Following further negotiations, the players won a series of improved conditions including the promise of an independent review of the AFLW competition, to be funded by the AFL, increased prizemoney and greater notice of key season dates.
The contentious conference system remains in place.
Women’s football sources have told The Age that the conferences will be divided as follows: Collingwood, Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Richmond, Fremantle and West Coast in one conference and St Kilda, Geelong, North Melbourne, Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast in the other.
The season will begin on the weekend of Saturday, February 8. Industry sources suggested round one would feature a double-header at Ikon Park featuring Carlton v Richmond and Collingwood v Melbourne, as well as a meeting of the Saints and Bulldogs. The Eagles and Dockers are poised to play their inaugural derby in round two, with West Coast one of four new sides in the competition. The match will be held at Perth’s Optus Stadium, just the second AFLW match to be held at the 60,000-seat venue.
AFL Players’ Association chief executive Paul Marsh said the CBA would ensure growth over the next three seasons, and also set the game up for long-term sustainability.
He told The Age that the independent review was the most critical change since the first vote failed to pass.
“It’s clear that there are a number of issues that the players want to be addressed. This review will give us the vehicle to do that. I think the players have been concerned about the lack of vision for the AFLW competition,” he said.
Marsh said the union would consult with players before an independent body was found to conduct the review.
“The competition has taken great strides forward each year and this deal guarantees increases in wages, games, training time and funding for off-field support, at a time when 120 new playing positions have been created through the introduction of four new teams,” he said.
“Our players have a strong desire to keep growing the competition, and while they accept they won’t play every team once within this CBA, growth in the number of games will continue to be a priority for players moving forward.
“We are also pleased to have a commitment to an AFLW competition review, which will allow us to work closely with players and the industry on matters of importance, to ensure AFLW players have every opportunity to thrive.”
AFL head of women’s football Nicole Livingstone said the agreement reflected the AFL and AFLPA’s long-term commitment to women’s football.
“This is a great outcome for women and girls football across the country. It delivers certainty to the current AFLW playing group and allows investment in the future of women’s football, to sustain the long-term growth of the women’s game at all levels,” Livingstone said.
“We’ve come so far and we’ve gathered such momentum and possibility. As we continue on the journey of expanding the competition, 10 teams become 14 and 120 new players will get their opportunity to play next season.
“I thank the AFLPA for their advocacy on behalf of their members and most importantly the players for their passion, courage and commitment to the continued success and long-term sustainability of the competition.”
Daniel is an Age sports reporter