In Peter Hudson, the goalkicking machine from the sleepy town of New Norfolk, there lives an almost unwavering bond between Tasmania and the Hawthorn football club.
Today, that bond will be celebrated when a statue dedicated to the footballing giant is unveiled in his hometown.
But as Jeff Kennett and Hawks CEO Justin Reeves touch down in Tasmania to celebrate the occasion, they do so at a time when that relationship is at a crossroads.
Tasmania, desperate to stand on its own two footballing feet, has threatened to bid adieu to the Hawks, potentially ending a 20-year chapter between the state and the famous club.
There is no doubt both parties have benefited from the two-decade-long marriage that has seen Hawthorn play more than 80 regular and pre-season matches in Launceston and emblazon ‘Tasmania’ across its chest for the past 14 seasons.
While for Tasmania, the economic shot to the state’s event and tourism sectors has undoubtedly been worth the spend, given regular season games have attracted an average crowd of 15,320.
In 2017, a PricewaterhouseCoopers report calculated that about $30 million was returned in the Tasmanian economy, per $5 million spent on bringing the Hawks to Tasmania.
That is where it is important to realise that deals struck between the State Government and Hawthorn have never really been about football.
The sport has acted as a popular vehicle in which interstate dollars have been able to pour into the state during traditionally lean winters, and Launceston’s hoteliers and cafe owners will attest to that.
But we know the deal has never really been about football – much less the growth of Tasmanian football – because for the approximately $60 million that has been spent on bringing Hawthorn to Tasmania, only a slither of that has been re-invested in the Tasmanian game.
Have the Hawks put enough into grassroots footy in Tasmania?
Make no mistake. Hawthorn owes Tasmania nothing.
Nor Tasmania, Hawthorn after 20 years.
While Hawthorn has never been contractually obliged to invest in, or help to improve, Tasmanian football, it could be argued that a club that brands itself as the Tassie Hawks and whose president has floated the idea of relocating to Tasmania multiple times, has had an implied responsibility to help ensure the local game in Tasmania is strong.
Against the backdrop of local clubs entering recess, and a drop off in draftees, could the Hawks have provided a few more crumbs to the local game over the years?
Can Hawthorn, which has enjoyed almost an embarrassment of success in the past 15 years, honestly tell itself it has left the game in Tasmania in a better state than it found it?
Or could the State Government have invested more in the grassroots game, given its $500,000 a year in funding has remained static despite what it has reaped back in economic impact as a result of the Hawks 20-year presence?
Since arriving in 2012 North Melbourne has at least handed local players VFL team opportunities, established a next-generation academy and brought its ‘huddle’ program to the state.
Not to mention the AFLW partnership, which has seen six Tasmanian women drafted to the North Melbourne Tasmania Kangaroos in the past three years.
The Hawks will point to community camps and premiership cup tours as examples of helping to grow the game, and some credit is earned for the Tassie Hawks Schools Cup program which has run since 2008, as well as for various other wellbeing programs.
Partnerships with the Prospect junior football and netball clubs add some credence too.
Tasmania’s economy has enjoyed a football-fuelled kick along thanks to former Premier Jim Bacon’s vision at the turn of the millennium.
But for the tens of millions spent on the Hawks, has the grassroots game in Tasmania – the same one in which the great ‘Huddo’ was plucked from all those years ago – really profited?