Hobart Forever Boys - The Statewide League Era

The Statewide League Era

1986 heralded many changes to the competition, the TANFL was no longer, and a new Statewide League incorporating the six former TANFL clubs along with NTFA rivals North Launceston and East Launceston was fashioned.

Hobart's first match in the new competition was against East Launceston (coached by Richard Spencer) at KGV Oval on 5 April 1986. The Demons, who had had to adopt a different playing uniform because of a clash with North Hobart, had not received their playing uniforms by the time the Round 1 clash was due to be played and had to don a green and primrose State training jumper for the match.

In a high scoring game, East held sway for much of the day (making a mockery of their dreadful pre-season form), but it was Hobart who hurried home with a strong final quarter to hit the front in the dying minutes before a late goal for the Demons saw them snatch victory by 4 points – 18.24 (132) to 19.14 (128) – in a thriller before a crowd of only 922 people.

However, new coach Peter Hudson would instill much confidence in his young side which saw them win eight games in succession mid-season before falling away late in the season with two 100-point thrashings by eventual Grand Finallists Glenorchy and Sandy Bay.

The Tigers claimed fifth spot and made their first finals appearance since 1981 but were soundly beaten by 70-points by North Hobart in the Elimination Final. 1987 saw Hobart play all of its home matches at the North Hobart Oval and continue on in fine fashion making the finals.

Firstly defeating the Burnie Hawks in the Elimination Final at KGV Oval on a thundery afternoon, the Tigers were up against the might of Clarence the following week at the same venue in the 1st Semi Final.

In an enthralling game which was tight from the outset, Hobart's Alastair Lynch (who later went onto have a stirring Australian Football League career with Fitzroy and the Brisbane Lions) was felled by Clarence's Greg Farquhar deep into to time on and was stretchered from the field. Tiger full-forward (and the TFL's all-time greatest goalkicker) Wayne Fox took the resultant free kick, but field umpire Haydyn Nielsen incorrectly failed to pay the manadatory 15-metre penalty after Farquahar was reported.

As history would have it, Fox struggling to get the distance on the kick missed slightly, seconds later the siren sounded and Hobart went down by 4 points with the vocal Tiger contingent in the 3,885-strong crowd roaring their enormous displeasure at the umpires after the match.

Former Sydney Swans and South Melbourne legend Mark Browning was to take over the reins at Hobart as captain-coach in 1988.

Attendances were continuing to rise and the onfield results continued to improve with the club sitting second on the ladder at the completion of round 11, 1988 after defeating North Hobart by 114 points at North Hobart Oval before losing six out of its last seven matches to incredibly, miss the finals.

The Tigers were solid throughout most of the 1989 season and made a barnstorming finish to make the Grand Final against North Hobart, at one stage leading by 35points in the second quarter of the decider before the Demons raced away to win the premiership by 30 points.

In 1990 Hobart were to finally have their revenge, and assembling arguably their greatest ever squad, the Tigers won their first five matches of the season before suffering from a mid-season slump.

Hobart started to hit form after a strong win over Clarence at Bellerive Oval, then going on a rampage with a succession of solid wins leading into the finals series.

The Tigers lost the qualifying final to North Launceston at York Park before recording thrilling victories over Sandy Bay (first semi final) and Clarence (preliminary final) before facing North Launceston again in the Grand Final.

After a tight first three-quarters where both sides were level at the three-quarter time, Hobart produced arguably their most dominant quarter of football in their history, given the strong level of the competition at that time, booting 10–6 to 1–2 in the last quarter to win by 58 points.

After two further finals appearances in 1991 and 1992, the latter producing another Grand Final loss to North Hobart, this time by 35 points. No further success was to come the Tigers way.

Former Melbourne Demons player Simon Eishold was appointed Coach in 1993 but resigned before the season started and Greg Lane was given the nod as coach, during mid-season club legend Wayne Petterd was to take over the job after Lane resigned.

From 1993 Hobart Football Club were to flounder badly on the field, and in 1994 suffer from disastrous financial problems off field after running into massive debt with the Australian Taxation Office, also suffering from a large drop in attendances – Hobart's average home crowds from 1993–1996 fell to just over 920 – as on field performances remained poor.

Wayne Petterd resigned as coach after a heavy defeat to Launceston at the TCA Ground in 1996 and former Clarence legend and William Leitch Medallist Gary Williamson became the club's last TFL coach.

An exodus of more the 40 players from the Tigers senior and reserves sides over the summer of 1996–1997 as doubts grew about the longterm viability of the club, the almost daily articles in the media pushing the club to merge and player dissatisfaction with the board saw Hobart sink to its knees.

Hobart were to field a very young side for the 1997 season, but failed to win a match in either the Senior or Reserves competition, with the Under 19's making it to the 1st Semi Final.

The TFL had already decided not to renew the club's license for 1998 after 53 seasons in the League, and there was news of an impending three-way merger between Hobart, Sandy Bay and North Hobart Football Club's for the 1998 season (talks later broke down and the three way partnership dissolved as North opted to go it alone in the TFL and Sandy Bay opted to close down).

The Hobart Tigers final TFL appearance was on 23 August 1997 where the Tigers lost 11.6 (72) to North Hobart 18.12 (120) at North Hobart Oval.

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