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 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 showed female 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. Females playing the game now makes up 22 per cent of all participants, 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 by 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.
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.