League closes on preferred structure for 2020 season

AN EIGHT-ROUND season and three weeks of finals is believed to be the AFLW competition committee's recommendation for 2020.

The competition committee, which met on Monday, is understood to be pushing for the last two rounds of expansion to come in 2022 and 2024.

These recommendations – stemming from two sub-committees – are not a guaranteed sign of the future, with the AFL to decide on what to present to the Commission in August, which has the last say.

A final announcement is set to be made in late August or early September.

The 2019 season saw seven rounds of home-and-away matches and a two-week finals series.

"The one that's more pressing time-wise – because we recognise we were a little late last year (October) – is the competition structure," AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone told womens.afl.

"Whilst I can't tell you exactly what was recommended, as there's a process to adhere to and I want to respect that process, we hope to have determinations out of the Commission meeting in August." 

AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone

It was confirmed in April that the conference system will once again be recommended to the AFL Commission for the 2020 season. 

The AFL and the AFLPA are currently in negotiations for the final elements of the players' CBA, which ties into the ongoing discussions in the Competition Committee.

While the pay system was decided upon last year, the season and pre-season length will affect the CBA for 2020. 

With a further four teams joining the AFLW in 2020, the competition will expand to 14 teams. 

It leaves Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney – all of which are eager to join – without a side in the top-tier women's competition. However, the depth of talent is not yet sufficient to sustain 18 sides. 

"We recognise the other four clubs are really keen and interested," Livingstone said. 

"The Swans obviously still have some logistical challenges with green space, but at least they've now got some commitments with their training facilities, which is great. 

"There'll be some recommendations made by the Competition Committee in terms of club expansion, but I can't go into detail about those right now. 

"We've made no secret of the fact that for all 18 clubs to have a women's team is important, for the opportunity for women and also the supporter base. I can't give you any more detail than that." 

Also discussed off the back of the recent NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships were talent pathways and the state league competitions. 

The AFL is also keen to develop and encourage the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women playing at the top level, a topic which will also be discussed at the next meeting on October 1.

"Obviously we're only three years in, but the AFL is at about 10 per cent (indigenous talent) and I think the AFLW is about four per cent," Livingstone said.

"Because it's happened so quickly, a lot of the talent ID work we've done has been in centralised locations. 

"There's so many great indigenous footballers out there, so we're thinking about programming that may be able to attract those players, as well as retaining them." 

The AFLW Competition Committee

Simone Wilkie - AFL commissioner
Nicole Livingstone - AFL head of women's football
Steve Hocking - AFL general manager football operations
Brett Murphy - AFLPA general manager player relations
Phil Harper - Adelaide general manager football administration
Lauren Arnell - Brisbane AFLW player
Kara Donnellan - Fremantle AFLW player
Cain Liddle - Carlton CEO
Mark Evans - Gold Coast CEO
Alan McConnell - GWS AFLW senior coach
Peta Searle - St Kilda AFLW senior coach
Todd Patterson - Melbourne AFLW list manager
Laura Kane - North Melbourne football operations manager
Debbie Lee - Western Bulldogs general manager women's football