Port Melbourne joins VFLW, competition start date locked in

PORT Melbourne will join the VFLW competition in 2021, taking over Richmond's licence, with the competition to start in February for the first time.

Following AFL Victoria's announcement, the two clubs released a statement on Wednesday night saying they would join forces, with non-selected Tigers able to line up for the Borough.

The Tigers had previously said they would not be fielding a VFLW team, to "ensure we can focus our resources and energies on delivering a high-quality AFLW program in 2021 and beyond".

There are no licence fees for the 2021 VFLW season.

INS, OUTS, TRADES, DRAFTEES, ROOKIES Every club's complete AFLW list for 2021

"We had to make a very difficult decision on the shape of our women’s pathway programs given the significant impact COVID-19 will have on our business in the short-to-medium term," Richmond CEO Brendon Gale said, in announcing the alignment.

"We opted to focus available resources on our elite program to give our AFLW team the best chance to succeed."

All other Victorian AFL clubs will field a VFLW side – including Essendon and Hawthorn, who do not yet have AFLW teams – along with Darebin and Williamstown.

North Melbourne has previously been aligned with Melbourne Uni, but will field a standalone side for the first time, as the club had intended for the cancelled 2020 season.

Victorian AFLW clubs will be pleased with the decision to start in February, allowing unselected players an opportunity to play in a second-tier competition, as is the case in South Australia and Queensland.

VFLW players should then be able to return to their community clubs at the conclusion of their season if they so wish, strengthening local footy.

YOUR CLUB'S DRAFT All you need to know about the 57 new faces

A press release from AFL Victoria said the NAB AFLW under-19 championships is looking likely to be held towards the end of the NAB League girls' season in April.

An extra year of eligibility has been added to the championships next after a disrupted 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

As the state gradually opens up from lockdown, the statement said: "AFL Victoria will continue to review all arrangements including return-to-train and return-to-play protocols in consultation with clubs, the Victorian State Government and respective health officers to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in these competitions remains the priority."