Tassie Kangaroos bounce into history
No Christmas rest for the stars of Tasmania’s first AFL team – The North Melbourne Tassie Kangaroos – with training in full swing as they get ready to create history in the New Year.
When the ‘Tassie Kangaroos’ run out onto North Hobart Oval, widely regarded as the state’s spiritual home of football, for the curtain-raiser next February, it will be a landmark event.
And the Tasmanian team that is joining the booming women’s football league in the 2019 season is very much aware of the significance of the occasion.
“I have been dreaming about this moment ever since I was five years old,” Tassie Kangaroos Hobart recruit, Maddy Smith, says.
“I am so excited about the team, this is a pathway and future that the younger generation get to look forward to, and they can aspire to be young female footballers just like us.”
When the team plays its first match before a home crowd, it will be in a special Tassie guernsey – an honour that Maddy doesn’t take lightly.
“I can’t wait; it’s about having a bit of home pride. There’s nothing more special than that,” she adds.
View the video to meet some of our Tassie Kangaroos
The explosion in women’s football has been phenomenal, especially over the past three years with the introduction of AFLW.
It is the fastest growing sport in Australia. A juggernaut that shows no sign of slowing down, especially here in Tasmania with an elite team now in the offing.
“It’s great to show that there is a pathway for women’s football in our state,” another Tassie Kangaroos Hobart recruit, Nicole Bresnehan, says.
“Everything is quite daunting, but at the same time it’s great that we are going to be the role model for a lot of the younger generation coming up. We are just really excited to get all this going.”
The Tassie Kangaroos is a joint venture between the State Government and the North Melbourne Football Club, and its arrival heralds an exciting new era for a football-mad island.
Or, as Premier Will Hodgman enthused as he unveiled the new team: “We are a proud footy state, we love our AFL, and the Tassie Kangaroos is another team Tasmanians can get behind and support.”
Eight of the team are from Tasmania.
They will come together with their Melbourne teammates for matches, and other special events. Football practice, however, will be at home, with permanent training squads based in both Hobart and Launceston.
Two games of the seven-match, nine-week roster, will also be played in Tasmania.
The State Government has committed $500,000 a year for five seasons, ensuring that this island state gets a bigger dose of the top-flight game it is so passionate about.
Brand Tasmania recently visited the North Melbourne Club headquarters and found enthusiasm for this new venture was just as great on the other side of Bass Strait.
“This is massive,” North Melbourne CEO, Carl Dilena, told us.
As well as giving his club a place in the AFLW, Dilena is passionate about player development, and pathways, that this new team will offer for young Tasmanian players.
“Apart from the team itself – where the girls in Tasmania can see some role models who have grown up in Tasmania playing – we are also putting a lot of effort into developing talent in the state through academy programs, and talent identification programs that we have got going,” Dilena explains.
The timing, it seems, could not be better.
“Three years ago, there were seven women’s football teams in Tasmania. There are now 93,” Dilena says.
“That is the extent of growth in Tasmanian football. It just keeps growing, so participation is huge, and there is no end in sight at the moment.”
There is no doubt that women’s football is a powerhouse that has taken off with a vengeance.
And, for the rapidly growing ranks of promising young Tasmanian players – who can now aspire to join an elite team in their home state – there could not be a better Christmas present.
“It’s surreal, I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” Jessie Williams, another Tassie Kangaroos recruit, says with amazement.
“But I am super excited, and I think it’s going to be a pretty busy Christmas.”
Image courtesy of Robert Heazlewood
(included in the picture are Tassie Kangaroos recruits: Maddy Smith, Nicole Bresnehan and Jessie Williams)
10 December 2018, Edition 201