Tasmania will have its own side in the AFL after being formally awarded the league’s 19th licence by chief executive Gillon McLachlan.
The state, which has for decades pushed for inclusion in the national competition, got across the line with the recent finalisation of funding for a new Hobart stadium – the AFL’s last sticking point.
“Today is about the AFL continuing to live out our purpose of progressing the game so that everyone can share in its heritage and in its possibilities,” McLachlan said on Wednesday.
“Everyone – and today we close the loop.
“Today is about recognising that Tasmania belongs in our AFL and AFLW competitions, belongs in the national football conversation and belongs in the national fixture.”
The licence was unanimously backed by the 18 club presidents on Tuesday and promptly signed off on by the league commission.
May 3 holds a significant place in Tasmania’s football history.
Devonport-born Richmond great Matthew Richardson played his last game on the date, while Ian Stewart reached 100 games and Peter Hudson kicked 16 goals in a VFL match.
The federal government on Saturday announced it would chip in $240 million towards a contentious $715 million stadium project at Macquarie Point in Hobart.
Tasmania will be the first expansion team since GWS were awarded a licence in 2010 and entered the AFL in 2012.
Unlike the Giants and Gold Coast, the AFL’s latest two additions, the Tasmanian team will be born into one of Australian Rules football’s heartlands.
Richardson, Stewart and Hudson are among the island state’s most famous footballers and they all had to move to the mainland for their careers to flourish.
Stewart, Hudson, Darrel Baldock and Royce Hart are Tasmania’s Australian football Hall of Fame legends.
“It will bring a great amount of joy to a lot of Tasmanians – I’ve been in the system for 13 years now and it’s always been spoken about quietly,” Collingwood defender and Tasmanian native Jeremy Howe told AFL360 on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to the place we’re all happy with … I know everyone back home is thrilled and pumped.”
There is already speculation that the team’s probable name, the Tasmanian Devils, would breach a commercial copyright.
The state government will contribute $12 million per year over 12 years towards a team, plus $60 million for a high-performance centre.
It will spend $375 million on the new 23,000-seat roofed stadium, which opponents have labelled a waste of money amid a housing and health crisis.
The AFL is contributing $15 million towards the stadium.
Roger Vaughan and Ethan James
(Australian Associated Press)