K rock Football

AFLW expansion green light

(Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

ALL 18 AFL clubs will have an AFLW team by 2023 after the AFL Commission approved plans for further expansion of the women’s competition.

AFLW will also be brought forward on the calendar next season in order to avoid a scheduling overlap with the men’s competition.

The sixth AFLW season will begin in December this year, with 10 rounds and three weeks of finals, culminating in a mid-March grand final.

The AFL on Thursday announced it has called for submissions from the four clubs who do not currently have AFLW teams – Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney – to join the women’s competition.

The clubs have been asked to detail their readiness, list-building strategy, corporate support and facilities for women’s football.

The submissions are due on July 9, with the AFL Commission set to make decisions on those bids in August.

All four clubs could join the competition as soon as season seven – slated to begin in late 2022 – and will be approved for season eight at the latest.

“AFLW has significant momentum and we want to keep that momentum and bring the power and the supporter base behind all 18 clubs before the end of 2024,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.

“The standard of play has continued to lift as we have expanded the competition and we are seeing more free-flowing and attacking football as more talent comes through the pathways.”

McLachlan and AFL general manager of women’s football Nicole Livingstone dismissed concerns over the talent pool being further stretched, with AFLW to expand from 420 players to 540 within two years.

The league is yet to finalise rules around AFLW player contracting ahead of the expansion phase.

“You’ve got a lot of girls coming through that have now played right through from Auskick to AFLW and there’s a lot of girls coming through the system,” Livingstone said.

“We’ve invested heavily in the talent pathways and those now look very equal to the boys’ pathways.

“We’re very proud of that piece of work that we’ve done to accelerate those girls coming through the system.”

AFL fixtures had to be moved in order to create a clear window for the 2021 AFLW grand final on April 17.

But that will no longer be an issue, with the AFLW grand final to be held before the traditional start of the AFL season in March.

There will be a short break in the middle of the AFLW season, over the Christmas period.

(C) AAP 2021

AFLW SEASON TIMELINES

Season 6 – December 2021 to March 2022

Season 7 – Late 2022 start

Season 8 – Late 2023 start