THE 2021 NAB AFLW season marks the first time the majority of the nation's state women's football leagues have run alongside the national competition.
Clubs have nominated a range of benefits to the move, which has seen the WAFLW and VFLW start in late February this year for the first time, rather than around May.
The starting date of the QAFLW was changed last year, while the SANFLW is a comparatively new competition and made the decision to run alongside the AFLW from its first year of 2017.
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The AFL Sydney competition has not yet started, with unselected GWS players taking part in an extra training session, typically on the morning of the Giants' AFLW match.
The TSLW remains in winter, with the few Tasmanian AFLW players able to play for their club's VFLW affiliate, while the NTFLW, as always, runs over summer during the wet season.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The move has given clubs greater flexibility with their playing group and caters for players in a range of categories.
Players have the opportunity to return from serious injuries in a comparatively low-pressure environment, with Fremantle's Ann McMahon playing her first game since 2019 over the weekend.
Lining up for East Fremantle, McMahon made her return after suffering a broken left leg and a torn right ACL after being hit by a car in her role as a police officer at the end of 2019.
Clubs also flagged the fact there is much less match simulation done during the season compared to pre-season, meaning pressing claims for selection incredibly difficult for those on the outer.
The concurrent running of state leagues and the AFLW also allows for greater development in younger players, who are able to sit down with their AFLW coaches and review their state league tapes, speeding up the process of feedback and improvement.
HOW IS IT WORKING?
All eight AFLW sides have some form of representation in the VFLW.
Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs field teams under the club's name, while Melbourne (Casey Demons) and St Kilda (Southern Saints) have slightly different arrangements.
Richmond chose not to field a VFLW side this year, with its unselected players lining up with Port Melbourne.
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Hawthorn and Essendon (which do not have AFLW licences) also field VFLW teams, while Darebin and Williamstown are standalone clubs.
Upon the conclusion of the AFLW season, VFLW sides will only be able to field up to 10 AFLW players per match.
The under-19 NAB League is also up and running at the same time as the AFLW and VFLW.
The WAFLW currently features six teams: Claremont, East Fremantle, Peel Thunder, South Fremantle, Subiaco and Swan Districts.
Most players have long-standing connections with these clubs (or their previous affiliates) which date back to before the commencement of the AFLW.
Unselected players return to those clubs to get a game, which can lead to the interesting scenario that played out last weekend, where Docker Maggie MacLachlan and Eagle Courtney Guard were both named for Subiaco.
It's a similar situation in Queensland, with players returning to clubs with which they have long-standing connections.
However, there is a greater number of non-local players on Gold Coast and Brisbane's lists compared to Fremantle and West Coast's.
Divvying up "interstate" players among the QAFLW clubs is a multi-faceted task, with the player's personal preference (often dictated by proximity) the main factor.
An eye is also kept on attempting to spread the AFLW talent among the QAFLW teams, with Coolangatta and Bond Uni the main teams for Suns players given their locations.
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The SANFLW has expanded over the past few years, further splitting players as teams are added.
In recent years, the Crows' draftees have mostly come from West Adelaide, South Adelaide and North Adelaide, meaning there is a heavy weighting to those clubs among unselected players.
For those with no affiliate SANFLW club (including interstate or international players), some form of a draft is conducted to split the remainder across the competition.
For example, Irishwoman Ailish Considine played for West Adelaide last weekend after recovering from a concussion which had ruled her out of the Crows' team the week prior.
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