive Grant O'Brien has plenty of work to do before the 19th AFL team's planned launch date in 2028.

And his mantra is simple.

"We've got to get on with it - 2028 is not that far away," O'Brien said on Friday.

Gill McLachlan, Nicole Livingstone, Grant O'Brien, Jeremy Rockliff and Andrew Dillon on July 7, 2023. Picture: Alex Lee

"There's always been huge support for a club in this state. I don't think there's any denying that.

"We've got to get on and build that club, and that's what we're going to do."

Tasmania's AFL entry remains contingent on the building of a new 23,000-seat roofed stadium at Hobart's Macquarie Point.

The deal has faced public and political opposition, with two Liberal MPs quitting the party in May over concerns about the planned $715 million arena.


O'Brien said he will "leave the politics to the politicians".

"I'm really focused," O'Brien said.

"We've got to build something that Tasmanians will want and that is to be competitive in this competition.

"We've got to be competitive on the ground, which I'm really confident we can be, and we need to be competitive off the ground.

"So in terms of trepidation, I don't have time for that. We've got to get on and build this club."


One of O'Brien's most pressing tasks is to appoint a club board, which he will select as part of a five-person nominations committee that includes AFL chief executive-elect Andrew Dillon.

Former Richmond president Peggy O'Neal, Olympian Liz Jack and Tasmanian AFL Taskforce member Errol Stewart are also on the committee.

Former Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein, who was overlooked for the role of club chair, looms as a likely candidate to fill a spot on the board, which will be appointed by the end of August.

O'Brien said he is also intent on firming up plans for a high performance centre, which he highlighted as crucial to player retention, as well as working with state and federal governments on the new stadium and community engagement.

Gill McLachlan, Nicole Livingstone, Grant O'Brien, Jeremy Rockliff and Andrew Dillon on July 7, 2023. Picture: Alex Lee

Fans will be consulted in selecting the new club's name, theme song and colours, while foundation memberships will be offered before the end of the year.

"This is Tasmania's team," O'Brien said.

"It's owned by Tasmanians and it will be their voice that guides us in what we need to do in putting this team together."

Tasmania-born O'Brien is the also chairman of Tourism Tasmania and chief executive of the Port Arthur Authority.

He played in the Penguin Football Club's 1980 premiership side and offered a light-hearted suggestion as what the Tasmanian AFL club might be named.

"The early favourite is the Penguins ... but I'm not sure that's going to fly," O'Brien said.

O'Brien was unveiled as chair at Dial Park, Penguin's home ground on the state's north coast.