The 1850s →
Organised "Foot-ball" matches have been recorded in Van Diemens Land since 1851 and matches in southern Tasmanian towns of Hobart and Richmond between 1853 and 1855 significantly pre-date those recorded across Bass Strait in suburban Melbourne.
Sean Fagan claims that early matches played in Tasmania may have been an early form of rugby football, pointing to early mentions of goal posts with cross-bars and offside rules of later Tasmanian clubs.
However, apart from the fact that they were organised and played, few details of these matches actually survive, and the popularity of football in the fast-growing colony of Victoria quickly eclipsed the following that the pastime had in newly named colony of Tasmania.
The first clubs →
The "football" club formed in New Town in 1864 is believed to be the earliest in Tasmania - but disbanded soon after. By the mid- to late 1860s, more stable clubs, including Derwent and Stowell Football, emerged.
It was not until the adoption of "Victorian Football Rules" in 1866 that Tasmanian football was properly organised and recognised, and even by then some clubs may have for a brief time continued playing by their own rules.
In 1871 the Break O'Day club was formed and in 1875 the Launceston Club was created. Other clubs to start soon after were Longford (1878), Launceston Church Grammar School (1876) and Cornwall (1879), which became City in 1880. The City and Richmond clubs were formed in 1877 and the Oatlands and Railway clubs in 1879.
New Town formally started in 1878 and along with City and Richmond formed the basis of the game in Hobart, while in Launceston the abovementioned clubs formed the basis for the NTFA.
On 1 May 1879 members of the Tasmanian Cricket Association met and decided to form a club for their members, to be called Cricketers. They initially adopted English Association Rules (soccer) before succumbing to the pressure to play Victorian Rules.
Local leagues →
The history of local Tasmanian football differs considerably from any of the mainland states. Whereas mainland states had a major population centre around which a single dominant league was based, Tasmania's population was more evenly distributed. The consequences of this on Tasmanian football history are three-fold: firstly, a strong intrastate rivalry not noted in any mainland state; secondly, three different top-level football leagues in different regions of the state; and thirdly, the ability for teams representing very small towns to be competitive in the top leagues.
The North Hobart FC, 1909 premiers.
The Tasmanian Football League, based around Hobart, began in 1879. The Northern Tasmanian Football Association, based around Launceston, began in 1886. The third top-level league, although not recognised as such until later, was the North West Football Union, contested by teams on the north-western coast of the state west of Latrobe, which began in 1910.
The leagues were small in the pre-WWI era, with only three clubs competing in the TFL and NTFA, and four in the NWFU. Intrastate games between representative teams in the leagues were a regular fixture during these years. In the 1920s, the TANFL (as the TFL was now known) and NFTA expanded to four teams apiece, and the NWFU to six.
After World War II, all leagues underwent further expansion. The TANFL switched to a district-based selection, and expanded to six clubs. The NFTA also expanded to six teams. The NWFU expanded from six teams to as many as fourteen, with a short-lived incorporation of four Circular Head-based clubs, but eventually contracted back to eight.
The local leagues were extremely popular and attracted large crowds. The TANFL Grand Final between Glenorchy and Clarence at the North Hobart Oval in 1979 attracted a record crowd of 24,968 which, although ostensibly small in comparison to mainland crowds, represented 15% of Hobart's population at the time.
Statewide Competition →
There were always attempts made to somehow consolidate the major Tasmanian leagues into one statewide competition. The earliest and longest-lasting was the Tasmanian State Premiership, which began (officially) in 1909 as a single Grand Final game between the TANFL and NTFA premiers, for the right to be the State Premiers. The Hobart-based teams initially dominated, winning the first fourteen such contests. In 1950, the NWFU Premier was also invited to contest for the State Premiership. The final State Premiership was played in 1978.
The next attempt at statewide competition was the Winfield Statewide Cup, a seven-week tournament played prior to the 1980 season amongst all twenty teams in the TANFL, NTFA and NWFU, plus one team from the Circular Head Football Association (Smithton, who would join the NWFU that season). The competition was not popular with the northern clubs, who believed the organisation of the league biased towards the Hobart-based league. In response, they refused to play another Winfield Statewide Cup. Instead, the NTFA and NWFU joined to form the Greater Northern Football League, which resembled the old Statewide Premiership format, with the winners of the individual leagues playing off for the GNFL premiership. The GNFL experiment lasted only the 1981 and 1982 seasons.
In 1986 and 1987, a true Statewide League was finally realised, when five of the northern clubs left their respective leagues to join the TANFL, renamed the TFL Statewide League: North Launceston, East Launceston and City-South left the NTFA in 1986 (the latter two merging to form South Launceston), and Devonport and Cooee (which was renamed Burnie for the move) left the NWFU in 1987. The two northern leagues merged to form the Northern Tasmanian Football League.
From that point, Tasmanian local football slowly dwindled as teams began to lose money. Clubs began to leave both the NTFL and the Statewide league throughout the 1990s, returning to local or amateur competitions with lower travel costs, or in some cases (such as the TANFL's Sandy Bay Football Club) fold completely. Only six teams remained in the Statewide League by 2000, and after one of the most poorly attended Grand Finals in seventy years, the league folded. The clubs that survived returned to the NTFL and the newly formed Southern Football League.
The Tasmanian Devils and the VFL →
Upon the disbanding of the TFL in 2000, the Tasmanian Devils was formed in 2001 and admitted into the Victorian Football League in its inaugural year. The team played home games in Launceston, Hobart, Ulverstone, Burnie and Devonport during its time in the league. The Devils attracted a strong following in comparison with many other VFL clubs at the time.
From 2005 until 2007, Tasmania was one of two VFL clubs to which the AFL's North Melbourne Football Club was affiliated, meaning that up to six of North Melbourne's reserve players would play for Tasmania. The Devils were wound up at the conclusion of the 2008 season in order to make room for the return of the TFL in 2009.
The Return of the Statewide League →
After an eight-year absence, the Tasmanian Football League made a return in 2009. Ten teams were initially represented: from the south, North Hobart, Glenorchy, Hobart, Clarence, Lauderdale; from the north, Launceston, North Launceston, South Launceston; and from the north-western coast, Burnie and Devonport. All clubs except for Lauderdale had at some stage been part of the original Statewide League.
The league's membership underwent changes in 2014. South Launceston left the league and was replaced by the newly established Western Storm, based in western Launceston; North Hobart was disbanded and reincorporated into a new club called Hobart City; and Hobart, which was to have been a joint partner in the Hobart City club before withdrawing from the deal, was replaced by the Tigers FC, based in Kingston.
Interstate Competition →
Tasmania was a strong competitor in early Interstate matches in Australian rules football, before being incorporated into the Australian Alliance representative team.
AFL Matches →
It was not unusual for teams from the mainland leagues to play exhibition games in Tasmania during the early years. More recently Melbourne-based teams from the AFL have entered into deals to play home-and-away games in Tasmania.
• Fitzroy Football Club - North Hobart Oval (1991-1992)
The Fitzroy Football Club was the first to do so, playing two home games at North Hobart Oval in each of 1991 and 1992.
• Hawthorn Football Club - York Park (2001-)
Since 2001 Hawthorn has successfully cultivated a following in Tasmania, where the membership base has increased from 1,000 to more than 9,000. Recent studies have valued Hawthorn's economic impact in Tasmania and national brand exposure to total $29.5 million in 2014. Since 2006, Hawthorn has increased its presence in the state as part of an agreement with the tourism component of the Tasmanian government, whereby they are contracted to play four games in the state and the Tasmanian Government will be the major sponsor for the club. This relationship was renewed for a further period for five years (2012–16) in November 2011. Subject to AFL consent Hawthorn has offered to play an additional home game in Tasmania as part of the new deal, provided the number of rounds in the home/away season is increased by the AFL to accommodate an 18 team competition.
On July 31, 2015, Hawthorn extended their partnership with Tasmania for a further five years.
• St Kilda Football Club - York Park (2001-2006)
The St Kilda Football Club began playing home matches in Launceston at York Park (later known as Aurora Stadium) in 2001, supported by the Tasmanian government in an attempt to build a local following and leave open a possibility of future relocation. St Kilda ended its arrangement after 2006.
• North Melbourne Football Club - Bellerive Oval (2012-)
The North Melbourne Football Club has confirmed that it will play two games per year in Hobart at Bellerive Oval starting from 2012.
In 2007, there were 4,500 senior players and a total of 32,138 participants in Aussie Rules in Tasmania. A total participation per capita of 5% is the second-highest participation in the country, behind the Northern Territory.
Attendance Record →
24,968 (1979). TFL Grand Final Glenorchy v Clarence (North Hobart Oval, Hobart)
Major Australian Rules Events in Tasmania →
• Australian Football League Premiership Season (Hawks 'home' games)
• Tasmanian State League Grand Final
• Southern Football League Grand Final
• Northern Tasmanian Football League Grand Final
In 2004 the Board of Management of AFL Tasmania named a Team of the Century for the state. It had 18 on field and seven interchange players as well as an umpire, coach and assistant coach.
Team of the Century:
B: Verdun Howell / Tassie Johnson / Ivor Warne-Smith
HB: Barry Lawrence / Laurie Nash / Brent Crosswell
C: Rodney Eade / Ian Stewart / Arthur Hodgson
HF: Darrel Baldock (c) / Royce Hart/ Daryn Cresswell
F: Horrie Gorringe / Peter Hudson / Alastair Lynch
Foll: Percy Jones / John Leedham (vc) / Terry Cashion
Int: Neil Conlan, Darrin Pritchard, Paul Williams, Michael Roach, Len Pye, Rex Garwood, Matthew Richardson
Coach: Roy Cazaly
Assistant Coach – Robert Shaw
Umpire – Scott Jeffery
Notable Tasmanian players →
Tasmania has supplied over 300 players to the elite level, including three Australian Football Hall of Fame legends: St Kilda and Latrobe premiership captain and three-time Wander Medallist Darrel Baldock, dual Leitch Medallist and twelve-time league goalkicking champion Peter Hudson and three-time Brownlow Medallist Ian Stewart.
Other players from Tasmania include Hall of Fame inductees Royce Hart, Vic Belcher, Horrie Gorringe, Matthew Richardson, and Laurie Nash; and others including Grant Birchall, Darrin Pritchard, Viv Valentine, George Vautin, Arthur Hodgson, Rodney Eade, John Klug, John McCarthy, Michael Gale, Brendon Gale, Alastair Lynch, Adrian Fletcher, Simon Atkins, Claude Bryan, Jack Cashman, Jack Gardiner, Pat Hartnett, Fred Pringle, Alan Scott, Ted Terry, Ted McDonald, George Challis, Athol Webb, Brad Green, Brady Rawlings, Jack Riewoldt, Russell Robertson, Jade Rawlings, Brodie Holland, Ray Stokes, John Bingley, James Manson, Doug Barwick, Graham Wright, Peter Jones, David Neitz, Nick Riewoldt, Scott Clayton and Garry Lyon.
Representative Side →
The Tasmanian representative team have played State of Origin test matches against all other Australian states. They still play at U19 level.
See Also Interstate matches in Australian rules football
A combined state team usually plays other state competitions around Australia, such as AFL Queensland in 2007, 2009, and 2010.
Governing body →
The governing body for Aussie Rules in Tasmania is AFL Tasmania.
In 2009 the three main community football leagues The Northern Tasmanian Football League, Northern Tasmanian Football Association, and the Southern Football League established the Tasmanian Football Council which is a united body that represents community Footballs interests in the state. The council has membership with the Australian Amateur Football Council.
Leagues & Clubs →
• Hobart City (from 2014)
• North Launceston
• Kingborough Tigers (from 2014)
Tasmanian Football League:
• Burnie Football Club (exited league in 2018)
• Cananore (pre-WW II)
• Devonport (exited league in 2017)
• Hobart (exited league in 2013)
• Lefroy (pre-WW II)
• New Norfolk
• North Hobart (exited league in 2013)
• Sandy Bay
• South Launceston (exited league in 2013)
• Southern Districts
Northern Tasmanian Football Association:
• Deloraine FC (also spent two seasons in the NWFU)
• East Launceston
• George Town FC
North West Football Union:
• Burnie Dockers
• East Devonport
• Tasmanian Amateur Football League (League had southern and northern divisions with a state amateur premiership)
• Tasmanian State Premiership
• Winfield Statewide Cup
• Tasmanian Devils (Victorian Football League) (2001–2008)
• Circular Head Football Association
• Darwin Football Association
• King Island Football Association
• Leven Football Association
• North East Football Union
• Northern Tasmanian Football Association
• Northern Tasmanian Football League
• North Western Football Association
• Oatlands District Football Association
• Old Scholars Football Association
• Southern Football League
Defunct Local Leagues:
• Deloraine Football Association
• East Tamar Football Association - To the ‘Tamar Football Association’
• Esk Football Association
• Esk Deloraine Football Association
• Esperance Football Association
• Fingal District Football Association
• Huon Football Association
• Kingborough Football Association
• Midlands Football Association
• North West Christian Amateur Football League
• North West Football Union
• Northern Tasmanian Football Association (original)
• Peninsula Football Association
• South East Districts Football Association
• Southern Districts Football Association
• Tasman Football Association
• Tamar Football Association - To the ‘Northern Tasmanian Football Association’ (new)
• West Tamar Football Association - To the ‘Tamar Football Association’
• Western Tasmanian Football Association
• Northern Tasmanian Junior Football Association (NTJFA)
• Northern Tasmanian Junior Football League (NTJFL)
• Southern Tasmania Junior Football League
• Masters Australian Football Tasmania
• TANFLUA - Tasmanian Australian National Football League Umpires Association
• NTFUA - Northern Tasmanian Football Umpires Association
• NWUA - North West Umpires Association
Tasmanian Women's Football League:
The Tasmanian Women's Football League (TWFL) was established in 2007 and there are now 8 women's teams in the league statewide.
• Burnie Dockers
• Clarence Football Club
• Glenorchy Football Club
• Launceston Football Club
• Mersey Leven
• South East Suns
• Tiger City
Grand Final results:
• 2008 - Clarence Roos
• 2009 - Clarence Roos
• 2010 - Launceston FC
• 2011 - Clarence Roos
• 2012 - Clarence Roos
• 2013 - Clarence Roos
• 2014 - Burnie
• 2015 - Clarence Roos
• 2016 - Burnie
Tasmanian State League Woman's
On Wednesday 19 April 2017, AFL Tasmania announced the formation of the TSLW. A five-team woman's league which will comprise:
• Burnie Dockers
• Tigers FC
They will compete over a 15-round season, commencing on Saturday 29 April 2017.
Regional Women's Leagues:
• Claremont Women
• Demons Women
• Port Women
• South East Suns Women
• Prospect Hawks
TWL North West:
• Circular Head Giants
• Devonport Magpies
Principal Venues →
• Aurora Stadium
• North Hobart Oval
• Bellerive Oval