On Feburary 24, 2015 the AFL revealed ambitious plans for national women’s competition as early as 2017, along with a review of its second tier operations. News Limited reported that women’s football is taking off in Victoria, with 52 senior women’s teams in seven divisions and plans for massive expansion in coming years.
Participation in organised teams was up 30 per cent last year and will again grow by that much in 2015, with plans for two Victorian country leagues next year.
“Let’s just say I believe that far much more could be done. The recognition that these women deserve right here and now is just not happening. I go to lots of schools with my work – primary, secondary – and everywhere I go I’m getting the impression that not enough is being done.
“I say it’s up to the AFL, and powers that I don’t have anything to do with, who need to really and sincerely promote the game of women’s football.
“The writing’s on the wall; we’re going to miss out if we don’t encourage our young children – men and women – to play AFL football. We’re going to lose out to soccer. We’re going to miss out if we don’t push this along the way we should be.”
On May 12, 2015, AFL CEO Gillon Mclachlan told an AFL womens industry lunch that a womens competition was inevitable, and that while most were expecting a 2020 launch to allow talent development, Mclachlan hoped for a more aggresive start time.
“The national women’s league is inevitable. In fact it is coming. The only question is timing. There’s a view that the depth of talent required will make it 2020. I’m pushing everybody to be a bit more adventurous than that … but this is coming. And it will provide opportunities for talented girls, but more than that: for coaches, for administrators, for everyone who wants to pursue their love of this game. Men or women. But certainly there will be a lot more opportunities for women than they’ve had in the past.
“My exit here is to implore everyone in the room: it’s coming. Get involved, play a role and make sure that it’s more like 2017 than 2020.”
On May 23rd, AFL Queensland was reported to be planning to base a womens AFL team with the Lions in the event of a womens competition. AFL Queensland boss Michael Conlan said the inaugural Queensland club would be the most likely option for the state’s first elite women’s team in the proposed national league.
Queensland has seen some of the biggest growth in female football participation last year, with 51,677 women and girls playing Aussie rules across the state in 2014.
On August 13th, the Adelaide Advertiser reported that participation in South Australian women’s football leagues is the highest on record and that across Australia, 163 new women’s teams have been established this year. The AFL, which says it is still on track to establish a national women’s league by 2017, wants to have 500 female teams nationwide by 2019.
On August 16th, Seven broadcast a womens curtain raiser live. Tthe women’s game between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, broadcast on TV for the first time, drew an average audience in Melbourne of 175,000 compared with the 114,000 average audience for Adelaide’s thrashing of a dismal Essendon at Etihad the previous day.
Nationally, the AFL women’s exhibition game drew an average of 301,000 viewers who saw an engrossing game that the Demons won by four points.
Fairfax reported that the AFL was planning that up to six AFL clubs could field women’s teams by 2017, as part of the AFL’s major push to boost elite women’s football. Other plans being considered in the lead-up to a national women’s league include a women’s all stars game during next year’s AFL finals to be contested by the country’s top 50 players. Another major step would see female games between AFL clubs contested in other capital cities.
In October, the AFL released its 2015 participation figures which showedfemale participation in Australian football soared by 46 per cent this year, further highlighting the need for the AFL to establish a national women’s competition.
There were 163 new female football teams that began in 2015, with the number of women now taking part in the game reaching 284,501.
With the League keen to capitalise on the success of the recent Melbourne-Western Bulldogs women’s exhibition matches with the establishment of a national competition in the next few years, females playing the game now makes up 22 per cent of all participants.
It’s an increase of 19 per cent overall from 2014.
On October 15th, Girlsplayfooty reported that at that time no details had been finalised, although AFL Female manager Jan Cooper was quoted as saying
“We might end up with four, six or eight [teams]. We’re unsure yet as to who the AFL clubs will be because a tender process has now been put in place to get expressions of interest from the clubs. We’ll work through that over the next 16 months, but 2017 is going to happen.”
On November 5th, it was announced that 200 West Australian women and girls would be brought into the WAFC Talent Academy. Players will participate in a rigorous training program including; fitness testing, strength and conditioning, tactics, strategies, and skills development from experienced Level 2 and 3 coaches
On November 7th, the AFL announced that 100 of the states best female footballers would commence a nine month program that will provide them access to elite club facilities and resources. Part of that program includes two games against teams from Queensland and New South Wales.
This was followed on November 13th, by an announcement from the league that a Victorian state womens competition will begin in 2016. The league said that of the 109 women invited to the academy, 73 were from the the ten clubs to form the new competition.
The new competition will feature 10 clubs – this year’s VWFL Premier Division teams (the Darebin Falcons, Diamond Creek, Eastern Devils, Melbourne Uni, St Kilda and VU Western Spurs), and the top four Division One sides – Cranbourne, Geelong, Knox and Seaford. A competition name, season length, fixture and finals format will be decided in the next few months
On December 3rd, News Limited reported that Six Victorian clubs had expressed an interest in obtaining a license – although only three are expected to be available. News stated that St Kilda, Carlton, Essendon, Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Richmond were all keen on being involved.
In November, North Geelong’s women’s team was confirmed as a founding member of the new state league that will be aligned with the Victorian Football League. Six clubs also fielded teams in AFL Barwon’s Youth Girls competition this year, featuring 136 players.
The league also started an all-girls under-12 competition, which drew four teams and 67 players. That is up significantly on the 84 girls who played across only four teams last year.
On December 9th, 2015 the Adelaide Crows attempted to get a leg up on Port Adelaide in the race for SA’s only likely womens team with the announcement that they had appointed two-time ANZ Championship winning netball coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson to its womens football advisory committee. On December 10th, the Crows said that talks on an SA team were encouraging.
Fairfaxr media reported on December 9 that the womens season will start in March 2017, with the possibility of six teams and a national draft. It was also likely that there would be no teams from NSW and SA in its first year..
The coming report to the Commission will say
- The women’s AFL in 2017 will certainly consist of four clubs from Victoria, a Brisbane Lions team and one from Western Australia, with both the Eagles and the Dockers fighting to gain the first women’s WA licence;
- The AFL is expected to cover the establishment cost of the foundation teams, estimated at $500,000 per club, incrementally reducing that funding each year;
- The women’s AFL competition will start with a televised national league in March 2017 and finish in May to allow minimum interference with local competitions;
- The AFL is considering a national draft to spread talent, but faces the problem of relocating the cream of the country’s women players in the early years, given the expected low player payments;
- Next week’s commission talks will pave the way for clubs to officially tender for women’s licences early next year.
On December 10th, Sydney confirmed that they would not enter womens teams for 2017.
“We are really supportive of the proposed AFL national women’s competition,’’ Swans CEO Andrew Ireland said. “If we have our own women’s team, we want to do it absolutely right. There is still a lot of information we need to see from the AFL and we will take our time to assess all of that and the tender documents.
“There are potentially some great opportunities to integrate a female program through the QBE Sydney Swans Academy. But that is just one of the many things we need to consider as the competition starts to take shape over the next 12 months.”
Fairfax media did report that Greater Western Sydney were keen citing in part the benefits of also having Canberra involved. The Giants said they’ve already played a role in developing and promoting the women’s game through their association with clubs like the Auburn Giants – a Western Sydney club made up largely of Muslim women.
“Women’s football is an area that we’re very familiar with and we’ve already been doing a lot of work in that area on a local level,” a Giants spokesperson said.
“We were fortunate enough to help them play a curtain raiser on the MCG prior to the Giants versus Collingwood [game] this season, which was an outstanding day for the Auburn Giants, but also for our involvement with that club.
“We are waiting to see the full framework of how the national women’s competition is going to be once the AFL has determined the detail of structure and funding and other areas. From there we’ll be able to make a determination about how we go about getting involved.”
News Limited reported that both the Gold Coast Suns, and Brisbane Lions had confirmed their interest in a womens side with Brisbane having been touted as the favorite by AFL Queensland in March. The Suns CEO was happy to put his club forward.
“The club is really looking forward to being a part of the new National Women’s league in the coming years. As recently as this week we met with the AFL and AFL Queensland in regards to the introduction of the competition,” he said.
“The current women’s competition is continuing to thrive in Queensland, and we are very proud of our Under 17 youth girls team, the Gold Coast Sunsets, who won the 2015 AFL Queensland State Championship in October.
“The Suns are a community based club and we know our community believes and supports women’s football. We currently have women’s football programs, and would love to be given the opportunity to provide a pathway for women to play at the highest possible level.’’
On December 14th, AFL Queenslands Womes Program Co-ordinator Breanna Brock confirmed in an interview for Bigfooty Media that while Brisbane were a good candidate, neither the Suns nor Lions had been chosen, and indeed no criteria had been released for the AFL for team selection at this point.
On December 15th, the AFL announced a series of trials for anyone to come and see if they could play Australian football, with the specified aim of trying to recruit interest from players of other sports.
On December 16th, Port Adeliade announced that it had signed Erin Phillips, Australian national basketballer, to be a part of their inaugural side if they had a team in 2017. The article notes that the AFL is yet to determine which teams will take part in the inaugural women’s competition, slated to start in 2017, with cross-town rivals Adelaide, West Coast, Fremantle, Essendon and Geelong all expressing interest following on from the success of this year’s women’s game between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
On December 18th, Adelaide and AFL Northern Territory were reported to have submitted a joint application for a womens side, with the team to split its home games between Adelaide and Darwin. Both parties have submitted written submissions to the league.
“For the Northern Territory, who’s probably never going to have an AFL male team here, to have a women’s team … that’s a massive win for the Northern Territory,” said Solomon. “We don’t want to see our best Indigenous players forced to leave the Territory to play for teams around Australia when they could be based here.
“We have seven to eight women here who are ready to go and another 12 or so playing out of our youth academy at the Michael Long Centre who we believe would challenge for a senior place by 2017.”
“There’s a real groundswell of support both inside and outside the club to make sure we are represented in the first-ever women’s competition,’’ Swann said. “We’ve always been very interested in being part of it.’’
On December 23rd, Adelaide revealed that it had appointed Narelle Smith to its Adelaide women’s football advisory committee.In November, Smith became the first woman to join the SANFL’s senior coaching ranks when Glenelg appointed her as a reserves assistant. A past Chairman of the South Australian Women’s Football League, Smith is the current coach of the state women’s team and has steered Morphettville Park to the past two SAWFL flags.
The six-time premiership player was the first South Australian to coach in an AFL women’s match as an assistant coach for Melbourne Football Club. In 2014, Smith was awarded the Honorary Football Woman of the Year.