HAWTHORN president Jeff Kennett has come out swinging in response to Thursday's AFLW expansion announcement from the AFL, labelling it "discrimination" despite the club now being set to join by the end of 2023.
The AFL has committed to having all 18 clubs in the NAB AFLW competition by the end of 2023, which will be the starting date of season eight.
No teams will be brought in for 2022 – which has been brought forward to the start of December – but if all four clubs meet the criteria set out by the AFL, they can enter in the following season.
"This is just passing the decisions down the track yet again. We've been led to believe that we would be able to play next year," Kennett told SEN.
"I mean for goodness sake, the AFL was established by the club presidents to oversee the code and act equally on behalf of all those clubs. So four of us have been denied the opportunity to play AFLW. Four of us are still denied the opportunity in what is the fastest growing aspect of AFL football.
"We have a VFLW team which performs well, won the first premiership, we've got our women desperately wanting to enter the main competition and it discriminates against them.
"They're really saying, the AFL, that they're second-class citizens. We've got all these policies about women and everything else, equality and diversity, but the AFL just drives me insane at times. It will not make decisions."
Hawthorn chose not to apply for the first round of AFLW licences before the 2017 season.
"I wasn't on the board then, but you're correct, at the time the board said they didn't want to join it. For what reason, I don’t know," Kennett said.
"But when I became president four years ago, we changed that position immediately and I've been working with AFL and others to have our team admitted.
"This is just discrimination, it's unacceptable. Yet they're a world unto themselves, a law unto themselves and there's nothing we can do about it.
"Of course we’ll have to go through the bloody (application) process. How bureaucratic is that? The AFL knows all of our finances, all clubs have to report on a regular basis. We’re an unassisted club, we’re financially sound, we’re organisationally well positioned, we’re a training ground for many other clubs. They know us inside and out.
"This concept of reapplying. They’re worse than the bloody (Daniel) Andrews government."
BEST AND FAIREST WRAP Who was your club champion?
Hawthorn's VFLW team has recorded three wins this year, all against standalone clubs Williamstown and Darebin, but won the flag back in 2018.
There is nothing preventing Hawthorn VFLW players from nominating for the 2021 NAB AFLW Draft and being signed by another club to play at the top level.
Kennett's response was in direct contrast to that of Essendon, Port Adelaide and Sydney, who welcomed the decision.