Kangaroos in Hobart. Roger may well cover the subject in the round-up from his latest holiday in Tasmania. I just wanted to briefly touch on the subject too. And before any of our international visitors get too excited about the prospect of seeing Skippy bounding down Elizabeth Street, of course I’m referring to the North Melbourne AFL team, who now play two home matches in Tassie each year.

Kangaroos - North Melbourne

North Melbourne Kangaroos: Blundstone Arena

Kangaroos Take Over Hobart

Okay, so perhaps “take over” is a little exaggerated. Maybe it just felt like that, having some very enthusiastic supporters come to visit. They claimed they were in Tasmania to visit us… but we know the truth. We know that if the Kangaroos were playing at Etihad Stadium, their home ground at Docklands in Melbourne, that’s probably where they would have spent the weekend.

But isn’t it great that they did come to Tasmania? They would otherwise have spent their time and money elsewhere. Not everyone agrees with that sentiment. There are some punters from the north of the state who would prefer Tasmanian AFL matches to be played solely in Launceston. The Hawthorn Football Club have already established a strong following, with the Tassie Hawks playing four of their home games there. Some would like to see the status quo remain.

But the Kangaroos have signed on to play additional matches at Blundstone Arena in Hobart; they’re not sharing the quota with Launceston or the AFL Hawks in Tassie. Hopefully the deal will bring extra attention to sport in Tasmania as a whole, rather than diminish the good turn-out at Launceston’s Aurora Stadium.

Kangaroos - Blundstone Arena

Blundstone Arena: Kangaroos v Eagles AFL match

From Salamanca Market to Blundstone Arena

Personally, I underestimated the amount of supporters willing to travel to watch the North Melbourne Kangaroos play the West Coast Eagles at Blundstone Arena. In the middle of winter! Luckily for everyone concerned, Hobart turned on a magic day, and the place was buzzing. Even Ricky Ponting, former captain of the Australian cricket team (and apparently the number one ticket holder for the Kangaroos) was spotted wandering along Elizabeth Street Pier by some of his eagle-eyed fans.

Happy tourists were meandering around the docks and Salamanca Market, spending their hard-earned cash while dressed proudly in their club colours. Our group of 15 had to agree to eat brunch outside in order to get a table. And with the sun shining on the adjacent boats, it couldn’t have been a better place to be.

Kangaroos - Lady Nelson, Hobart

AFL supporters enjoy Hobart docks

At the ground, Kangaroos supporters were excited to see their team run through the banner, with cameras and videos documenting the team’s every move. The AFL game sold out really quickly, which meant our crew had to be satisfied with $25 general admission tickets and a seat on the ground. This caused drama for the security officers, with some spectators preferring to stand up (because the ground was a tad muddy) hence blocking the view of others wanting to remain seated. Tricky!

Judging by the amount of alcohol consumed in the “dry” area, the standing/sitting dilemma may have taken the attention of security away from more pressing matters. But they’re just minor teething problems. Apparently Cricket Australia and the AFL will be combining forces and revenue to expand the seating capacity of Blundstone Arena before next footy season, so hopefully those issues will be resolved.

Kangaroos - Banner

Kangaroos: Blundstone Arena, Bellerive Tasmania

AFL in Hobart is a Winner… Unlike the Kangaroos!

And for the game itself? Sadly for all the Kangaroos supporters, defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory with only minutes remaining on the clock. After a blistering first quarter by the Roos, the Eagles slowly clawed their way back into the match. They eventually managed to take the four points back home to Perth and retain second place on the AFL ladder; while the Kangaroos missed their chance to sneak into the top eight, going down by just two points.

Kangaroos - West Coast Eagles

Dean Cox: West Coast Eagles

For the Tasmanian kids at Blundstone Arena, many experiencing AFL for the very first time, the day couldn’t have been much better. At the end of the match, as the Kangaroos trudged despondently back to the change-rooms to lick their wounds, the ground was opened up for a bit of kick-to-kick. I would be guessing that such a privilege is not afforded to supporters in Melbourne at either Etihad Stadium or the MCG. I stand to be corrected, but either way… AFL in Hobart seems to be a resounding success.

Kangaroos - AFL at Blundstone Arena

AFL fans: Blundstone Arena, Hobart Tasmania

Map: Blundstone Arena, Bellerive Tasmania

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