AFLW expansion: Will 2022 be the year?

The Swans, Power, Hawks and Bombers remain desperate to enter the AFLW competition. But when will that be? Get the latest on the big decision.

AFL clubs desperate to enter the women’s competition could find out their fate as soon as next week as the AFL Commission prepares to make a ruling on further expansion.

Port Adelaide, Sydney, Hawthorn and Essendon are the only AFL clubs left without an AFLW side.

While Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett is on the record as saying it would be “discrimination of the worst kind” if the Hawks weren’t granted a team for the 2022 season, it’s understood that the likelihood of new teams being added into the competition for next season is slim at best.

Instead, the chances of those clubs joining the AFLW from 2023 – if they are willing and able – is significant.

The AFLW’s Competition Committee met on Tuesday to canvass the opinions of club and league officials on a range of topics including future expansion.

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The sticking point for many committee members around bringing more clubs into the league is when would be the most appropriate time and whether there is the depth of women’s football talent to cover the new sides, which each need 30 players on their list.

The 2021 season saw a glaring disparity between the established sides and those that have joined the competition through expansion.

Inaugural clubs from the 2017 season Adelaide, Brisbane, Collingwood and Melbourne finished Top 4, with the Lions eventual premiers, while teams that joined the competition in 2020 languished, with Gold Coast going winless in 2021 and West Coast registering only two wins from nine games.

Geelong entered the AFLW in the 2019 season, but won only one game in 2021.

It’s understood that there isn’t a single, unanimous opinion from committee members on the topic of future expansion, except that care must be taken with it.

Ultimately the decision as to when the remaining clubs will be granted permission to enter will rest with the AFL.

Brisbane’s premiership-winning coach Craig Starcevich has made his feelings known on the subject, saying after his side’s Grand Final triumph in April: “I reckon the next phase of the (expansion) should just calm the farm for a little while … Let’s wait for a few years”.

The AFLW competition committee met on Tuesday, where club expansion and lengthening the overall season were discussed.

Among other proposals on the table are bringing forward the start of the women’s season from it’s current January/February date to early December to allow the competition more clean air from the men’s competition.

Opinions were also sought on other topics including laws of the game, the tribunal, list management, player movement, the competition structure, fixturing and talent programs.

The 13-person AFLW competition committee includes representatives from nine of the AFLW’s 14 clubs, with Collingwood’s list manager Jessica Burger joining the committee for the first time.

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