In March 2020, former Fitzroy and Adelaide coach Robert Shaw started a private Facebook group to help connect the Tasmanian football community during lockdown.
The “Tasmanian Football Players, Officials and Family” group was designed to be a support network when the world, and football as a result, ground to a halt.
The page has accomplished that and more, growing to embody the heartbeat of Tasmanian football.
Boasting over 3800 members, it has connected generations of Tasmanian footballers, officials and families under a common shared love of the state and the game.
The page is a treasure trove for any football history buff, with daily posts of old photos, jumpers and silverware pulled from the depths of member’s homes.
Items that would otherwise be collecting dust or being left forgotten are gaining new life through the group’s collective passion for football.
But the group is ready to take the next step in its development and is actively exploring opening a Tasmanian Football Heritage Museum.
“We have located so many old artefacts and have been promised so much from non-existent club officials and family members that we decided to investigate,” Shaw told The Inner Sanctum.
The page has already proved a powerful conduit for some of Tasmania’s most revered football names, but a museum would help educate the wider public about Tasmania’s rich football history and culture.
“It’s for that exact reason,” Shaw said when asked.
“We have worked out that over 100 clubs have gone to the wall.
“We owe it to them to hopefully produce something special that respects those clubs and great football families. Too much stuff has been ‘sent to the tip’.”
The museum would serve as a platform to highlight some of Tasmania’s rural clubs and leagues, who are often forgotten about.
“The more obscure the better, we will dig deep,” Shaw said.
“Our contacts in all regions and corners of the state are extraordinary. It is Tasmanian football, not NTFA, NWFU, TFL, there have been some superb competitions.”
Shaw thinks the museum would be an important reminder of Tasmania’s history in an Australian Rules dominated landscape.
“We believe we could have an equivalent of any sport museum in Australia, that will attract tourism,” he said.
“Also, with the saturation of AFL it is very much needed, people and clubs need to be remembered and respected.”
The group will not have to look far for items and memorabilia due to the dedicated work it has already done.
“We already have enough in ‘promises’ and our own finds headed up by a Chief Researcher and Historian in Damien Dillon. He refuses to let things go and his finds have been extraordinary,” Shaw said.
Significant connections and promises have already been made, but Shaw stressed the responsibility that comes with this.
“Hundreds upon hundreds of contacts, items, promises and finds, so much from ‘sons of’ and ‘granddaughters of’ that want their family member or club remembered,” he said.
People have extraordinary collections, our indications are that these will be loaned to the museum. But we must do it well.”
Shaw has always been a staunch defender of Tasmanian football and his group’s efforts prove that it is still strong, despite what others might try to tell you.
“It may not be strong as in the current climate but I refute the suggestion that it is not strong. I still believe the heart and the history is thriving in spirit. We need to give it something tangible,” he said.
“You can’t rewrite history we have it in spades. Don’t judge Tasmanian football on the current or past running of the game by the AFL, as they clearly do not understand.”
One of the Facebook group’s main rules is that AFL discussion is off limits.
“There are thousands of forums on AFL and the game is saturated. Go and join one of them, we are and want to be unique. Want to be ‘just another AFL site?’, won’t be happening,” Shaw said.
This rule will be carried over to the museum, the one exception (as a hypothetical example) would be displaying Rodney Eade’s Hawthorn jumper alongside his Glenorchy Magpies guernsey, maintaining the sanctity of the group’s focus.
Significant progress has been made on the museum.
Shaw’s group had a meeting at Tasmanian Parliament in mid-December with Independent MP Madeleine Ogilvie and Chief Advisor to the Premier, Vince Taskunas, who both believe in the idea.
“We are very much in stage two. We have been asked to come back to the Government and members of parliament with a very clear and detailed project plan,” he said.
“This is currently being professional written and we hope to be able to present it in February or early March.”
Shaw is also hoping to meet with AFL Tasmania this year.
When describing the museum Shaw channelled the famous words from Field of Dreams: “If you build it they will come.”
Just by starting a Facebook group, he has already proven this by creating a haven for the Tasmanian football community to congregate and connect.
Not bad for a football culture that is supposedly dying or already dead.
But by building a museum, the group would expand its scope and share its collected history with a wider audience.
It would not only be a tribute to an often forgotten and underappreciated past, but the epicentre of a strong and thriving Tasmanian football community.