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ANALYSIS: What the AFL could learn from the Tasmania JackJumpers

Updated: Feb 19, 2023

The JackJumpers are the new team in the NBL, and they've already attracted thousands of fans - so what can the AFL learn?

The National Basketball League (NBL) announced in 2020 a new team based in Tasmania. Home to more than 500,000 people, the sport-loving state has few teams to call their own.

Tasmania has had a total of 3 NBL teams in the past - the Devonport Warriors, Hobart Devils, and Launceston Casino City - they have yet to make any long-lasting impact in the NBL during their existence.

The Warriors lasted only a year. The Devils lasted 13 years but never made a finals appearance, and the Casino City, who joined in '81, won the grand final in '82 and then went defunct in '83. They were on top of the world until hitting rock bottom a year later (much like many in an actual casino).

Since 1996, Tasmanians have been starved of sport, and the two things it seems they couldn't want more are an NBL and AFL team to be home to their state.

The NBL delivered in 2020 and executed it to perfection. The JackJumpers have fit into the NBL flawlessly in their first two seasons, filled with a brand, a story, and a game-winning team, with Tasmania getting around the franchise.

JackJumper fever has hit Tasmania like a tonne of bricks. For the first time in a long time, the state has a team to embrace and call its own. Home games at the 5,000-capacity stadium, Derwent Entertainment Centre, have been filled to the brim for JackJumper games with thousands of buzzing fans.

So why is this all important to the AFL?

Tasmanians have been asking for an NBL and an AFL team for a long time. The NBL heard the state's cries for action and acted while the AFL has been beating around the bush for about 30 years.

The AFL has focused more on relocating a struggling Victorian club to Tasmania since the 1990s, first having the Fitzroy Lions play two home games in Hobart in 1991 before stopping the year later because of a significant financial loss contributing to Fitzroy's merger with the Brisbane Bears in July 1996.

Then, in 2001, St Kilda and Hawthorn signed a deal with the Tasmanian government to play four home games a season in Launceston. The Saints ended their contract going into the 2007 season, but Hawthorn has kept their deal to this day.

It was getting somewhere, but Tasmania still wanted its AFL own team, and the government was losing patience with the AFL.

In 2008, then-AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou was reported as telling the Tasmanian Premier "not now, not ever" when it came to an AFL team in the state.

North Melbourne signed the same deal as Hawthorn in 2012 to play four home games a season in Tasmania and is also playing in Hobart to this day.

Many can understand the AFL's decision not to grant Tasmania an AFL team, as grassroots AFL participation has reportedly halved in the last couple of years. But plenty still want to see it happen.

Even though it is a much larger competition, the AFL could learn from the NBL's success in introducing a Tasmanian team into the organisation and how Tasmanians have rallied around the club and turned up for games.

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