Let's hypothesise two future scenarios in regards to football in Tasmania.
In scenario 1, the AFL has continued to ignore calls for a standalone Tasmanian team. Despite the state's government-appointed Taskforce presenting what they believe is an ironclad business case that proves Tasmania can not only financially support its own team, but actually add value to the AFL, the league isn't interested. But other sports such as basketball and soccer seize on the opportunity, establishing professional teams in Tasmania which soon sends participation and engagement in those sports skyrocketing past the state's traditional powerhouse sport. Decreased participation means less Tasmanian talent flowing through to the AFL, while fewer eyeballs and dwindling interest eventually hurts the league's bottom line.
Inside the push for a Tasmanian AFL team
Tasmanians are feeling positive about the push for a standalone AFL team based on the Apple Isle.
In the second scenario, a Tasmanian AFL club is launched in the mid-2020s after the league backs the figures put forward to them by the state's government after much research and analysis. The AFL flexes its financial muscle to support the new club, offering it similar assistance to expansion franchises Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney some 20 years before. The Tasmanian club, nicknamed the Devils (how could it be anything else?), regularly packs out its two stadiums at either end of the state for home games. With football solidified as the state's No. 1 sport, grassroots footy in Tasmania is strengthened which results in more draftees flowing through a fortified talent pathway. It becomes clear that the Tasmanian team actually adds value to the competition, rather than being a drain on it.
In the above two scenarios, which is the better outcome for the AFL, and football in Australia as a whole?
It's something AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and the league's commission must strongly ponder as Tasmania's push for a standalone team gathers pace.
Earlier this year, the state's government established a Taskforce to investigate the financial bonafides of an AFL club in the Apple Isle. The decision to establish such a group was a critical shift away from the previous romantic or emotional campaigns for a Tasmanian AFL club - such as 'Tasmania deserves a team because it's a traditional football state', or 'if the AFL really wanted to be a national competition then they do need to establish a club in the southern state'.
Because a decision either way will almost certainly come down to dollars and cents. There's no way the AFL will even consider a 19th license for Tasmania unless key financial questions are answered - namely, whether the state can support its own team for the long-term, and if a Tasmanian club would actually add value to the competition.
The Taskforce, led by Virgin Australia founder Brett Godfrey, will soon report its findings and if the numbers do indeed stack up, Will Hodgman's Liberal government will lobby for provisional AFL (and AFLW) licenses - a foot in the door that should guarantee an eventual pathway to become the league's 19th team.
The ball will then be in the AFL's court. Where they decide to run with it is of course up to them. But it's worth recalling part of Gillon McLachlan's speech on the day he was appointed as league chief on April 30, 2014.
"I have a clear vision of where the game needs to go and how we're going to get there. For me that vision is about having an unassailable hold on the Australian community," he told a packed press conference after taking over from Andrew Demetriou.
McLachlan has already overseen one huge development in broadening the AFL's "hold on the Australian community," as he so put it back in 2014 - the establishment of the women's league, the AFLW, in 2017.
Soon, he'll have another opportunity to make the sport he governs as open and accessible to as much as the Australian community as possible - by supporting Tasmania's push for a 19th license.
It should be an easy decision: if the numbers don't stack up, simply say no. But if they do, there's no reason the 'Tassie Devils' shouldn't be gracing an AFL field some time in the near future.