CARLTON and Collingwood, the two teams who played in the first ever AFLW match, are back to open the 2021 NAB AFLW season.
The arch-rivals faced off in the 2017 and 2018 season-openers, before new clubs Geelong (2019) and Richmond (2020) had turns in the spotlight.
The game will be held at 7:15pm AEDT on Thursday, January 28 at Ikon Park, the sole Thursday night fixture for the season.
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Richmond will instead face Brisbane on Sunday at the Swinburne Centre.
There will be five games played in Victoria in round one, as top-flight footy returns to the state for the first time since the AFL moved north due to COVID-19 in early July.
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For the first time, a competition-wide Pride Round (round two) and Indigenous Round (round five) will be held, while round nine has been earmarked as the Toyota Good for Footy round and will be held in conjunction with the AFL competition.
In a battle of the competition heavyweights, Fremantle will meet North Melbourne at Fremantle Oval in round three.
Only one of last season's unplayed preliminary finals – Carlton and North Melbourne (round four) – will take place, with Fremantle and Melbourne not facing each other.
Once again, an AFLW Western Derby between West Coast and Fremantle will be held in round four, with a ground to be confirmed, and Gold Coast and Brisbane will face off for QClash rights in round five at Metricon Stadium, after the 2020 edition finished in a draw.
Adelaide will host its games at Norwood Oval, while GWS has games at Blacktown International Sportspark, Manuka Oval and Giants Stadium.
The Roos will host two games in Tasmania, while Gold Coast will have one match at Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay.
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"We are proud to formally celebrate a Pride Round across the competition in round two and we recognise the leadership of the Carlton and Western Bulldogs football clubs who have paved the way with the Pride Game over recent years," AFL head of women's footy Nicole Livingstone said.
"The inclusion of Indigenous Round in round five is a truly significant milestone for the competition and an opportunity to celebrate and continue to learn from Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander players and staff in our game.
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"The Toyota Good for Footy round will be held during round nine of the season and will be the first joint-themed-round across both the men's and women's competitions aimed at supporting local communities and growing the game at the grassroots.
"Where we can be more celebratory, where we can be more inclusive, where we can give back to the community, we will."
If all goes to plan, Collingwood recruit Aliesha Newman will be playing her first game for the club in the season-opener.
"When I saw what the opening round was, I got the goosebumps I had four years ago when watching it for the first time. It's going to be super exciting to pull on the jumper in such a significant round," Newman said.
"It's also really exciting to have every club involved (in Indigenous round), and not just the one or two clubs that have been able to wear jumpers over the last few years.
"Now that we're able to see everyone in jumpers and be able to pave the way, it's really exciting and I can't wait."
.@AlieshaNewman shared the story of her special bond with her grandma as she joined the crew on Yokayi Footy on Wednesday night.— AFL Women's (@aflwomens) August 28, 2020
You can watch the full episode featuring Newy as co-host now: https://t.co/GBvlbRMxs2 pic.twitter.com/KUnCAXOLGV
As previously announced, a single ladder will be used in 2021 instead of conferences.
Given there are nine rounds (as agreed upon in the 2019 Collective Bargaining Agreement) and 14 teams, the two 2020 ladders were combined into one, and then teams split into a top four, middle six and bottom four in an attempt to provide competitive evenness in the 2021 fixture.
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The top six will qualify for the three-week finals series, which will start on the weekend of April 3.
Week 1 (Weekend of April 3)
Teams that finish first and second get the week off
3rd place vs 6th place
4th place vs 5th place
Week 2 (Weekend of April 10)
Winner of 3rd vs 6th plays team that finished 2nd
Winner of 4th vs 5th plays team that finished 1st
Week 3 (Weekend of April 17)
All games will be ticketed for the first time in 2021, with adult tickets costing $10 and under-18s free.
All matches will be broadcasted live between the Seven Network, Fox Footy/Kayo and the AFL Live Official App.
They will also be streamed live via womens.afl and the AFLW Official App.