Tasmanian Football history | Tasmanian Football Club
Vintage team photo

About Tasmanian Football History

Tasmania has a long and distinguished history in the game of Australian Football and has supplied the VFL/AFL and AFLW competitions with some of their finest players, coaches and administrators.

There are reports of football matches in Tasmania as early as the 1850s but these are believed to have been games closer in resemblance to rugby. It wasn’t until the 1860s that 'Victorian Rules', later 'Australian Rules' were adopted.

Tasmania’s first reports of significant football matches date back to 1866 when New Town played Hobart.

Of the early clubs still in existence, the Launceston Football Club (formed in 1875), New Norfolk Football Club (1878), and North Hobart Football Club (1881) are the state’s oldest.

Football competitions steadily emerged in the state’s three regions, with intrastate matches between the north, north west and southern competitions fiercely contested. These parochial rivalries were intense, at times bitter, but they quickly evaporated when players from across the state came together to represent Tasmania.

A Tasmanian team played its first interstate match in 1887 at the MCG. The side led at half time but ultimately lost to Victoria by 27-points.

While triumphs against Victoria have been rare, Tasmania claimed perhaps its most famous win over the ‘Big V’ at Launceston’s York Park in 1960. The team, coached by Jack Metherall, was captained by former Melbourne champion Stuart Spencer and boasted some brilliant locals including Don Gale, Neil Conlan, Burnie Payne, Barry Strange, Col Moore and Murray Steele. This landmark win had its roots in the state side’s performance at the 1958 National Football Carnival where Tasmania defeated both Western Australia and South Australia.

Tasmanian Football Team, 1961

Tasmanian Football Team, Hobart 1961

Tasmania v Victoria, Hobart 1962

Tasmania v Victoria, Hobart 1962

It was during this golden period of Tasmanian football that Victorian clubs began to take an increasing interest in the exceptional talent the island state was producing. A steady stream of players were lured to the mainland to play in the VFL, several becoming household names. Four Tasmanians who relocated to Victoria during this period have been awarded legend status in the Australian Football Hall of Fame: Ian Stewart, Peter Hudson, Darrel Baldock and Royce Hart.

Subiaco Oval, Perth, WA 1963

Subiaco Oval, Perth, WA 1963

In 1990, when the pattern of Tasmania’s best players moving to Victorian clubs was well established, a Tasmanian State of Origin side also inflicted defeat on Victoria in front of a heaving crowd of almost 19,000 at North Hobart Oval. The side was coached by Robert Shaw and captained by Darrin Pritchard, who won three premiership medals playing with Hawthorn. The team included the Gale brothers Brendon and Michael, Paul Hudson, Doug Barwick, Alastair Lynch and Graeme Wright.

At the time, there was a growing push for a Tasmanian team in the newly formed AFL, which had supplanted the VFL at the start of that season. A show of hands in the triumphant Tasmanian dressing room saw almost every player indicate they would return to their home state if a team became a reality.

While the opportunity to join the national league ultimately took more than three decades to materialise, opportunities for female footballers came earlier with the arrival of the AFL Women’s competition in 2017. This led to a huge surge in participation numbers among women and girls in Tasmania with several going on to play at the highest level. Ellyse Gamble, Emma Humphries and Jess Wuetschner were all trailblazers in the early years of AFLW. Wuetschner ultimately tasted premiership success with the Brisbane Lions in 2021.

When Tasmania enters the AFL and AFLW competitions under the moniker of the Devils, this will not be the first time the iconic native animal has been used as the state’s football mascot. After the demise of the Statewide League that ran from 1986 to 2000, Tasmania entered a team in the second-tier Victorian Football League. The Devils went on to reach the Preliminary Final in 2004 before the club was dissolved in 2008 and a state league reinstated.

Regular AFL matches have been played in Tasmania since 2001 with Hawthorn, St. Kilda and North Melbourne all playing some of their home games in the state.

Useful links:
AFL Tasmania
Hall of Fame
Tasmanians in the AFL / AFLW

Tasmanians in the AFL

  • Adelaide
    Chayce Jones (Launceston)
  • Carlton
    Lachlan Cowan (Devonport/North Launceston)
  • Collingwood
    Jeremy Howe (Dodges Ferry/ Hobart)
    Brody Mihocek (Burnie)
  • Essendon
    Jye Menzie (North Hobart)
  • Fremantle
    Alex Pearce (Ulverstone / Devonport)
  • Geelong
    Jake Kolodjashnij (Launceston)
  • Gold Coast
    Lachie Weller (Burnie)
  • GWS
    James Leake (Launceston)
  • Melbourne
    Ben Brown (Glenorchy / Devonport)
  • North Melbourne
    Hugh Greenwood (Lauderdale)
    Colby McKercher (Launceston)
  • Port Adelaide
    Tom McCallum (Clarence)
  • Richmond
    Sam Banks (Clarence)
    Seth Campbell (Burnie)
    Toby Nankervis (North Launceston)
    Rhyan Mansell (North Launceston)
  • St Kilda
    Jimmy Webster (Glenorchy)
    Arie Schoenmaker (Launceston)
  • Sydney
    Robbie Fox (Burnie)
  • Western Bulldogs
    Ryan Gardner (Burnie)
    Liam Jones (North Hobart)
    Ryley Sanders (North Launceston)

Tasmanians in the AFLW

  • Collingwood
    Georgia Clark (Glenorchy)
  • Essendon
    Daria Bannister (Launceston)
    Ellyse Gamble (Burnie)
    Brooke Brown (Launceston)
  • Gold Coast
    Ella Maurer (North Launceston)
    Elise Barwick (North Hobart)
  • GWS
    Madison Brazendale (Launceston)
    Meghan Gaffney (Ulverstone)
  • North Melbourne
    Nicole Bresnehan (Clarence)
    Mia King (Launceston)
  • Port Adelaide
    Lily Johnson (Latrobe / Devonport)
  • Richmond
    Meagan Kiely (Burnie)
  • Western Bulldogs
    Ellie Gavalas (Clarence)
    Brooke Barwick (Glenorchy)
  • West Coast Eagles
    Emma Humphries (Wynyard)

Penguin Womens Team 1958

Penguin Women's Team 1958

Tasmanian Umpires

  • AFL
    Nick Foot (Field)
    Adam Reardon (Boundary)
    Mitchell Le Fevre (Boundary)
    Mark Ensbey (Goal)
  • AFLW
    Tomas McIntee (Field - NTFUA)
    Will Robertson (Goal - NTFUA)
    Dominic Schiliro (Boundary - TFUA)
    Caleb Devine (Boundary)
    Xanthea McCarthy (Goal - TFUA)

AFL / AFLW and mainland state league – administrators and coaches

  • Adelaide
    Hamish Ogilvie (National Recruiting Manager)
  • Brisbane
    Chris Fagan (Head Coach - AFL)
    Grant Birchall (Part-time coach & Match Day Runner)
  • Collingwood
    Brendon Bolton (Director of Coaching)
  • Hawthorn
    Zane Littlejohn (Development Coach & Box Hill VFL Senior Coach)
  • Melbourne
    Taylor Whitford (Casey Demons VFL Senior Coach)
  • North Melbourne
    Brady Rawlings (Head of Football Talent)
  • Norwood
    Jade Rawlings (SANFL Coach)
  • Richmond
    Brendon Gale (CEO / Executive Director)
    Sam Lonergan (Development Coach & VFLW Midfield Coach)

2023 DRAFT

The 2023 draft saw one of the strongest Draft returns for Tasmania, with four boys and three girls drafted to the AFL and AFLW competitions.

Three boys were selected in the first round of the AFL draft with Colby McKercher at pick 2, Ryley Sanders pick 6 and James Leake pick 17. A fourth Tasmanian, Arie Schoenmaker, was selected at pick 62.

Not to be outdone by the boys, the AFLW draft saw two Devils girls selected in the first round with Brooke Barwick at pick 4 and Georgia Clark at pick 8. Mackenzie Ford was selected in the third round at pick 43.

AFL Draft:
Colby McKercher selected by North Melbourne with Pick 2
Ryley Sanders selected by Western Bulldogs with Pick 6
James Leake selected by GWS Giants with Pick 17
Arie Schoenmaker selected by St Kilda with Pick 62

AFLW Draft:
Brooke Barwick selected by Western Bulldogs with Pick 4
Georgia Clark selected by Collingwood with Pick 8
Mackenzie Ford selected by Richmond with pick 43