Image: AAP/Loic Le Guilly
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has guaranteed Tasmania will be given adequate list-building tools to field a competitive team from its debut season in 2028.
A bullish McLachlan insists the league heeded lessons from expansion experiences with Gold Coast and GWS, which it intends to put into practice when setting up the 19th club.
The Suns and Giants were handed suites of draft concessions, with a view to those clubs achieving long-term success.
GWS reached a grand final in 2019 but Gold Coast are yet to crack the top eight.
McLachlan indicated Tasmania’s list-build will be less reliant on high-end draft picks, with salary cap concessions and greater access to free agents set to come into play.
Additional draft picks will likely be spread across multiple drafts, with some of those to be traded for experienced players.
Tasmania will also reportedly have access to $1 million or more to spend outside the salary cap on sign-on bonuses to entice experienced players.
“The drafts will be much less compromised than they have been in the past,” McLachlan told reporters on Wednesday.
“Free agency gives us leverage to do that.
“We’ve seen that actually there’s a lot of mature players who are ready to play who are not getting games across the board.
“There’s more mechanisms now, there’s more liquidity in the player market and we believe we can use that to have a very competitive team from day one with much less impact on the competition.”
McLachlan also hinted the AFL will seek to ensure an adequate number of Tasmanian players are representing their home club.
The team could be given priority access to elite junior talent from the island state, with a talent academy pathway in the works.
“The vision is that Tasmanians are playing for the Tasmanian team,” he said.
“I’m pretty optimistic that will be a path forward, that young talented girls and boys of the day will be playing for the Tasmanian team ongoing.”
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said rival AFL clubs have already started preparing defences against talent raids from Tasmania.
The Demons have locked away two of the game’s best players – Clayton Oliver (2030) and Christian Petracca (2029) – beyond the new club’s planned 2028 entry date.
“This has been something that’s been spoken about for a while now, so I’m sure clubs have looked into that,” Goodwin told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the impact of Tasmania’s list build on existing clubs.
“The detail is still to come about the impact of what that’s going to look like but … if you look at the fundamentals for our game, it (Tasmania’s entry) is just great for our game.
“So I think everyone’s going to embrace it, everyone’s going to get behind it and there are going to be challenges internally for clubs to deal with.”
St Kilda coach Ross Lyon is hopeful having former GWS staff members Stephen Silvagni and Graeme Allan on their books, as list manager and head of talent and acquisition respectively, will benefit the Saints as they prepare for Tasmania’s entry.
“All clubs will be strategising in the background,” Lyon said.
“Because they (Allan and Silvagni) were at GWS in the formative years and they understand it quite well, I think it hopefully gives us a competitive advantage.”