While the likelihood of the AFL actually expanding past 18 teams are slim, nothing is out of the question. The only problem that the AFL faces is that there aren’t really that many more major towns to expand to. So, we thought we’d lighten the AFL’s controvery filled load by narrowing down to 5 places that could be possible locations for an AFL team.
1. Hobart, Tasmania
This one is sort of obvious. If we’ve seen anything from Hawthorn’s games at Launceston is that AFL is alive and well in Tasmania. In 2016, the 3 games at Aurora Stadium drew an attendance of 55,418, with an average of 13,855. While this may not be considered a massive number, Aurora stadium had a higher average attendance than games at Spotless Stadium and Metricon in the same year. The AFL also played 3 games at Blundstone Arena, also in Tasmania. These games generated 46,946. In total, Tasmania saw a total of over 100,000 fans walk through the gates. In addition, a total attendance for both stadiums in 2015 was 99,303, in 2014 it was 76,642, and in 2013 it was 76,438.
The market for an expansion to Tasmania is there. Whether the AFL chooses to capitalise is another question. Over the years, there has been talk about relocation to Tasmania, especially when North Melbourne was in financial trouble. While that chapter may have closed, the discussion has emerged of the Suns relocating if the Gold Coast experiment fails. If not, then a push to make Tasmania the location of club #19 could be worth looking at.
2. Darwin, Northern Territory
Again, this is a slightly obvious one. The Northern Territory is currently the only state/territory in Australia with no professional sports team. Their highest team is the Northern Territory Thunder playing in the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL). In recent success, the Thunder have won the premiership in 2011 and 2015.
Considering the level of talent coming out of the NT, the AFL would be able to develop the young players. Considering that this would be the NT’s first major sporting team, support would be high. And, with a number of starts coming from the Territory, players may consider returning to their home state. Plus, imagine the fun the NT Times would have with the back page.
3. Canberra, ACT/Central NSW
Currently, both forms of rugby have a monopoly over Australia’s capital. However, that doesn’t mean the AFL hasn’t shown promise in the games that have been held there. Manuka Oval bosted strong numbers as well for a city that hasn’t been dominated by Aussie rules. Last season, GWS round 19 clash against Richmond had a 14,000+ attendance.
On a more strategic level, placing a team in the same town as the Raiders and Brumbies would mean that the AFL once again is actively seeking to be the biggest non-soccer code in Australia.
4. Cairns, Queensland
Whether the AFL wants to admit it or not, the Suns are a struggling club. Despite the fact that no team has been successful on the Gold Coast, the AFL still are trying to convince people that having a club located in a holiday destination and a team full of young players would be a smart idea. As seen on the list already, the AFL should look to expand the rural areas. Similar to the previous entrances, trials games have been tested. Of course, while this is a small market, if the AFL is willing to throw money at it (which of course they are willing to), the AFL can set up a club and watch it grow it to something big.
5. Ballarat, Victoria
This has the same reasoning as Cairns, but an additional reason: it’s Victoria. The home of the AFL and a state with 10 teams. And Ballarat is one of the bigger towns in Victoria, with a population of over 100,000. And what’s more, a population of 100,000 who love their AFL footy. As much as the AFL also tries to deny this, they will always have a soft spot for Victorian teams. And when the Crows, Port, Giants and Swans are dominating, maybe an additional Victorian team will “balance” things out. If not, they could always just give the eventual Ballaratt team every draft pick for the next 20 years.