League, clubs seeking answers to list shortages

AS INJURIES and work commitments continue to affect AFL Women's lists, the AFL is in discussion with clubs regarding the issue. 

AFLW lists sit at 30 players for the eight-round, three-weeks-of-finals season, but a number of players have already withdrawn for a variety of reasons, whether that be work or personal.

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There have also been a series of season-ending injuries, with Melbourne already down three players (Bianca Jakobsson through work) and Adelaide with two.

The Crows also have an additional four players recovering from knee injuries, taking their list to just 24 ahead of round one against Brisbane.

Adelaide Crows star and captain Erin Phillips holds her injured knee in the 2019 AFLW Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Clubs cannot promote a train-on player to a match-player until they have fewer than 23 available for selection, with North Melbourne's Jess Duffin the only player to have been replaced this pre-season after announcing her pregnancy.

Train-on players are generally state league-affiliated, although Melbourne has the likes of former AFLW players Sarah Perkins and Kirby Bentley working with the club once a week.

"There's been a lot of discussions about list size in terms of the activation of once it reaches 23, being able to top players up," AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone said.

"We did make a determination on an application from North Melbourne about Jess Duffin's replacement. We do view pregnancy as different to illness or injury, and I'm sure you'd support us in considering that's different.

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"We continue to speak to the clubs, and we've said to them that if they feel they have any exceptional circumstances to be able to elevate train-ons to top-ups, then they can come to us."

The exception Livingstone mentioned is in regard to health and safety purposes, generally in the categories of rucks, with that application cut-off occurring this coming Friday.

Fremantle is teetering close to this mark, with 18-year-old Mim Strom the only fit ruck after Aine Tighe's knee injury, expected to be confirmed in the coming days as one which will rule her out for most, if not all, the season.

The Dockers also lost draftee Ann McMahon to a shocking double injury in late December, breaking one leg and tearing the ACL in her other knee when hit on the side of the road while performing her job as a police officer.

When asked specifically if Fremantle had made contact in regard to replacing McMahon, given the circumstances around her injury, Livingstone said the AFL continues to have conversations with all clubs.

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"I'll continue to keep in touch with Darryn (Fry, operations manager) and the team at Fremantle. Ann was really unfortunate to be in that situation. I do feel for her and for the club, but again, it's a workplace [injury]," she said.

"If a player isn't able to fulfil their duties either by work pulling them away – because we have had situations like that where they aren't available – that is deemed as not available for your duties, as oppose to pregnancy which is not the same."

Livingstone also said preparations were being made in the case of capacity being met at Ikon Park for the season opener between Richmond and Carlton, with a screen going to be set up on the lawn outside the ground.

The game will not be ticketed.