The Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame Memorable Game for 2014 is the victorious Tasmanian (TFL) representative game against South Australia (SANFL) at North Hobart Oval in 1995.
The Tasmanian Football League played three successful games at North Hobart Oval in the mid 1990s—versus South Australia in 1995, West Australia in 1997 and Victoria in 1998—all of which can be described as memorable. The first home interstate game against South Australia in 1995 is synonymous with a high achieving period for Tasmanian football.
In the mid-1990s the TFL, and Tasmanian football as a whole, was seeking greater recognition as a legitimate football power for the first time in the AFL competition era. Tasmania’s administrators, football identities and politicians were fervently arguing that Tasmania had the playing capacity to not only compete against the other major football states of Victoria, South Australia and West Australia, but also to have our own team in the now dominant national competition, the Australian Football League (AFL).
The mid-1990s saw the emergence of a state football competition that was under internal duress due to issues over club finances, supporter commitment to travelling statewide and the ongoing drain of the best young players to the AFL through the National Draft. However, the Tasmanian State Football League was still able to attract some high quality ex-AFL players and coaches and the best players from throughout Tasmania and was highly regarded by AFL talent scouts as a breeding ground for the next generation of talent from a state that has historically provided a rich vein of talent for the game.
Tasmanian football was being left behind as the game moved decisively to a national competition that was growing in popularity and funding, and by the start of the decade, reaching into all mainland states.
In 1990 Tasmania had defeated Victoria in a State of Origin representative game and then were demoted, along with the other lesser football states, to a combined status under the name ‘Allies’ for the highest level representative football, which was still seen as an important concept at that time. As well, the AFL had broadened its reach and structure to include further teams from South Australia (1991) and West Australia (1994) to add to those from NSW, Queensland and West Australia.
So the mid-1990s saw Tasmanian football push for greater recognition on two fronts. Firstly, it sought a return to stand-alone State of Origin status as ‘Tasmania’. Secondly, it pursued the application for an AFL club license for Tasmania based in Hobart.
In 1995 Tasmania played the first and most memorable of an amazing troika of interstate victories when they led a strong South Australian combination all day in a hard fought 14-point win. The significance of this victory was quite profound in this period of Tasmanian football history as it gave the state’s football, political and community leaders confidence in the notion that Tasmanian football was the equal of states who were gaining entry to the AFL competition.
The fact that the South Australian team was chock full of players from Port Adelaide and was also coached by the Magpies’ John Cahill was a key point of the contest. Port Adelaide had received a license to join the AFL and it was planning to commence in 1996 at the time of the 1995 interstate game.
Much of the build up to the game focused on the push by Tasmanian football for inclusion in the AFL; a victory over South Australia would certainly enhance the case. South Australian coach John Cahill was under no illusions about the challenge and importance of the game when he said: “Port Adelaide is expecting to join the AFL next year and naturally I would like the job as coach, so I would love to win this game.”
Tasmanian coach Andy Bennett was equally sure that the players and coaches were in sync with the feeling of all Tasmanian football stakeholders that a victory against South Australia was expected and that the players understood that they had a responsibility to perform to their highest standard.
The game itself saw Tasmania begin with a withering burst of three goals in the first five minutes, courtesy of their commitment to attacking the ball and ferocious tackling when not in possession. The architect and ultimately Tasmania’s best player was midfielder Danny Noonan, who dominated the contest throughout and racked up 34 disposals. By three quarter time the margin had stretched to five goals, but as the leg-weary Tasmanians eased off the pedal in the last quarter the Croweaters managed to get back within three goals. Tasmania had other dominant midfielders in Peter German and Nigel Palfreyman, strong defenders in Nick Probert, Andy Goodwin and Matthew Brereton, and dangerous goalkicking options in Troy Davies, Darren Denneman and Colin Alexander, in a very strong team.
The emotion of the occasion and victory was not lost on coach Andy Bennett who recognised the significance of the win for Tasmanian football. After all, Bennett had represented South Australia as a player and the game was a chance to make a statement about which state level competition was next best in Australia after the AFL itself.
The new Port Adelaide AFL club ultimately made its debut in the AFL in 1997 under the coaching of John Cahill. However, the desire to have a Tasmanian team in the AFL was still burning and in that same season Tasmania easily outplayed the best from West Australia for a comfortable 47-point win. The Sandgropers never challenged a strong Tasmanian team who were very strong up forward and around the midfield with Wayne Weidemann, Ken Rainsford, Keenan Reynolds and Paul Beechey dominant. Rover Errol Bourn was named Tasmania’s best player for 1997, winning the Lefroy Medal for the first time.
In 1998 Tasmania was scheduled to play the best of the Victorian Football League in a clash that was being billed as a showdown to prove once and for all which the best state league in Australia was in the mid 1990s.
The game itself saw Tasmania take the early ascendency and achieve a 29-point lead at half time. The always important third quarter was again shaping as match defining and so it proved in this game. The Victorians threw everything at Tasmania but could only come away with a dismal one goal and 11 behinds for the quarter. Goal sneak Scott Allen kicked a decisive goal off a tight angle late in the quarter to give Tasmania a 19-point buffer at the final change. The Tasmanians had weathered the storm and couldn’t miss in the final quarter to ease away from Victoria and achieve a magnificent 35-point victory.
Ruckman Andrew McLean and rover Errol Bourn were Tasmania’s best players and were deservedly awarded the Lefroy Medal jointly as Tasmania’s best players for 1998. Matthew Brereton, Dale Chugg, Wayne Weidemann, Troy Clarke, Nick Probert, Keenan Reynolds, John McCarthy and Darren Jones were all prominent in the victory as multiple Tasmanian representatives in this successful era.
While Tasmania was bidding for national recognition, either in State of Origin or via a license in the AFL, and the win once again left little doubt that Tasmania’s playing and coaching was up to the task, it was generally accepted that there was no stadium in Tasmania that could cater to AFL standards going forward.
Three famous Tasmanian football leaders—Andy Bennett, Robert Shaw and Stuart Spencer—all agreed in 1998 that Tasmania’s facilities at North Hobart Oval were second rate and that players and fans deserved better. Given the declining crowd support for Tasmanian representative and domestic football it was thought that a new stadium and possibly the relocation of an existing AFL club was the only way to go.
Between 1996 and 1998 a bid to join the AFL was prepared involving the proposed construction of a 30,000-capacity stadium in the Hobart showgrounds in Glenorchy at the cost of $34 million. The stadium would have been the team’s only home ground, but the appeal was unsuccessful and the stadium was not built. As well, the AFL and its clubs determined that State of Origin was no longer required as the national competition itself was able to deliver the interstate rivalry that had been a cornerstone of Australian football history.
Furthermore, in the 1999 state representative game, Tasmania made the fateful decision to send a team to Kalgoorlie in the West Australian goldfields and was soundly defeated by the Sandgropers. The dream of playing at the highest level in Australia slipped further away as the Tasmanian State Football League commenced its death throes with multiple teams beginning to fail or come under severe financial stress in the 1998, 1999 and 2000 seasons. As well, the vision to have a new stadium for AFL level football in Hobart was not supported by all Tasmanians and politically a decision was made to progress a boutique stadium in Hobart for cricket at Bellerive Oval and another boutique stadium in Launceston for football at York Park.
Nonetheless, the Tasmanian (TFL) representative teams of 1995, 1997 and 1998, who were all coached by Andy Bennett, achieved victories that ensured Tasmania’s was the best state football competition in Australia at the time.
TASMANIA (TFL) – 1995/1997/1998
Representative Game Date: 13 May 1995
Tasmania (TFL): 4.4 8.9 13.11 14.14 (98)
South Australia (SANFL): 2.1 6.3 9.5 12.12 (84)
Venue: North Hobart Oval A
Umpires: Martin Gilmour (TFL), T. Pfieffer (SANFL)
Best (Tasmania): D. Noonan, C. Alexander, G. Wiggins, P. German, T. Davies, N. Palfreyman, M. Brereton.
Goals (Tasmania): T. Davies 4, C. Alexander 3, D. Denneman 3, S. Byrne 2, N. Palfreyman, D. Noonan.
Representative Game Date: 21 June 1997
Tasmania (TFL): 5.1 9.3 15.4 19. 6 (120)
West Australia (WAFL): 1.5 4.8 8.12 10.13 (73)
Venue: North Hobart Oval
Umpires: Greg Wilson (TFL), Stefan Grun (TFL), Garrett (WAFL)
Best (Tasmania): W. Weidemann, P. Beechey, E. Bourn, P. German, D. Brown, T. Clarke, K. Reynolds.
Goals (Tasmania): K. Rainsford 5, K. Reynolds 4, J. McCarthy 3, C. Alexander 3, N. Palfreyman 2, B. Beams, S. Rattray.
Representative Game Date: 7 June 1998
Tasmania (TFL): 4.3 7.9 8.10 13.10 (88)
Victoria (VFL): 2.2 3.4 4.15 6.17 (53)
Venue: North Hobart Oval
Umpires: M. James (VFL), Mark Williams (TFL), Warren Young (TFL).
Best (Tasmania): A. McLean, E. Bourn, M. Brereton, C. Black, W. Weidemann, T. Clarke, D. Chugg, G. Guard, N. Probert, K. Reynolds.
Goals (Tasmania): S. Allen 3, J. McCarthy 2, A. Gibson 2, D. Jones 2, K. Reynolds 2, A. Sanders, G. Guard.
TASMANIA – 1995 to 1998
Tasmania versus South Australia (1995):
B: N. Probert, M. Gurrie, M. Brereton
HB: P. German, A. Goodwin (C), D. Hulm
C: D. Noonan, D. Denneman, D. Donato
HF: T. Blanden, D. Chugg, D. Jones
F: M. McCartin, C. McGurk, W. Lewis
Ruck: G. Wiggins, M. Mansfield, N. Palfreyman
Inter: T. Davies, C. Alexander, M. Maple,
Coach: A. Bennett
Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame members: Danny Noonan, Dale Chugg, Andy Bennett.
Lefroy Medal: Danny Noonan.
Tasmania versus West Australia (1997):
B: J. McCarthy, D. Chugg, D. Winter
HB: N. Palfreyman, P. Hamilton, M. Brereton
C: S. Styles, S. Smith, D. Trevena
HF: B. Beams, K. Reynolds, P. German
F: T. Clarke, K. Rainsford, C. Alexander
Ruck: S. Jordan, W. Weidemann, E. Bourn
Inter: S. Rattray, D. Brown, W. Anthony,
Coach: A. Bennett
Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame members: John McCarthy, Dale Chugg, Darren Winter, Darren Trevena, Errol Bourn, Andy Bennett.
Lefroy Medal: Errol Bourn.
Tasmania versus Victoria (1998):
B: C. Black, P. Beechey, A. Cole
HB: G. Guard, D. Chugg, M. Brereton
C: S. Stevenson, W. Weidemann, N. Probert
HF: K. O’Dwyer, K. Reynolds, D. Jones
F: T. Clarke, J. Gibson, J. McCarthy
Ruck: A. McLean, N. Howard, E. Bourn
Inter: S. Jordan, S. Allen, J. Brereton,
Coach: A. Bennett
Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame members: John McCarthy, Dale Chugg, Nathan Howard, Errol Bourn, Andy Bennett.
Lefroy Medal: Errol Bourn and Andrew McLean.