EXPLAINER: Everything you need to know about AFLW expansion

THURSDAY saw a historic announcement that the 2022/23 NAB AFLW season would feature all 18 clubs for the first time.

Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney will all make their AFLW debuts late next year.

It means there'll be plenty of new supporters out there who are keen to learn about all things AFLW, and we've got you covered.

'The AFLW is now whole': Can the new clubs come in with a bang?

05:07 Aug 12. 2021. 4:59 PM

Nat Edwards and Sarah Black discuss what expansion means for the competition

WHO'S GOING TO PLAY FOR MY TEAM?

We don't know yet! With a season still to play out until the new teams can join, adding players from current sides is a no-no. The AFL will confirm list build rules at a later date, but in seasons past, current clubs can lose a certain number of players before compensation kicks in.

WHEN WE CAN SIGN PLAYERS, HOW LONG CAN WE SIGN THEM FOR?

Currently, AFLW contracts run for a maximum of two seasons, with draftees signing one-season deals. It remains to be seen if this is increased now that all clubs have been included in the competition.

HOW MANY PLAYERS IN A SQUAD?

Currently, each team are 30 players each, with additional players added to replace those who are inactive (season-long injuries, work commitments, pregnancy). The size of lists isn't expected to rise when the new teams join.

'Your club isn't whole without a women's team': Daisy on expansion

05:36 Aug 13. 2021. 6:00 AM

AFLW icon Daisy Pearce gives her thoughts on the expansion announcement

WHEN DOES THE SEASON START?

We don't have an exact date, but AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan confirmed back in May that the 2022/23 season will begin in early December or late November.

HOW LONG WILL THE SEASON BE?

Again, that's another unknown that will be answered down the track. The upcoming season will run for 10 rounds, the longest yet. The length of the season is tied into the Collective Bargaining (or pay/salary) agreement – obviously the longer the season, the more players need to be paid. The current CBA is set to expire in October 2022.

WHO ARE THE LEADING AFLW TEAMS TO BEAT?

For new fans, the AFLW ladder makes for very different reading to that of the AFL. Adelaide has been a perennial powerhouse, but Brisbane is currently the reigning premier, having knocked off the Crows in the Grand Final. Collingwood and Melbourne made the preliminary finals this year.

ARE THERE ANY DIFFERENT RULES?

Short answer, yes. The "stand" rule hasn't yet crossed to the AFLW, having been invented too late in its pre-season to be implemented, but may still be brought in. Games are played with a size four footy, and the last-touch rule is in play between the forward 50 arcs (if it's contested, it's thrown in).

Boundary umpires also come in 10 metres before throwing the ball in, in an attempt to reduce congestion and secondary stoppages.

As games are played in summer, quarters run for 15 minutes apiece, with the last two minutes of each employing time on. There are 16 players on the field, with five on the bench, leading to a 5-6-5 rule at centre bounces, and no cap on interchange rotations.

AFLW expansion: Four more sides to enter the competition

04:47 Aug 12. 2021. 3:21 PM

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announces the inclusion of four more sides for the 2022/2023 NAB AFL Women's competition

WHAT HAVE THE CLUBS SAID?

Essendon president Paul Brasher

"We are a football club with a proud, rich, diverse, inclusive and successful history, but today, the Essendon Football Club becomes whole. Today is a landmark day for the red and black.

"Every young Bomber – boy or girl – can dream of one day representing the mighty red and black, and for us, this is exactly why our football club is now truly whole."

Hawthorn CEO Justin Reeves

"With a strong track record in the VFLW, Hawthorn’s development of women’s football is unique and speaks to the authenticity of the club’s desire to be credible and impactful in the space and to harness and develop the sport from grassroots through to elite. 

"Our strategic priorities sit across three pillars; people, football and sustainability and these are in place to ensure our AFLW side is driven by best practice team culture, the football program will grow and develop talent to the highest level and the team will be underpinned by commercial growth and innovation to become a sustainable part of the club in the future."

Port Adelaide director Holly Ransom

"Just like every other Port Adelaide team, our AFLW team will exist to win premierships. We will take 151 years of history with us into AFLW – the No. 1 guernsey for our captain; 1870 on the back of the guernsey; and an ethos of never, ever giving up.

"From a talent perspective we know there is a significant pool of talent coming through in SA, as part of the next generation of female players. Female participation in football has increased 20 per cent year-on-year here in South Australia."

Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham

"For nearly 150 years, our men’s team has competed at the elite level, forging a rich history. From today, our AFLW team will be a significant part of our future story. 

"As we introduce a second elite team, we are committed to a one club approach, providing the best, integrated environment we can for both our men’s and women’s teams."