WITH four new sides being added to the NAB AFLW competition next year, AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone is confident there will be enough talent to fill the spots available.
A large number of players will come from the under-18 program, with the second round of matches of the NAB AFLW Under-18 championships currently being played on the Gold Coast.
"The talent that we had last year, the 300 players … they've improved year on year and we're coming in now to having a fourth pre-season," Livingstone said.
"Those players that are in the industry already are strengthening year on year, and when you bring the new players into a new environment that has those players already there, that brings them up to speed very quickly.
"They're then in a high-performance environment where they know what's expected of them. They will lift really quickly. A lot of these players, the improvement they can make in these first couple of years is huge."
Two of the sides being introduced next year are West Coast and Gold Coast, opening up the possibility of AFLW versions of the Derby and Q Clash (against Fremantle and Brisbane respectively).
"We haven't done fixturing yet, we're at the table with the AFLPA just finalising what our season 2020 looks like. We have hope we'll have that done fairly quickly," Livingstone said.
"We recognise that last year was all a little late for everybody, so we do hope to have that all announced and locked away soon. It allows the clubs some surety for planning and also the players, for putting in for leave applications and those sorts of things, given they're still juggling jobs.
"It would be crazy if we didn't have that (intrastate clashes) and we're working through appropriate venues, because clearly we're in the same time period as cricket, so just making sure we can get some good venues for those bigger ticket items."
While the first round of the under-18 championships is played out over a month across the country, the second is held in the one spot over one week.
"From a camaraderie point of view, I managed to spend some time with the captains yesterday and they're an amazing bunch of young leaders. But the value in being able to travel and be around girls from other states is actually really important," Livingstone said.
"It enables us to bring the whole cohort of over 200 girls to do this education process as well. The fact they're able to play in a big stadium in Metricon is brilliant as well. It builds the camaraderie. You will forever know the girls you played with at the championships, as well as move your way through your career in AFLW.
"As the teams are looking to who they want to potentially select in a draft, all the recruiters are here. This is an opportunity for those girls to shine, and our teams are focusing on managing the pressure of that and trying to get them focusing on playing good footy."