Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has taken aim at the AFL, declaring the Hawks’ Tasmanian-based supporters have not been given the “recognition” they deserve in the 2018 fixture.
In a missive sent to club members on Wednesday, Kennett also revealed the club’s plans to become the first to 100,000 members.
The Hawks will play four home matches in Launceston next year, against St Kilda (round six), Port Adelaide (round 11), Gold Coast (round 14) and the Brisbane Lions (round 17), although the latter could boast the subplot of Luke Hodge facing his former side for the second time.
The Hawks have long wanted a heavyweight Melbourne-based club to make the trip south but that again won’t happen next year.
“There was some good and exciting news [in the fixture] but sadly I am disappointed in the matches designated for Tasmania,” Kennett said.
“Apart from the first game against St Kilda, all our Tassie games are against interstate teams.
“While I respect those teams, I have long argued that the Tasmanian community would like to see some of the older Melbourne clubs on our schedule. It is very disappointing for Tasmanians who love their football and we believe they should be given better recognition by those who administer the game.”
They will have home matches at the MCG against Collingwood, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Essendon and Geelong next season and will host West Coast at Etihad Stadium.
It has been pointed out that should the Hawks host a more prominent Melbourne-based team in Launceston, this could hurt the bottom line of their Melbourne-based games, not to mention upset the majority of their local members.
Kennett has been vocal about the club’s Tasmanian interests since reclaiming the presidency in a bloodless coup last month.
The Hawks are contracted with the Tasmanian government to stage five home games in Launceston, including a pre-season clash, until the end of 2021. The five-year extension, brokered in 2015 when there was a year to run on the old contract, is worth about $4 million annually to the club.
While I respect those teams, I have long argued that the Tasmanian community would like to see some of the older Melbourne clubs on our schedule.
– Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett on the club’s Tasmanian fixture
Kennett has repeatedly said he believes the AFL does not want the Hawks to remain in the state beyond the current deal, with suggestions the preferred option would be to have North Melbourne, which stages three home games in Hobart, take over the whole region.
However, he welcomed the club’s opening three matches – against Collingwood, Geelong and Richmond – at the MCG next season, but overlooked the fact the Hawks’ also have a fourth-straight match at the MCG, against the Demons. He turned the spotlight on coach Alastair Clarkson and his team to begin the new campaign better than it had this year.
“The opening games will be tough for all teams as everyone emerges from pre-season. But good teams should never complain about competition and, if you can’t win games against good teams, you are not a top-four candidate. So we need to be on song to start the season better than we did this year,” he said.
The Hawks lost their opening four matches and five of their first six this year and were unable to recover to make the finals in a season when they were hit by long-term injuries to premiership stars.
Kennett said the Hawks already had 50,000 members signed for next season, and wanted to double this.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were the first club to reach that milestone?” he said.