Adelaide club's potential bid to become 20th AFL team: 'Something in it'

With negotiations ongoing for a new AFL team in Tasmania, it makes sense for a 20th team to be established soon after.

·4-min read
Norwood players emerge from the race on the left, with the AFL premiership cup seen right.
The AFL could one day hear a bid from SANFL powerhouse Norwood to become the 20th AFL team, pending the approval of a new team in Tasmania. Pictures: Twitter/@NorwoodFC/Getty Images

An Adelaide-based club could potentially be vying for a 20th AFL team license, after it emerged the SANFL's Norwood Redlegs were reportedly considering a bid to join the league. South Australian sport commentator Chris Dittmar said 'business people' at the club were in the process of putting together a bid, depending on whether the proposed team in Tasmania is awarded a license.

Negotiations over a new stadium for any team established in Tasmania remain a major sticking point before a 19th AFL team is officially founded, meaning there will likely be several years before the Norwood bid comes to fruition. A third team in either footy heartlands SA or Western Australia, or in a new market such as Canberra or the Northern Territory, have been floated as other potential locations for a 20th team.

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A longstanding footy powerhouse in South Australia, Norwood's SANFL record is rival only to that of Port Adelaide, who joined the AFL in 1997. Norwood boasts 31 SANFL flags, behind the 36 won by the league rivals.

It wouldn't be the first time Norwood has considered a tilt at the AFL, having pondered a joint bid with Port Adelaide in the 1990s before settling on a seperate bid of their own. Several current AFL players have played for the Redlegs in the past, including Zac Bailey, Harrison Petty, Kade Chandler, Orazio Fantasia, James Aish and Peter Ladhams.

“Two different people have told me this in the last seven days, therefore I think there’s something in it,” Dittmar said. “I don’t know the likelihood of it happening, I don’t know if it can happen. But we’ve got two AFL teams in this town, obviously, the Crows and Port Adelaide.

“There’s an SANFL club putting together a bid, I believe, a group of business people attempting to get into the AFL. Who would really, really want to go into the AFL, you reckon? Who’s equipped?

“What I haven’t been able to get to the bottom of is, is it the football club actually putting a bid together, or is there a group of business people. I’ve had two different fellas (tell me) - and they weren’t idiots, by the way, people I respect. Supporters of the club (are tied to the bid).

“Bear in mind if there’s a Tasmanian team, there’ll be 19 teams, so they could be the 20th. They want to be the 20th team.”

Much remains to be seen when it comes to Norwood's bid, which at this stage appears dependent on the state of Tasmania's own bid. The AFL pledged to spend $360 million establishing the side in February, but said the team's license would only be approved once finding was secured for a brand new stadium.

Norwood's AFL bid comes amid Tasmania stadium argy-bargy

The demand for a new stadium has been a major sticking point, with state and federal governments reluctant to commit to a major infrastructure project when the AFL already hosts regular season matches at the University of Tasmania stadium in Hobart - a venue which has also hosted Test cricket.

“Without a stadium there is no team. The stadium is now the last key requirement,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said. “We have a moment in time here decades in the making, to have a strong Tasmanian team and a sustainable club.

“Our fans want, deserve, and expect the best experience and the best experience needs the best stadiums and the supporters are voting with their feet. That is why there can be no team without a stadium.

"We need to set up a team for future success, not for future failure. It is that simple.”

Gillon McLachlan.
Gillon McLachlan says a new team in Tasmania is dependent on funding being committed for a new stadium. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Prime minister Anthony Albanese described the proposed location for the stadium, Macquarie Point in Hobart, as a 'prime site', but said the federal government would assess the AFL's proposal for federal funding prior to the May budged.

“I’m working closely with (Tasmanian Premier) Jeremy Rockliff and his government on these issues,” he told reporters. McLachlan said the AFL would chip in $15 million toward the stadium, as previously announced, but indicated the league could shift on that figure.

The AFL announcement came the day after 10 Tasmanian federal politicians signed a letter urging the league to grant the state a team without the requirement of a new stadium. Liberal MPs Bridget Archer and Gavin Pearce and independent senators Andrew Wilkie and Jacquie Lambie are among those to have signed the letter, along with members of the Greens.

With AAP

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