AFLW set to stick with conferences for 2020

“There was overwhelming support for conferences,” Livingstone said.

“[The committee] haven’t made the recommendation yet but the overwhelming sentiment was conferences will continue and now 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 the AFL executive, then it will go to the AFL commission for ratification.”

The support for conferences comes despite the disparity in quality between the two five-team conferences this year, with Conference A being vastly stronger than Conference B.

However, the fact AFLW at this stage remains confined to a brief window of two months, from early February to early April, limits the league’s options.

Two working groups have been established, which will work between now and the competition committee’s next meeting in July. One will work on season structure, while the other is charged with exploring when and how to introduce the four remaining AFL clubs without AFLW teams into the women’s league.

While the absence of a clear long-term vision for AFLW has been the source of frustration at club level, the AFL views medium-term flexibility as a positive.

Livingstone said the competition committee member had been told they may need to meet out of session to work around AFL commission meeting timings in order to ensure that plans for next season are in place as soon as possible.

“We have a desire to have certainty and stability around what we’re doing. So the sooner we can do it the better,” she said.

The meeting occurred against the backdrop of a frenzied AFLW sign and trade period in which several club captains have either moved clubs or requested to do so.

Brisbane Lions captain Leah Kaslar and vice-captain Sam Virgo have joined the expansion Suns, following Katie Brennan’s defection from the Western Bulldogs to Richmond.

Meanwhile, Carlton skipper Brianna Davey has requested a trade to Collingwood, although just how a deal will be done before the end of the period on Thursday remains unclear.

Jacqui Yorston is also moving from the Lions to Gold Coast, while the Suns have signed premiership Bulldog Tiarna Ernst, who is moving to Queensland for her work as a doctor.

The Tigers also announced the signature of Greater Western Sydney’s Christina Bernardi.

Daniel is an Age sports reporter.

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