Burnie Football Club will not participate in the Tasmanian State League (TSL) in 2018. The club has advised AFL Tasmania that their TSL program will go into recess for the upcoming season.

Burnie Dockers have made the decision to go into recess as they couldn’t guarantee they could get through the entire season, fielding one team. In 2018, the club will explore the possibility of fielding teams in the NWFL. The TSL is hopeful of seeing a return of the Dockers into the competition in the future.

“It is not a decision made lightly by the board of the Burnie Football Club. It has been an exhaustive process and the bottom line is – we can’t field two sides and a one team statewide model would have left us extremely vulnerable,” Burnie President Steve Dowling explained.

“We’ve pushed it as hard as we could but it became clear fielding one team wasn’t a viable option, we don’t want to be forfeiting games of footy.

“We will explore options with the NWFL to avoid going into complete recess.

“This is not the end of the road for the club, administratively and financially the club is in a sound position.

“We have 132 years of history and we are going to protect our proud name and work hard to ensure another 132 years of history to come,” Dowling said.

TSL Manager Carl Saunder was disappointed with the news but pointed to learnings from other state leagues, demonstrating that a season out of action can help drive a bounce back.

“There is a comparison to be made between Burnie’s predicament and that of Frankston in the VFL.

“Frankston’s concerns were off-field and Burnie’s are on-field but the club took a year out to stabilise and that is what is hopefully ahead of the Dockers,” Saunder explained.

“The club had numbers for one team but didn’t have confidence they could complete the season without disruption to the competition. The integrity of the TSL competition was at the forefront of their decision making and I think that needs to be applauded.

“It is sad news but what it does show along with Devonport’s exit, is that the TSL is a two-team competition and that having one TSL team isn’t a sustainable model.”

“For now, the TSL is a seven-team competition but we want representation from the north-west coast in the TSL and we will work hard to make that an outcome,” Saunder said.

AFL Tasmania CEO Trisha Squires said Burnie’s exit signalled a wider problem in the region.

“This is not just a Burnie problem it is a north-west region problem.

“The facts can’t be denied that the north-west is under stress.

“The north-west region has lost 3000 men aged between 0-45 in the last five years, 10% of people on the north-west coast play football so that is roughly 300 players and 12 teams that have departed the region.

“The population has shifted and the structure of football on the north-west coast has not adjusted enough to combat the change.”

Despite their departure from the TSL, the club will continue to participate in the Wrest Point TSL Women’s competition.

“It is positive the club will continue in the TSLW and we hope to see them return to the Men’s competition sooner rather than later,” Squires said.

The TSL fixture will be adjusted to reflect the new competition format and will be released in the coming weeks.