North Melbourne has confirmed it will push to play three home games in Hobart next year as the AFL appears to have drawn the battle lines over the future of home-and-away football in Tasmania.
Deputy chief Gillon McLachlan on Tuesday confirmed the AFL would strive for a one-team model in the state, a comment that genuinely surprised both the league’s Tasmanian home clubs, Hawthorn and the Kangaroos.
“We have an ideal model, which is a single team representing Tasmania. Who that is and what format that takes is a complex question,” McLachlan said after cementing the restructure of the island state’s football body.
His comments came after a strong campaign in recent weeks for a one-team model in Tasmania in a bid to unite the bitter divisions between north and south. Richmond chief and departing Tasmania AFL board member Brendon Gale has also been a vocal supporter of the one-team model.
The AFL has indicated it would support an eight-home game model in Tasmania split between Launceston and Hobart with the Hawks privately believing the league would prefer a weaker club to cement itself in Tasmania as an equalisation measure.
Hawthorn chief Stuart Fox said he would schedule talks with McLachlan this month in a bid to fully understand the AFL’s strategy. ‘‘Today was the first indication of the AFL’s intent into the future,’’ Fox said. ‘‘Our view is that a hybrid eight-game model would be a better option and that it would take a Tasmanian home team being implemented for us to support removing our presence.
‘‘We’d be pretty curious as to whom the AFL sees as going there because we don’t think it’s us and we could not justify that many games there. We have 55,000 members here.’’
In 2011, the AFL offered Hawthorn $7.5 million to vacate Tasmania in favour of North, a move controversially rejected by then president Jeff Kennett.
North boss Carl Dilena said North hoped to achieve a long-term deal with the soon-to-be-redeveloped Blundstone Arena in Hobart, which in 2015 will seat close to 20,000 spectators despite the league’s preferred two-year deal. ‘‘We can achieve an extra game there next year with the new Etihad agreement,’’ Dilena said, ‘‘but no more at this stage.’’
McLachlan said he was yet to speak to either club about the future of the game at the highest level beyond the Hawks’ contract, which expires in 2016, but it is understood the AFL will encourage the Kangaroos to sign a short-term agreement with Blundstone Arena in line with the Hawks’ expiry date with Aurora Stadium in Launceston.
“Everyone understands they [the Hawks] have another two years on their contract to run and I feel very confident North Melbourne will renew their arrangement for at least another couple of years in Hobart and the appropriate time to review that will be post-16.’’