Jeff Kennett and Caroline Wilson traded barbs.
Jeff Kennett and Caroline Wilson traded barbs.

Footy war explodes: ‘Should be ashamed’

ICONIC AFL journalist Caroline Wilson has launched a stunning personal attack on Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett over the club's impact on footy in Tasmania, and also took aim at league CEO Gillon McLachlan for abandoning the state.

Wilson and Kennett traded barbs on radio before the former chief football writer for The Age landed some killer blows on Thursday night.

Earlier in the week Wilson said Hawthorn - who like North Melbourne has a partnership with AFL Tasmania that sees them play games on the Apple Isle and run development programs - has done more harm than good in the state.

"If they left Tasmania now you could not say they left footy in better shape than they found it, they've left it in worse shape," Wilson said on 3AW. "Less grounds are being used, more grounds are being abandoned, clubs are dying … and less players are being developed."

Her criticism came after news the Burnie Dockers had joined Devonport in leaving the Tasmanian State League, citing a lack of players. It leaves the league without any teams from the northwest coast.

Dwindling numbers and a lack of funding in Tassie are a couple of reasons seven clubs called a crisis meeting with AFL Tasmania, per The Mercury. But although the state's new football boss Trisha Squires denied there was crisis, she said she had written to the AFL to put repairing the sport firmly on the agenda at league headquarters.

All this has happened in the same week it emerged the AFL had increased its financial support for expansion team Gold Coast by $5.5 million to $25 million.

But despite the developments in Tasmania, Kennett returned serve to Wilson's attack.

Kennett wasn’t copping any criticism quietly.
Kennett wasn’t copping any criticism quietly.

"Hawthorn has been there for over a decade now and we have developed a very good relationship with the community," Kennett told 3AW.

"We play four games there, we've got our community camp there in a couple of weeks, we'll be down there for four days, the coach is going down this weekend to participate in a coaching school so Caro - I don't know whether she's deprived of oxygen or what it is but it's uneducated and unprofessional what she said. Unadulterated, uneducated rubbish."

Wilson refused to back down, taking to the airwaves again on Thursday to slam Kennett. She called his retort "absolute rubbish" and said the "community camps have been largely lip service".

"Jeff is talking absolute rubbish. I read him say somewhere the other day that there's no sense in taking any of Hawthorn's gate money and giving it to any of the Tasmanian State League clubs because they don't get big enough crowds," Wilson said on 3AW's Sportsday.

"He's not even prepared to put his hand in his pocket and give these dying State League clubs any money at all and he did not acknowledge once in that conversation what development work Hawthorn has done. All he's done is point the finger at the AFL and the AFL is pointing the finger at the clubs and the clubs are pointing the finger at the AFL."

Then Wilson took more personal swipes at Kennett's credibility. She lashed him for saying this month he's glad Hawthorn doesn't have a team in the AFLW, while also called into question his morality for his activities away from football.

Wilson accused the former chairman of mental health organisation Beyond Blue of double standards because he is also the majority shareholder of a company which does work with poker machines.

In July it was reported James Packer's Crown resorts was preparing to sack pokies technicians and outsource work to Amtek Corporation. But Crown backed down late last year, agreeing to reinstate the original technicians.

Wilson let rip.
Wilson let rip.

"Jeff I'm afraid is just being a big, fat hypocrite and he's been disappointing in the past few weeks. That stuff about women's footy was uneducated, really uneducated … he was furious they didn't apply for a team and now he's saying I'm glad we don't have a team," Wilson said.

"Jeff has come back at a time when Hawthorn is crying out for leadership … this is a bloke who chaired Beyond Blue while also taking over Echo Entertainment. This is a bloke who, knowing about the huge and detrimental effects of gambling on this community - his company that he's a major shareholder of has been outsourced poker machine technology by James Packer - and he talked the other day about why it would be bad for AFL clubs to throw away poker machines."

Cautioned by Sportsday host Dwayne Russell about getting too carried away, Wilson powered on.

"I'm whacking him," she said. "I'm whacking him, I'm whacking his message about Tasmania.

"It is tragic what has happened in Tasmania and I'm sick of banging on about it."

Are the Hawks making a difference in Tassie?
Are the Hawks making a difference in Tassie?

Kennett wasn't the only one to cop Wilson's wrath. She laid into Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman for failing to confront Hawthorn over footy's failing fortunes and also blasted AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan for avoiding the elephant in the room.

"Will Hodgman the premier has been, quite frankly, weak. And I notice he won't come on this show," Wilson said. "He is terrified of Hawthorn, he is terrified of losing votes in Launceston because he thinks people in Launceston love watching Hawthorn play and he's also, in my view, too frightened of the AFL.

"It's a lot worse to believe in something and still do nothing and that's where I point the finger at Gillon. Gillon McLachlan knows the problems in Tasmania and knew when he took on the (CEO) job or just before ... he came out and said a one-team model is the best model for this state.

"He took on that battle and he backed away at a million miles an hour before he took on the job proper because it was just one battle too many when he was becoming the new CEO. He's been disappointing too.

"I think they should be ashamed of themselves - the AFL and Jeff Kennett for trying to mount an argument that they've done something good for football in Tasmania."

Not even AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan was safe.
Not even AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan was safe.

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