Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein has been criticised by Gold Coast boss Peter Cochrane after calling for footy fans to boo the outspoken Suns figure.
The Suns faced North Melbourne in Tasmania this weekend due to the coronavirus-enforced fixture shake-up, with the game coming amid a groundswell of support for the state to have its own AFL team.
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The AFL has long put the issue of expanding the competition into the state on the backburner, but the introduction and relative lack of success of the Suns has prompted calls for the team to be relocated to the Apple Isle.
Tasmania's push for AFL recognition and Cochrane's dedication to the Suns have resulted in an inevitable clash, after Gutwein encouraged footy fans to boo the Suns boss to show how much the state wanted a team of their own.
It was a call that was not well received by the Suns head honcho.
“All of us in this place recognise that the Gold Coast Suns chairman is one of the few detractors left for our plan to have our own team,” Mr Gutwein said in state parliament earlier in the week.
“Whilst I understand that the Suns aren’t the most successful team in the AFL, and while it is unusual for me to use this parliament as a place to drum up business for failing football clubs, I would make the point that we need to turn up on Saturday and demonstrate that we have a real passion for the game.
“This will be a chance for all Tasmanians to go along and I’d make this point, to very politely, but very loudly, boo Tony.”
Cochrane was far from impressed with the bout of parliamentary sledging and hit back straight away, comparing the comments to the boos faced by former Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes.
Goodes was widely acknowledged to have been targeted by racial abuse in the years before his retirement.
“No one should be encouraging booing of anybody,” Cochrane told Win News.
“Look what it did in the Adam Goodes situation.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that any person in Australia would encourage booing.”
Gold Coast Suns star stands behind Tony Cochrane
Cochrane found support from within his club, with Tasmanian-born star Hugh Greenwood taking to Twitter to encourage the premier to take a more conciliatory approach next time.
“Would be great to see @GutweinTeam spend a bit more time celebrating and highlighting the Tasmanians playing AFL football in Hobart this weekend - (Tarryn, Aaron, Lachie*, Myself) - as his promotional driver,” he wrote.
“Instead the priority and focus is around potting other AFL Clubs.
“The GCS have a short but rich history with Tasmanian players. If we’re serious about Tassie getting its own AFL team then it’s going to come down to its unity. Therefore the voices of all Tasmanians & in particular past & present Tassie AFL players, will play a pivotal role.”
Mr Gutwein and Cochrane sat nearby one another during Saturday's game, making for an awkward scene.
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