First stop Gale, then ‘Chris Scott-type’ coach: AFL great’s blueprint for Tasmania

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Key points

  • Alastair Lynch wants Richmond CEO Brendon Gale to be the impending Tasmanian team’s first hire.
  • Lynch also believes Tasmania should target a “statesman” coach to lead the team into battle.
  • The AFL great rejected claims there was not enough to do in Tasmania as “prehistoric thinking”.

Tasmanian football Hall of Famer Alastair Lynch wants the state’s impending AFL club to make Brendon Gale its first hire before taking aim at a “Chris Scott-type” coach as the countdown to Wednesday’s launch begins.

The 18 club presidents will meet on Tuesday to give their say on a Tasmanian team, after outgoing league boss Gillon McLachlan presented to them on Friday – with the expectation of an overwhelmingly positive response – before the AFL Commission makes the final call.

Richmond’s Brendon Gale is being strongly backed to be the first CEO for Tasmania’s AFL team.Credit: Getty Images

The AFL is set to announce Tasmania as the league’s 19th licence on Wednesday, bringing an end to decades of impassioned lobbying for the football-loving state to be included.

Gale is one of Tasmania’s AFL greats and has become an off-field force as Richmond’s chief executive, including unveiling a bold plan in 2010 for the Tigers to win three flags in the following decade, which they famously did.

The 54-year-old, who played 244 games for Richmond after graduating from Burnie, was also a contender to be McLachlan’s successor as league CEO before the job went to Andrew Dillon.

“Brendon Gale ticks every box, plus one, to be Tasmania’s CEO,” Lynch told The Age.

“Part of it is because he’s Tasmanian, but he ticks all the other boxes, too, if he was open to it – but it should be sooner rather than later. If the team’s going to start in four years’ time I’d want that person [CEO] in there now to start overseeing it, to make sure the pieces are right from the start.

“He’s such an impressive person, and has done everything on the field and off it, and has enormous respect in the AFL industry and in Tasmania full stop. You need someone who really wants to do it.”

Lynch, who juggles being a Fox Footy commentator with running a national health, safety and wellbeing business for workplaces, which has a head office in Hobart, is willing to be involved in the Tasmanian team if he is wanted.

Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan is Tasmanian.Credit: AFL Photos

He is one of Tasmania’s greatest football exports, kicking 633 goals in 306 games for Fitzroy and Brisbane, including performing a key role in the Lions’ flag three-peat between 2001-03.

There are several Tasmanians, or people with football affiliations with the state, in prominent AFL positions, from Gale, to Collingwood’s head of football Graham Wright and director of coaching Brendon Bolton, Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan, and recruiters Scott Clayton (North Melbourne) and Hamish Ogilvie (Adelaide).

Ogilvie used to coach the under-18 Tassie Mariners as part of his wider role as state development coach, while the AFL’s executive general manager of game development, Rob Auld, was previously AFL Tasmania boss.

Lynch said the Tasmanian team should go for the best available talent, as well as home-grown products, but believed the blueprint for success included targeting a “statesman of the game who has been successful” as the inaugural coach.

Geelong’s Scott, North Melbourne’s Alastair Clarkson – who was part of the bid for a Tasmanian team – and Richmond’s Damien Hardwick would all qualify as the only multiple flag-winning active coaches, as would Sydney’s John Longmire.

“You want someone with drawing power who knows what it’s like to be successful,” Lynch said.

“It’s a different challenge, and you want players in their prime to say, ‘I’d play for him’. I think the role is for an experienced, almost statesman of the game, like what Leigh Matthews was able to do in Queensland [as Brisbane’s coach].

Chris Scott is the type of coach Alastair Lynch thinks the eventual Tasmanian AFL team needs.Credit: AFL Photos

“They don’t have to be Tasmanian, but you need someone who’s been there and done that, and for players to want to play for him straightaway.”

Lynch said a high-profile coach would be vital to retaining and attracting high-end talent – a hot topic within the debate about Tasmania entering the AFL – as would ensuring a world-class training facility was ready from the start.

Regarding the latter, Lynch hoped the Tasmanian team would learn from Gold Coast’s mistakes.

But he believes the state’s rich football history meant its AFL inclusion was more similar to Port Adelaide’s than the Suns or Giants.

Lynch also rubbished as “prehistoric thinking” any suggestion that there was not enough to do in Tasmania to keep younger people happy, as Hawthorn captain James Sicily suggested last week.

“If you’re going to say there is nothing to do in Tassie, then I don’t think you’ve spent much time there recently,” he said.

“There are all sorts of festivals, tourism is huge, hospitality is thriving at a very high level, and there’s everything from world-class museums to golf courses.

“This AFL team can be another port for bringing people to Tassie, and even if you’re not an AFL supporter in Tassie – I think you’ll be able to see the rewards of this investment.”

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