In 2020, one of the most influential figures in North Melbourne’s modern history, Ron Joseph, warned that while the club had won the battle of the Gold Coast, the battleground had shifted to Tasmania and the imminent threat of relocation to the Apple Isle.
“Now it’s the battle of Tasmania, and that is well and truly on,” Joseph told The Age.
Joseph was referring to North’s successful fight to remain south, at Arden Street, rather than accepting an AFL shove – promising money, players, a stadium and so forth – to relocate to the Gold Coast. He was one of the fiercest and most effective warriors against the Gold Coast push, assisting James Brayshaw’s takeover of the board in 2007.
North have seen off a number of attempts to nudge the club to another market. In 2010, there was a possibility that the Roos could play seven games in a mix of Hobart and Launceston – essentially picking up Hawthorn’s games, an option the AFL favoured – but Hawthorn’s Jeff Kennett out-flanked the AFL by exploiting the north-south divide in Tasmania and retained Hawthorn’s share.
Today, after the release of the Colin Carter report on Tasmania’s bid for an AFL team, North face a familiar public discussion about the club’s future.
Implicitly, the Carter report and the Tasmanian premier’s aggressive stance on Tassie’s need for a team have issued North with a choice, if not in 2021 or even 2022, then in the near future: either develop an exit strategy from Tasmania – which means finding an alternative to the $4 million gross revenue that the state provides ($2 million net, according to North) – or sit down with the Gutwein government of Tassie and try to strike a “joint venture” deal that both parties can accept.
North, quite reasonably, are defiant about remaining in Melbourne.
Gillon McLachlan told the media on Friday that Tasmania represented a “50-100 year opportunity” for a Victorian club. But he added that it was a matter for the members and boards of those clubs to decide for themselves.