New Tas premier to push AFL club quest

Oliver Caffrey |

New Tasmania premier Jeremy Rockliff is determined to finish off predecessor Peter Gutwein’s work and ensure the state has its own AFL club.

Gutwein has been the most powerful advocate in pushing the case for Tasmania to become the AFL’s 19th team.

After Gutwein’s surprise resignation this week, thoughts turned to how a change in premier would affect Tasmania’s bid during such a crucial period.

All 18 AFL presidents will vote in August to decide if Tasmania should be the first new club in the competition since GWS in 2012.

Just last month, Gutwein announced plans for a new state-of-the art 27,000-seat stadium in Hobart’s CBD should the Tasmanian bid be accepted.

If presidents vote in favour, a Tasmanian team would likely enter the AFL in 2027 or 2028.

After being elected unopposed by the governing Liberal Party on Friday, Rockliff declared his intentions for the proposed AFL team.

“We have demonstrated that we can take our place at the national sporting stage,” Rockliff told reporters.

“Peter Gutwein, to his great credit, has been instrumental in getting us as close as we’ve ever been to securing an AFL licence. 

“I am determined to finish what he started, so that Tasmania has its own team once and for all.”

Tasmanian AFL taskforce member Grant O’Brien praised Gutwein’s contribution and dispelled fears over any implications for the bid.

“(The resignation) wasn’t expected, and as a result we’ve all been running around since making sure everything remains on track, which it is,” O’Brien told SEN.

“He’s been a terrific leader of the state, a genuine champion of the state’s AFL push, but it’s not dependent on one person.

“I think his influence and input shouldn’t be lost and won’t be lost.

“We’ve been talking to him since his decision to step down and he remains keen to be involved.”

In a massive coup for the taskforce, four-time Hawthorn premiership coach Alastair Clarkson is helping out with Tasmania’s push.

The state has recently made a huge push to increase its participation in domestic sporting competitions, with the Tasmanian JackJumpers enjoying a solid debut season in the NBL.