THE NAB AFL Women's collective bargaining agreement has been approved by 98 per cent of the playing group, after the initial deal was knocked back in early October.
It paves the way for the fixture to be released in the coming days, with pre-season to now start on Monday, November 11.
The approval comes after AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh, AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone and AFL footy operations boss Steve Hocking met with player representatives last Monday.
The AFLPA has an internal requirement that any CBA needs 75 per cent player approval before it can be signed off.
Only 70 per cent of the players voted to approve the initial deal in October, with the main sticking points believed to be the length of the season and concerns over a perceived lack of clarity on the finer details of the deal.
Also included in the new three-year CBA is a commitment to an independent AFLW Competition Review, which a joint press release from the AFL and AFLPA said would allow the industry to "improve its understanding of the unique challenges faced by AFLW players, and identify new opportunities to ensure the league continues to thrive."
"There's some work to be done with the AFLPA and the AFLW players in terms of setting what it is they would like to look at from an AFLW competition point of view and the areas of focus," Livingstone said in reference to the review.
"That will then come into the AFL and we'll have a chat about what the terms of reference look like and then we'll move forward from there.
"Another area of concern was their first payment, which wasn't coming through till December. So therefore, there was a month they weren't getting paid, or being paid late for. Once we know that, then we can fix it. They'll be now paid within two weeks of entering the clubs.
"It's not a breakdown in communication, it's more this competition is so new, so we're discovering things as we go along that aren't just an issue for the playing group, but also for the competition itself."
Players must now have key season dates communicated to them with a minimum of four months' notice, a point of significant frustration among the playing group considering their external work and study commitments.
A player development manager must also be appointed by each club.
The competition is currently undergoing a second round of expansion, with Gold Coast, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast joining for the 2020 season.
The number of teams is now at 14, with some players keen to play every team once in the still-fledgling competition coming into its fourth season.
The AFL has been steadfast in its belief that every match must be televised to help build the game, but broadcasters have restrictions on the number of rounds they can show, with 10 believed to be the most at the moment.
The first draft of the deal presented to players had a year-on-year build of eight, nine and nine home and away rounds from 2020-2022.
Based on feedback, the AFLPA and AFL revised the final year of the deal to 10 rounds, which was part of the first CBA that was voted on and has now been formalised.
AFLW season structure 2019-2022
Pre-season length (weeks)
Number of home and away rounds
Weeks of finals
In the wake of the failed vote in October, the AFLPA also met with the four clubs – Geelong, Carlton, GWS and St Kilda – who didn't record a majority "yes" vote at the start of the month.
Recently drafted players who were signed to clubs last week were also eligible to vote on this updated CBA.
Total player payments will increase year-on-year, in part down to an increase in contracted hours.
AFLW player payments 2019-2022
TPP per club
Livingstone said the AFL was comfortable with the length of time taken to sign the deal.
"The AFLPA have now taken the time to work the players through exactly what this means," she said.
"This is all new for everybody. It's new for the AFLW players in terms of the intricate details that go into a CBA, so for them to feel comfortable – I'm OK with how long it's taken, because I wanted the players to also feel comfort that what they were entering into, which is an employment agreement, that they knew everything they needed to know."
AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh echoed Livingstone's sentiments around long-term growth.
"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," Marsh 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."