VFLW Grand Final called off, no premiership awarded

The AFL has today written to all VFLW Clubs to advise the 2021 rebel VFLW Grand Final will not be played, due to the current continuing community lockdown within Victoria.

As the final series is not able to be completed, the AFL has determined no premiership can be awarded for this season. Collingwood will be recognised as the rebel VFLW minor premiers after their undefeated season.

The 2021 rebel VFLW Grand Final has been rescheduled four times this season, but State Government lockdowns has meant it was not possible to play on any of the re-scheduled dates. The AFL’s professional sport exemption to play the VFLW Grand Final was not approved when the most recent lockdown began, and it remains unknown when community sport may be able to resume.

The AFL has been in extensive discussions over recent weeks with the clubs who qualified for the Grand Final - Collingwood and the Geelong Cats - as a range of different outcomes were pursued over the last month in a bid to play the Grand Final. None were able to be achieved with the ongoing restrictions within the state since Geelong played its preliminary final on July 31. Collingwood has now not played since July 10 and not been able to train for a large part of that time.

Both clubs have provided written submissions to confirm they cannot field a VFLW team, due to the lengthy break since their most recent respective game and the requirement to consider and begin preparations for the next AFLW season and allow a break for players who need post-season treatment.

Collingwood VFLW Captain Caitlin Bunker said she’s proud of another incredible season of football by the girls.

“Our whole group is absolutely devastated that we won’t be able to play the VFLW Grand Final this year and have the opportunity to play for the Premiership in front of our Collingwood fans, but we understand and are supportive of the decision.”

“The decision was best to ensure for the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the broader community.

“Having missed last year’s season and having to adapt with further lockdowns this year has been hard for our players, coaches, staff and fans who have all shown immense dedication and commitment to our program and the competition.

“For the third season in a row, Collingwood were crowned minor premiers and remained undefeated throughout the season and finals series. While our group is disappointed that we won’t have the opportunity to play the Grand Final, I’m still extremely proud of what our group has been able to achieve in 2021.”

Geelong VFLW Captain Claudia Gunjaca said the playing group supported the decision.

“As a group, we have remained hopeful and focused throughout the uncertainty and while it’s not the outcome we were hoping for, we understand and support the decision that’s been made," Gunjaca said.

“As disappointing as it is, it doesn’t take away from how proud we are of what we’ve been able to achieve this season.”

The AFL presented options to both clubs to play the Grand Final when community sport returns to Victoria, but several factors have made this too great a challenge. Under current Government restrictions, there is no confirmed end to the current lockdown with both clubs not running VFLW programs currently.

All 12 VFLW clubs completed a full 14-game season with a three-week finals series before the scheduled Grand Final, which was then postponed when Victoria went back into lockdown.

AFL Head of Talent Pathways and State League Competitions Tristan Salter expressed sadness at today’s decision after what had been a terrific season of football for the VFLW community.

“The rebel VFLW Competition has been a foundation league in Victoria for many years and an exciting pathway for young girls. The 2021 season has been a challenge to everyone connected to football. The AFL is very proud of how all VFLW clubs, players, officials, supporters and corporate partners managed through a difficult year and kept their communities connected,” Salter said.

“To play 90 VFLW games during a COVID-interrupted season is a testament to the resilience and commitment of the whole industry – all clubs, players, coaches, umpires and officials.

“Our clubs and the League have made a difficult decision and we sympathise with their players and coaches and their legion of fans and supporters. Everyone is aligned and united in this decision and we will come through this together.

“In 2021 we celebrate 40 years of women’s football in Victoria and we reflect on the contribution of all women to our great game. Participation for women and girls has exploded and the VFLW has added a vibrancy and excitement to our game that we have sorely needed in these challenging times.

“We congratulate all clubs on a successful year of football and look forward to returning for the 2022 season,” Salter said.

The AFL will confirm further details on the structure and timing of the 2022 rebel VFLW Season shortly but an anticipated season start in early 2022.