Five things Tasmania must get right before its entry into the AFL

After generations of fans longing for their own AFL team, Tasmania has finally won its fight to join the national competition.

It's been a hectic week for the footy-mad people of the footy-mad Island State. On Saturday, the penultimate hurdle was jumped when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced his government would contribute the final $240 million for a new stadium on the Hobart waterfront at Macquarie Point.

The final box was then ticked on Tuesday when the 18 AFL club presidents backed the AFL's desire to grant Tasmania the league's 19th license, as well as an AFLW team, a decision that was soon ratified by the AFL Commission.

On Wednesday afternoon, at historic North Hobart Oval, Gillon McLachlan formally announced the new team is "expected" join the competition in 2028, with a timeline for the women's team yet to be finalised.

That's not a lengthy runway before the team runs out for its first game; they say a week can be a long time in footy, but when you build a club from the ground up, time can function in an opposite fashion - those four-and-a-half years will flash by in a blink of an eye.

So, what are the key issues Tasmania must get right in that time?

Here are five items which should be scrawled in big, bold lettering across the whiteboard of those in charge.

1. Establish a strong culture

Culture is one of the great intangibles in world sport - it's difficult to describe, impossible to grasp, but none-the-less ever-present in successful teams and organisations. From Sydney's famous 'Bloods' culture to Ted Lasso's feel-good fictional 'AFC Richmond' soccer team, every sporting club is forever chasing enrichment when it comes to culture.

In terms of building something from the ground-up, decision-makers for the Tassie team don't have to look too far for inspiration, although the lesson comes from a round ball: The JackJumpers in the NBL, who have shone on and off the court in two short years since their introduction for the 2021-22 season. Expected to struggle in their early seasons, instead the 'JJs' have made two consecutive post-seasons.

And off the court, they've been arguably more impressive, selling out their boutique stadiums in Hobart and Launceston, engaging with the community and inspiring a surge of basketball participation in the state. But how did they do it?

Ahead of their inaugural campaign, players, coaches and staff spent weeks traveling all over the state, engaging with locals -- young and old -- to start to understand exactly what makes the island and its people tick. At one stage, the squad even picked apples at a local orchard, as coach Scott Roth remembers: "Our first official practice was with Andrew Smith, who is the apple grower down here. We were on his property all day, we put them to work, they went to work from 8am to 4pm to find out what it means to be Tasmanian.

"They worked all over the farm picking apples, they were in the restaurant serving, they were in the cider factory bottling, and they rotated in groups and learnt what it meant to work here." Apple picking may not be on the list of team-building exercises for the Tasmanian AFL team, but developing a similar selfless, hardworking and community-oriented culture must be.

This can't be done without getting the right people in the right positions as soon as possible. From the CEO, to the coach, list management boss, and off-field staff, these key figures will lay the foundations which the club can thrive from - or not, if they get it wrong.

A strong off-field culture must also be mirrored on the field, which brings us to our second point - winning.

2. Aim to compete from the first game

The Tasmanian team won't have to think back too far to remember the disastrous early lessons of the AFL's most recent franchises Gold Coast and GWS. Both clubs were gifted extraordinary draft packages ahead of their launches, which, for the most part, they used on the best 17 and 18-year-old talent in Australia.

These young players, however, were not surrounded by enough hardened, experienced teammates, which resulted in them being spectacularly uncompetitive for several years: Gold Coast and GWS won nine from 88 games all up in their first two seasons combined. While the Giants have at least made one Grand Final in their short existence, both clubs are in many ways trapped in a vicious doom loop of using high draft picks, seeing many of them quickly depart for greener pastures, and then using another high draft pick as compensation on another young player.

Tassie must instead cast their minds a few decades further back, to the entries of West Coast and Adelaide in 1987 and 1991 respectively. The Eagles and Crows, established in footy heartland states and backed by a feverous throng of one-eyed supporters, were immediately competitive, soon respected, and at times, even feared.

Winning papers over a lot of cracks. Tasmania must aim to be competitive from the very first game.

3. Maximise support throughout the state

The north-south divide in Tasmania was one of the reasons previous campaigns for a team failed. However, those behind the push for the 19th license believe the new club will unite the state, rather than be cruelled by it.

The Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League are a good case in point; despite having Hobart in its name, the T20 club is supported by cricket fans from Hobart, Launceston, the North-East and everywhere in between.

The JackJumpers too, have enjoyed united support from all parts of the state, with the cricket and basketball teams playing home games in both Hobart and Launceston.

The Tasmanian AFL team must, of course, do the same. The campaign for the 19th license did appear united, with few north-south skirmishes, although club leaders, whoever they end up being, must be ready to dispel any disquiet from other parts of the state that may be jealous of Hobart housing the shiny new stadium, and likely enjoying the lion's share of the games once it's up and running.

This must be a team for all Tasmanians, not just those south of Campbelltown.

4. Fix up the talent pathways and grassroots competitions

For a long time, Tasmania was a veritable production line of some of the game's greatest players -- think Roy Cazaly, Peter Hudson, Royce Hart, Darrel Baldock, Ian Stewart, and Nick and Jack Riewoldt -- but the pickings have been a lot slimmer in recent years. In fact, just 3% of AFL players now come from Tasmania, highlighting just how dire the current talent pathways down south are.

Tasmania is a small state with a small population, so it would be folly to expect the team to ever be dominated by locals. However, that paltry percentage must rise quickly upon entry into the league. Much like the success Sydney, GWS, Brisbane and Gold Coast have with their local academies, Tasmania must aim to produce as much home-grown talent as possible. An academy-style set-up not only allows the team to have first dibs on any local players at the draft, it also enables the club to embed its game-plan in players from much younger age than 'regular' draftees.

Another key focus needs to be the state's grassroots competitions which, in many demographics, have suffered from plummeting participation. This not only weakens the code as a whole in Tasmania, it also limits the numbers of talented athletes pursuing elite careers in football, rather than rival codes.

The island's top-tier local comp, the Tasmanian State League, must receive some well overdue nurturing, both from a financial and leadership aspect. In recent seasons, local clubs with storied histories have been forced to close their doors, and players with AFL dreams have had to move interstate in the hope of catching recruiters' eyes in the VFL, WAFL, and SANFL.

Of the AFL's $360 million commitment over a decade towards the team, some $90 million will be put aside for game development, and $33 million will be for player talent academies. This money must be invested wisely.

5. And last but not least, pick the right nickname

This seems like a no-brainer: The team must be called the Tasmanian Devils, right? Well, it might not be that simple, thanks to entertainment giant Warner Bros' trademarking of the popular cartoon character. There's still hope the AFL, or the new team, will find a way to reclaim the famous moniker -- after all, the state's junior teams are nicknamed the Devils, while the state's VFL team, which competed from 2001-2008, shared that name too.

Other possibilities that have been thrown up include the Mariners, Islanders, Brewers, Apples, Thylacines and Whalers.

Whatever name is chosen, it must be distinctly Tasmanian, which appears to have the backing of incoming AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon, who said on Tuesday: "the name of the Tasmanian team should be owned by the people of Tasmania."

If the Devils nickname is pursued, the new team would probably have to broker a commercial agreement with Warner Bros because they would be using the name to sell apparel and merchandise.

As always, the devil is in the details.