AFLW moves from strength to strength in 2021

Another year of the AFLW is now complete with the Lions winning their first premiership in their third attempt, running out victors in front of 22,934 people at Adelaide Oval.

Play reports that Season five of the NAB AFL Women’s competition has seen less congestion and boundary play with data showing stoppages are down to 53.3 per game in 2021 compared to 57.9 in 2020. In addition, ball ups are down five per game, boundary throw ins are down 4.5 per game and tackling is down 6.5 per game.

Scoring continues to trend upwards, with teams averaging 35.4 points per game this season compared to 32.4 at this stage last year, with teams in last weekend’s round six matches averaging 43.1 points per game.


The 2021 AFLW season was the first to include paid ticketing for Adults (under 18s were still free, including finals).  Attendance for the year totalled 157,231 at an average of 2,312 per game. This was about half the 2020 season average.  Factors in this include the number of games affected by pandemic restrictions, as well as late rescheduling. The impact of having to pay to enter is not really quanitifable in these circumstances – 13 games were listed as sellouts under COVID restrictions.


Membership records were broken for the fifth year in a row – as early as February with the AFL that the 14 clubs collectively signed 21,319 members, surpassing the previous figure of 20,849 set last season after two rounds, with eight clubs reporting membership records. By March, the AFL was reporting 23,666 people had signed on, with 11 clubs (Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Geelong, Gold Coast, Melbourne, North Melbourne, St Kilda, and Western Bulldogs) seeing records. By season end, the league was reporting 24,423 members.


In March it was reported that TV ratings for AFLW were up three per cent year on year for per game average audience, including Foxtel per game average audience up 6 per cent through Rounds 1-6.

The 2021 NAB AFLW competition attracted a total TV audience of over 5 million people in the home and away season, eclipsing the previous record by 35% in 2020 and 49% increase from 2019.

The 2021 AFLW Season attracted average audiences of 35,000 across 68 games on Foxtel and Kayo, up 19% on 2019 and up 3% on the shortened 46-game 2020 Season. The AFLW 2021 Season concluded with Brisbane’s 18-point victory over Adelaide with an average audience of 128,000, up 64% on the 2019 Grand Final, ranking it as the third-highest rating AFLW game ever on subscription television

The opening Pride Round match between the Western Bulldogs and Carlton recorded an average audience of 265,000 viewers (a 12 per cent increase compared to round two in 2020), marking the largest ever Friday night audience recorded outside season openers.

Digital consumption also remained strong, with 1.1million digital users engaging on AFLW platforms – an increase of 15 per cent compared to this time last season. This season, AFLW has seen more users tune in on a weekly basis, averaging over 220,000 digital users per week across its digital channels.


In 2017 — the inaugural season of the AFLW — females made up 30 per cent of the 1.5 million people that were participating Australian rules nationwide. The percentage of females playing the code at a grassroots level has now surpassed 40 per cent, just five years later.

Women accounted for 34 per cent of total participation in 2019, with the total number of women’s teams growing 16 per cent to 2609 sides.

Currently 42% of participation in QLD is females – and participation numnbers are up 331% since 2014. The Lions premiership team exemplifies the states development, with 78 per cent of the current AFLW team being drafted from their home state.


80% of AFL partners also invested in AFLW partnerships in 2021, up from 10% when the NAB AFLW competition was first introduced in 2017.

Major partner BHP continues to demonstrate a game changing partnership, investing in Player Development Managers within AFLW Clubs to further support AFLW talent both on and off the field. Other crucial community football initiatives for AFLW include AAMI Clangers for Good Campaign recently launched for the second season and Toyota Good for Footy Gear Grants program which has proudly provided up to 200 female community teams with access to female specific uniforms across 2020 and 2021. Additionally, rebel continues to invest in the future generation of female football talent through the rebel mentor program which recently provided VFLW players with resources on leadership, well-being and resilience as well as personal insights from current and former professional athletes.

2020 Annual Report

At AFL Commission meetings in 2020, the clear view was football for women and girls was a significant growth area for the game and should not suffer any further due to COVID-19. At a club presidents’ meeting soon after the mid-year resumption of the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season, the Commission told the industry there would be no reductions to the spend around the women’s game, in planning for 2021. $13.7m was spent on women’s football in 2020.

In 2020, the AFLW competition expanded by four teams to include new arrivals the Gold Coast Suns, Richmond, St Kilda and the West Coast Eagles, increasing the available options for elite players by more than 100 senior list positions.

In 2020, The Seven Network extended its partnership to cover the 2023 and 2024 AFLW seasons as part of the revised broadcast arrangements

AFLW Membership rose by 48.8% on 2019.

Participation and Development

  • 31 girls from Victoria were selected at the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft held in October.
  • A full season (10 minor rounds and a three-week finals series) of the 2020 SANFL Statewide Super Women’s League was completed, despite the season being
    interrupted after four rounds due to COVID-19
  • The WAFLW moved to a six-team competition and a seven-round home and away season with a two-week finals series
  • Seven WAFL women’s players were added to AFLW lists following the NAB AFLW Draft on October 6
  • 2020 saw the first female team from a remote NT community – the Arnhem Crows – join a weekly community football competition.
  • The 2019-20 NTFL season saw the introduction of a new division, with the inaugural Women’s Division 2 competition played on Wednesday evenings with six teams.
  • Two NT female Indigenous players were drafted to AFLW clubs


  • Coles has become the official supermarket of the AFLW for an exclusive five-year period.
  • BHP will partner with the AFL for the next three years to improve opportunity and equality in both business and sport.
  • Colgate partnered with the AFL as an official partner for both the men’s and women’s competitions, as well as a supporting partner for the NAB AFL Draft and NAB AFL Auskick program.
  • Google Australia extended its partnership to the end of 2022, committing to both the women’s and men’s competitions




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.