Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has declared the AFL is risking 'disaster' by pushing for a standalone team in Tasmania.
McGuire was heavily criticised by Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein and Sports Minister Nic Street last week after he suggested an expansion into Tasmania should be facilitated by another club relocating there.
This suggestion was met with derision by Gutwein and Street, with the former labelling McGuire's suggestion 'bulls**t' and reiterating that that AFL had agreed to put the case for a 19th license forward to all clubs.
The idea of a merger has gained steam thanks in part to the horrible season North Melbourne are enduring, anchored to the bottom of the ladder alongside the injury ravaged West Coast.
While the Eagles had enjoyed Finals success in recent years, the Kangaroos have not made the top eight since 2016, when they finished eighth.
Their poor record and lack of success at the draft, combined with a predicted thinning of the available junior talent pool if Tasmania is granted a license, were among the reasons why McGuire was sticking to his guns on Wednesday night's episode of Footy Classified on Channel 9.
McGuire hit back at Gutwein and Street, saying he was hearing differently to what they claim to have been told by the AFL.
"That wasn't what was being said to me by senior AFL officials and senior club officials and even more to the point from football department officials saying, 'maybe there's a bit in this.'"
Eddie addresses Tassie's response to his idea last week.#9FootyClassified | @Channel9 pic.twitter.com/YWbp8xVCmk
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) June 22, 2022
“That’s what they (Gutwein and Street) said, that wasn’t what was being said to me by senior AFL officials and senior club officials,” McGuire told the panel.
“And even more to the point, from football department officials saying, ‘Maybe there’s a bit in this (merger) because we are all terrified about having another 50 players and Tassie not being ready to go with the juniors coming through’.
“I would like to state it one more time. My first preference is for a stand-alone team for Tasmania. But I am not from the Free Beer Party. I do see the problems coming and they’re coming fast.”
Eddie McGuire stands by merger proposal despite Tasmania criticism
McGuire had previously suggested both the Kangaroos and a potential Tasmanian team would benefit equally from a merger - with a historic club still maintaining a presence in the league, and the expansion team having better access to recruits.
The AFL has had a hit and miss experience with it's previous two expansion sides, the Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants.
The Suns have thus far failed to make much of an impact on the competition, boasting a high finish of 12th on the ladder after entering the league in 2011.
There's been more success for the Giants however, who have made several finals appearances and even progressed to the grand final in 2019, after joining the league in 2012.
While co-host Caroline Wilson was more optimistic of a Tasmanian side finding their footing on the same kind of timeline as the Giants, McGuire remained deeply sceptical.
“The AFL have botched every single entry into the competition other than Richmond in 1908 and the two Adelaide sides,” McGuire said.
“I’ve sat in the meetings and heard them get up with all the slide shows and none of them have actually ever made it.
“What’s happened is, the clubs have given too much power in these situations and they have been lied to continually or misinformed along the way. Ten years it took to wash through GWS and the Gold Coast and we’re still not quite there. I’m a supporter, I voted for it.
“What we’re saying is, it might happen and it might be a disaster, so let’s try and get the best possible result.
"Listen to people who actually genuinely love Tasmanian football, who’ve regretted that it’s been driven to where it is.
“But at the same time, I’m not going to stand here and watch people drive over a cliff and applaud on the way through.”
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