HAWTHORN president Jeff Kennett has slammed the AFL over the Hawks 2018 Tasmanian fixture, accusing the league of treating the state as an “appendage to the competition”.
The Hawks will play only one Melbourne-based club in Launceston next season — St Kilda under lights in round six — with the remaining three matches against low-drawing teams in Port Adelaide, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
It will be the Lions ninth trip south in 11 years, while the Suns have played in Launceston on five occasions since entering the league in 2011.
The draw has angered Kennett, who last month returned to the Hawthorn role he held from 2005-2011.
“The AFL should be giving the community of Tasmania the opportunity of seeing a greater percentage of Melbourne-based teams,” he said.
“I’m reasonably happy with our total program, but I am disappointed that the AFL continue to treat Tasmania as an appendage to the competition.
“Yes, we have been consulted with regards to this schedule in terms of our fixture, but I don’t think the AFL really appreciate what Tasmania represents and the interest in AFL football in Tasmania.
“I will be taking it up further with the AFL, it won’t affect the program for next year but I would like to see the AFL give Tasmania the respect it deserves.
“Our membership is still very strong down there, we are about 9500 so the support of the Tasmanian community for Hawthorn is at record levels.
“We want to make sure we represent their enthusiasm and their interests as best we can, but the AFL continues to schedule games down there which don’t give people variety.”
Opposition leader Rebecca White said the State Government, which pays more than $5 million in sponsorship for Hawthorn and North Melbourne to play games in Tasmania, needed to include fixturing guarantees for future deals with the two clubs.
“Tasmania makes an investment in the AFL to drive tourism so we need to host teams that have a fan base that’s willing to travel,” Ms White said.
“Fixturing guarantees need to be part of the deals we sign with clubs and the AFL.
“We are in a much stronger negotiating position than we were 10 years ago but the Liberal Government has failed to capitalise on that.”
Ms White however, did not answer questions on Labor’s previous AFL deals.
Premier Will Hodgman again defended the fixture, which also involves North playing Carlton, GWS and West Coast.
“When Labor were in government, there were less AFL games and the fixtures were no better,” Mr Hodgman said.
“Under my Government, there are more games in the North and the South, we’ve established football academies for developing our young players, created a new North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos team to play in the AFL Women’s League, and have secured additional funding from the AFL for grassroots football.”