AFLW expansion, League dates at top of Commission's agenda

EXPANSION plans and the timing of the NAB AFLW season will be top of the agenda at today's AFL Commission meeting.

Any possible priority picks or assistance will also be considered ahead of the AFLW Sign and Trade Period.

Womens.afl understands the starting date of the season – most pointedly, whether it will be played over summer – will be tied up in a general review of the 2021 season, inclusive of game attendance and broadcast figures.

This is pertinent as a growing number of AFL fans are tuning into the AFLW, creating a competition for attention when the two run concurrently.

Brisbane fans celebrate the Lions' 2021 Grand Final win at Adelaide Oval. Picture: AFL Photos

The existing Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is set to expire at the end of October, 2022, lays out a 10-round season with three weeks of finals for 2022, an increase of one round from 2021.

It is more likely the 2022 season will run as normal (starting date late January-early February) with any potential changes made to the timing of the 2023 season.

There is an expectation no announcement will be made this week about which of the four clubs without an AFLW team – Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney – will be next to join.

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Rather, the Commission will set a timeline for the next round of expansion, with the four clubs invited to submit a proposal, as has been the case previously.

Licences will then be decided on by the Commission at a future meeting, based upon those proposals.

As was previously reported, the general consensus among clubs is expansion will not happen next year, given the incredibly short turnaround that would be required and the implications for the existing CBA and broadcast deals.

Speaking to SEN on Tuesday, Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett said he did not expect the Hawks to join until 2023.

"I haven't heard anything officially, but from what I'm picking up around the traps, it looks as if we won't be in next year, per se, in the next round of competition, but we will be in the round after that. And that will start at the end of next year," Kennett said.

"If that's the way the AFL goes, of course I'll be disappointed, mainly disappointed for our females who compete in the VFLW team, wonderful young ladies who desperately want to be part of it.

"But again, if that's what the AFL dictates, then we will start preparing now, or from when the decision is made. Again, we will be competitive."

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Hawthorn's VFLW side currently sits eighth of 12 teams, with its three wins coming from games against standalone sides Williamstown and Darebin, having fielded 11 current and former AFLW players over the weekend against the Falcons.

Essendon's VFLW team is having its best season yet, sitting fifth, with six current and former AFLW players taking to the field in Saturday's loss to Geelong.

Port Adelaide already has an AFLW working group, with star 15-year-old NGA product Lauren Young waiting in the wings as a possible headline recruit.

Lauren Young won South Australia's best player award at the 2021 Under 19 Championships. Picture: AFL Photos

The tall, versatile Young needed special permission to play in April's NAB AFLW Under-19 Championships, where she finished as her state's MVP and accumulated 37 touches and five clearances in the second match of the week.

Sydney debuted an under-19 Academy side for the first time this year, having steadily built up through the age groups over the past few years.

Clubs are hoping for clarity on the starting date for the 2021 Sign and Trade Period, but decisions need to be made by the Commission around possible priority picks before it can be confirmed.