My fellow Tasmanians, congratulations on our team (and the swifty we pulled on the AFL)

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Congratulations to my fellow Tasmanians on securing an AFL franchise. Now, let’s all keep quiet, until after our new team has played its first game, about how the stadium will probably never get built. I’m sorry to tell the AFL, Gil, and our soon-to-be fellow clubs across the nation, but we islanders have pulled a swifty on you all.

By the time our first XVIII take to the field (at York Park or Bellerive Oval) it’ll be too late for the mainlanders to take the franchise licence back, and the Macquarie Point stadium plan will either suffer a quiet death or require a federal government-AFL bailout to be completed.

The view from Hobart’s waterfront stadium will be fairly similar to this on a sunny winter’s afternoon. If it ever gets built.

The Tasmanian team announcement is the culmination of two dreams. One is the deeply held and passionate cry of the Tasmanian football community for a team of its own.

The other is the mainland AFL bosses’ very recent dream of being able to watch a game of footy and then walk into Salamanca for a drink and dinner along Hobart’s waterfront.

You can probably guess which dream matters more to Tasmanians and to Premier Jeremy Rockliff.

The case for a Tasmanian AFL team has been building for decades but only in the past few years, as the AFL’s cash was poured down drains in Parramatta and Surfers Paradise, did the harder heads in Melbourne realise that perhaps there was another way.

So many legends of the VFL and AFL were born in Tasmania, and yet they were forced to spend their 20s and 30s living on the North Island if they wanted to pursue their chosen career.

Drafting a Tasmanian wasn’t a risk for a Victorian club – no “go home” factor like with those Sandgropers or Croweaters.

So here it came, the AFL with a plan for a Tasmanian team. A state’s dream finally realised. Except – a last-minute switcheroo. It had to come with a new stadium right on the waterfront.

The AFL might think it’s been very clever here. Putting up an embarrassing $15 million towards a $715 million stadium, then getting the Tasmanian and federal governments to fund the rest. Great job, well done.

Or too clever by half. For this isn’t the mainland, where major projects just happen and things get built at or near the project completion date.

This is Tasmania.

If there was an Olympic gold medal for opposing projects, my fellow Tasmanians would be undefeated reigning champions every four years.

Then there’s the money. Is anyone convinced it will come in on budget? The plan requires $240 million from the federal government for the stadium. Yet federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King made clear the $240 million is for the entire precinct, including transport upgrades and housing projects.

This is part of the rub in Tassie. The state desperately needs more housing after mainlanders realised how stunning it is down there and snapped up all the homes to put them on Airbnb for MONA tourists.

The homelessness issue is awful. You can’t get a tradie to build anything because they’re all tied up doing renovations on the homes mainlanders bought. Even the traffic is some of the worst in the nation (hard to believe, but one crash on the Tasman Bridge locks up the entire city for hours).

There is a world in which the stadium becomes part of an integrated solution to Hobart’s housing and transport problems.

Put some light rail around the regatta grounds to the northern suburbs, put a tram up Elizabeth Street, and zone a block on either side for well-designed, six-storey apartment blocks in keeping with Hobart’s heritage demands. Then put affordable housing on the bottom floors and penthouses on the top ones and sell them to mainlanders (and maybe all the newly cashed-up AFL footballers).

But let’s be real. That will require a lot of money. A lot of work. A lot of convincing locals with their arms crossed.

Maybe it’ll happen, maybe the stadium will be incredible. Maybe the Tasmanian government will figure out how to solve all these problems.

But if it doesn’t, can we please just pretend long enough to keep the AFL’s dream alive? Because by the time this comes to the crunch, Rockliff won’t be there. Maybe Anthony Albanese will be gone too. But for the good of our state, we must keep this myth alive just long enough for us to see those bottle-green guernseys, with the golden map and maroon T across the middle, run out to meet the top-tier clubs.

After that, we can give up the pretence. By then it’ll be too late. Once we’re there, we won’t let them take it away from us.

Angus Livingston was born in Tasmania and lived there for 27 years writing about sport and politics before moving to the mainland, where he learned that things get built sometimes.

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