“If you don’t win the first couple of games, you can almost write yourself off for the rest of the season, which is really disappointing,” she said. “That’s the way the competition is right now. In this part-time nature, in this really short season, you don’t actually get the best out of people and you don’t see their potential and especially not just as individuals but as a team.”
Ideally, Stephenson said, each team would play each other at least once. There are 14 AFLW teams this seaon in an expanded competition, which has an eight-week regular season.
“Obviously we want to move towards a full-time competition,” Stephenson said. “We want to make sure that it is growing and that we have more opportunities.”
The short season also impacts on the fan experience, Stephenson says, which is something the AFLW has always put as its No.1 priority. With the small number of rounds, teams who start poorly through the first few games may lose support, she said, which makes for a “predictable season”.
“If, in the first couple of games, your team loses then you’re probably going to switch off for the rest of the season, as harsh as that is,” she said. “But we want to make things exciting, we want spectators and fans to be not sure what’s going to happen next or who’s going to end up in finals.”
The Giants have missed out on a finals appearance for the past three years and were determined to crack the top three of their pool this year. After last week’s loss against Melbourne, they need a win against West Coast on Sunday at Blacktown to keep their season alive.
“We have experienced that the past couple of seasons where we’ve been just close, but because of our first couple of rounds we’ve missed out on finals and ultimately being in the grand final,” Stephenson said.