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Kangaroos' Hobart move still in the air

By Sam Lienert 27/07/2010 12:35:56 PM Comments (0)

North Melbourne chief executive Eugene Arocca says his club are the frontrunners to play AFL matches in Hobart, but there is no guarantee it will happen.

Arocca refuted speculation that the Kangaroos had already agreed to play four games a year at Hobart's Bellerive Oval.

He said while they were in discussions with the AFL, they had not met with anyone from the Tasmanian government or Cricket Tasmania and did not know exactly what was on offer.

"There is no deal. We haven't sat down with anyone from Tasmania about a deal," Arocca said.

"We are the frontrunners as I understand it, but we need to get our heads around what a deal will look like, as we haven't seen anything at this stage."

Hawthorn have a five-year, $16.4 million sponsorship deal with the Tasmanian government to play four matches per season in Launceston.

But Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett said on Monday his government would not pay for an AFL team to play in Hobart and the state's main priority was to strike a new deal with the Hawks and keep football in Launceston.

An AFL spokesman said the league was in negotiations about staging games in Hobart, but any agreement was believed to be weeks away.

He said there were several clubs in the running.

Richmond president Brendon Gale met with Bartlett and Cricket Tasmania chairman Tony Harrison several weeks ago.

But the AFL is understood to prefer the Kangaroos option, given they have less crowd-pulling power in Melbourne than the Tigers.

Playing home matches outside Victoria is a sensitive issue for North Melbourne, who rejected a $100 million AFL package to relocate to the Gold Coast at the end of 2007.

They have also played past home matches in Sydney and Canberra.

But since rejecting the Gold Coast offer, the club has been at pains to stress it intends to remain permanently Melbourne-based and Arocca said any move to play games in Hobart should be seen in that light.

"This is not a precursor to moving the North Melbourne Football Club down to Tasmania," he told SEN radio.

"We see the upside, but we don't want our members to panic and say here we go again. This club has never been a better position in Melbourne.

"We are looking at another profit this year and from our point of view, it's all blue sky ahead."

Meanwhile, the Kangaroos still hold hopes of eventually staging matches in Ballarat, buoyed by state government plans to significantly upgrade that city's Eureka Stadium.

But Arocca said it would not happen soon and the government's stadium plans were contingent on several factors, including Australia winning the right to host soccer's 2022 World Cup.

"Any discussion about Tasmania is not to the exclusion of Ballarat," he said.

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