AFL

Tasmania's long-term future looks headed for a significant shift

The AFL's long-term future in Tasmania looks headed for a significant directional shift should the competition accept the conclusion drawn by its own review recently completed by former Western Bulldogs chief Simon Garlick.

Despite the state having committed to a new five-year 20-game deal with Hawthorn from 2017 and being on the verge of a new five-year agreement with the Kangaroos, the AFL Commission last month tabled the Garlick report and its preference for a one-team model.

It also recommends that one AFL club — which looks certain to be North Melbourne — gains the rights to young talent across the state and establish a multicultural football academy with the virtual doubling of staff at AFL Tasmania which has been under-resourced in terms of game development and community support.

Gillon McLachlan's response to the review remains pivotal to the game's future in a traditional football state where emerging talent numbers have dwindled over recent decades and which looks to be crying out for leadership in unifying the three regions.

On the eve of his appointment to the top job McLachlan too stated his preference for a one-team model. Whether it was too difficult a battle, strong advice from his departing predecessor Andrew Demetriou, opposition from nervous Tasmanian politicians or heavy pressure from an angry Hawthorn; McLachlan did not act.

That he reportedly remains determined in his view that one AFL club should play out of Tasmania and now has support for that view on paper should set the stage for an intriguing test of his leadership. Because the report does hedge its bets in suggesting two teams currently serve the state well.

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One key casualty of the AFL review into the highly volatile and divided football state was its CEO of the past 16 years Scott Wade.

Although removing Wade was not suggested in the report his swift departure was "negotiated" this week with head office.

Just weeks after Wade told colleagues he was looking forward to implementing the recommendations from the report — which the AFL has not released and which remains on the hands of the Tasmanian Government — came his sudden resignation.

In fact Wade was pushed largely because of his perceived difficult relationship with the Hawks. The reigning premiers of the last three seasons remain anxiously possessive of its long-term partnership with Launceston and the state whose government fund the Hawks to the tune of $3.8 million annually.

Because Wade and his former state football board — disbanded by the AFL which now rules Tasmania from head office — pushed for years for just one team to play home-and-away games across Hobart and Launceston the Hawks always regarded him as obstructive, a thorn in their side.

Wade has said previously his preference was for Hawthorn to expand their relationship but the club refused to extend its annual deal beyond four games a season. The Hawks preferred to run their own race in Tasmania.

Not only has Wade been pushed but his two key football lieutenants have left in recent months leaving AFL Tasmania rudderless and in the part-time temporary hands of one of McLachlan's most trusted senior officials Grant Williams.

Wade's replacement remains crucial to the future of the game in one of football's traditional homes, a home which no longer provides champions with the regularity it once did. And which boasts among Australia's worst unemployment numbers.

Tasmania, whose government sponsors two AFL clubs to the tune of close to $6 million a year, is crying out for a significant financial increase in AFL support. And, while a unifying one-team solution might lay five years away, it has McLachlan's full attention and his sharpest negotiating skills over that time.

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