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The arguments advanced against the introduction of a Northern Territory team into the AFL in the near future sound very much like the arguments against a Tasmanian team reheated. Well, in Darwin, they would be hotter.

But they don’t hold any more water now than they did then. Twenty teams is too many? Let’s put that in historical context. A century ago, when the VFL expanded from nine teams to 12, Victoria’s population was 1.7 million, an average of about 140,000 per club. All 12 teams muddled through.

TIO stadium on Thursday night: a home of footy?

TIO stadium on Thursday night: a home of footy?Credit: AFL Photos

When the competition next expanded to 14 teams by embracing West Coast and Adelaide in 1987, Victoria’s population was more than 4 million and the VFL’s reach stretched across three other states, too, making for a vastly bigger catchment.

Footy’s senior competition now consists of 18 clubs, drawing on a notional population of 26 million. Even allowing for a large couldn’t-give-a-stuff element on the other side of the Barassi line, that’s still a demographic of more than a million per club. The pyramid is getting higher, but the base is even broader.

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