Amarfio said the Kangaroos wanted to fulfil their “big commitment in Tassie” and to fulfil their deal with their Tasmanian partner, the Spirit of Tasmania, by playing the four games. The Kangaroos also want to fulfil their contract for the four Hobart games next year.
The question of whether games will be played in Tasmania – and how many – is one of the major queries surrounding the AFL’s abbreviated fixture.
The North Melbourne deal to play the four Hobart games is estimated to be worth more than $3 million to the Roos, though the arrangement clearly relied upon crowds. The Spirit of Tasmania is owned by the Tasmanian government.
Hawthorn, who had been scheduled to play four home games in Launceston, have said they want to play games in Tasmania, a position club president Jeff Kennett reaffirmed last Thursday.
There are two apparent obstacles to games being played in Tasmania, by either the Hawks or the Kangaroos in the north and south of the state.
One is the current rules of a closed border for interstate visitors to Tasmania, which would have to be relaxed – or an exemption provided – for the clubs, in order for games to be played, with the teams able to travel back to Victoria.
The other is the public position of the Tasmanian government, with Premier Peter Gutwein suggesting last week that the state was “not in a rush to have AFL played here in front of empty crowds”.
Gutwein’s comment drew a forceful retort from Kennett, who hit back at the Premier’s suggestion that Tasmania did not need crowd-less games. “I’ve got to say that’s very short-sighted and very selfish,” Kennett told SEN.
Kennett subsequently told the Hawthorn website that the Hawks were “absolutely committed” to playing games in Tasmania this year, with the club expressing the hope that border restrictions could be eased later in the season.
Hawthorn chief executive Justin Reeves said the Hawks were working with the Tasmanian government on “what a return to footy in Tasmania may look like”.
Hawthorn’s deal with the Tasmanian government expires at the end of 2021 and is worth about $4 million per season, in what is both a sponsorship and stadium arrangement.
The Tasmanian government is pushing the AFL to have a new Tasmanian team in the AFL competition, rather than the current arrangements for North Melbourne and Hawthorn, by the middle of this decade.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.