AFLW officials have confirmed the utterly bewildering and borderline season-ruining conference system that gifted Carlton a virtually unearned finals berth this season will remain in place for season 2020 and beyond. And it will do so whether anyone likes it or not.
With the league set to expand dramatically in 2020, increasing from a 10-team competition to a 14-team one, league officials are yet to confirm just how the increasingly-cramped season will be formatted, particularly given that league officials seem hell-bent on shoehorning the league into the same seven-week TV dead zone in the middle of the blazing summer.
What is known, however, is that the league will be sticking to the controversial conference format that divided the league in two and unwittingly allowed Carlton, who finished the 2019 season with the fifth best overall record, to glide into the finals with home field advantage thanks to a lop-sided conference draw.
AFLW boss Nicole Livingstone asserted that internal support for the conference system was “overwhelming,” and that recommendations on the structure of the 2020 season will be formulated over the coming months before being presented to the controlling AFL Commission.
We need to figure out from a machinations point of view how we set those conferences and what the timing of the competition is for next year.
That recommendation will go to AFL Executive and then the AFL Commission for ratification for the 2020 season.
With Richmond, West Coast, St Kilda, and Gold Coast all set to enter the league in the 2020, officials find themselves in a position where extending the length of the season is virtually mandatory. Under a two-conference system consisting of seven teams each, just one inter-conference game per team per season would be permitted under the current seven-round roster.
How this pans out next season is anyone’s guess at this point, but the AFL is fast approaching a point where they’ll have no choice but to treat the AFLW as a serious professional entity and not the pre-season sandbox it kinda wishes it was.