Extremely good news coming out of the world of footy this afternoon, with confirmation that the wholly excellent AFLW will expand in 2019.
League officials today confirmed what was long suspected, that the fledgling national women’s competition would remain at 8 teams for the 2019 season, before new teams are admitted into the league the year after.
Teams that are successful in bidding for an expansion franchise will be notified by mid-this year.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan today stated that the AFL Commission had accepted a recommendation that the women’s league needs to consolidate its remarkable first year – which saw crowds that far exceeded expectations flock to grounds to watch some extremely entertaining football – before it makes a push to increase the size of the league.
This is being done primarily to ensure that the national league is established as the end point on the women’s football pathway, but not one that comes at the expense of diluting the increasingly-strong individual state leagues.
“The AFL Commission accepted a recommendation that we need to consolidate the strong work that was achieved in year one of the NAB AFL Women’s Competition, with the addition of new teams to come into the competition to be set for 2019.”
“Our primary objective is to provide women and girls with an equal opportunity to play elite Australian Football and to increase the female participation and interest in our game. We need to further invest in both building our audience for the NAB AFL Women’s Competition and ensuring the talent pool can expand to be ready for the addition of new teams in 2019.”
“Announcing the expansion teams later this year for the 2019 season will allow the competition to finalise its list-build rules for the new clubs before this year’s draft. It will also provide the time to focus strongly on talent identification and player development whilst enabling us to have discussions with both the AFLPA and our sponsors and broadcast partners before the 2019 season.”
The delayed announcement on the expansion question forced the inaugural AFLW free agency and trade period to be delayed. That will now commence on May 15th.
When the league was launched last year, Geelong, St Kilda, North Melbourne, West Coast, and Richmond were all granted “provisional” franchise licenses, after missing out on scoring one of the 8 inaugural franchises. However, the AFL has asserted that all teams in the league are free and invited to submit applications for a team in the women’s league.
The Saints staged a one-off exhibition match between their women’s development academy and a team representing the Australian Defence Force prior to their April 23rd AFL men’s clash against Geelong.
Tasmania is also said to have shown high interest in being awarded an AFLW franchise, whether in standalone form or as an expansion arm of current men’s “tenants” Hawthorn or North Melbourne.
The league stopped short of revealing how many clubs will be part of the expansion come 2019.
Photo: Michael Wilson, AFL Media/Getty.