The schedule for the new AFLW season was announced on 4th July. The start of the 7th AFLW season, which will see Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney enter the national women's competition, was brought forward from January 2023 to August this year, after the AFL and AFL Players Association signed a one-year bridging Collective Bargaining Agreement in May. It will be the first and only time two AFLW seasons is held in a calendar year. Like the previous season, it will comprise a ten-round regular season, but will be followed by a four-week finals series featuring the top eight teams, with the Grand Final scheduled for the last weekend of November.
The new AFLW season will begin on the evening of 25th August, during the pre-finals bye for the men's competition, when Carlton host Collingwood at Ikon Park. It kicks off a monster round in which Adelaide begin their premiership defense against Melbourne at Norwood Oval in the grand final rematch, and AFLW newcomers Essendon and Hawthorn will play their first ever game at North Port Oval at Port Melbourne. Fellow expansion teams Port Adelaide and Sydney will begin their first season with games against West Coast and St Kilda respectively. The round will mark the return of Bec Goddard (Hawthorn) and Scott Gowans (Sydney) to the coaching ranks, and the senior coaching debut for Natalie Wood (Essendon) and 2021 Brisbane Lions premiership player Lauren Arnell (Port Adelaide).
Rounds 2 to 5 will take place during the AFL Finals, with Saturday AFLW games during September to have flexible scheduling to allow for possible doubleheaders with the men's finals games. Round 5 is shaping as a footy fiesta with two games to be played on the Thursday night, before four games are held in Melbourne on Friday, 23rd September. Richmond and Brisbane will then clash at Punt Road Oval at 11.10am Melbourne time on 24th September, the day of the AFL Grand Final. In the second half of the season, there will be two AFLW matches played as double-headers each Friday night. Round 10 will also be a floating round, with timing to be confirmed closer to the round to optimize scheduling outcomes heading into the AFLW finals in November.
The new season will feature three themed rounds. The Indigenous Round will take in Rounds 3 and 4, with the first ever AFLW Dreamtime match will be played between Essendon and Richmond in Round 4. The Toyota Good For Footy Round will return in Round 6, raising money for community footy clubs across Australia. Pride Round will take place in Round 8, with a massive double-header at Ikon Park on Saturday 15th October, between Essendon and Sydney, and Geelong and West Coast.
AFLW games will be played in the regional towns of Ballarat, Warrnambool, Mildura and Mackay, with Warrnambool and Mildura in western Victoria hosting AFLW games for the first time. Overall, 33 venues across seven states and territories of Australia will host AFLW games in the new season. The reason for the large number of venues being used is that bigger stadiums such as Adelaide Oval and The Gabba will host the ICC Twenty20 World Cup men's cricket tournament from 16th October to 13th November, making them unavailable for AFLW games in the second half of the season.
Port Adelaide signing and triple Crows premiership star Erin Phillips’s highly-anticipated showdown against her former club will take place in Round 6 at Adelaide Oval, one of the Power's five home games, with the other four to take place at Port's spiritual home at Alberton Oval. Of the other three expansion teams, Essendon will play home games at Port Melbourne, Ikon Park and Warrnambool; Hawthorn will split their home games between Box Hill City Oval (home ground of Hawthorn's VFL affiliate Box Hill Hawks) and Skybus Stadium in Frankston; and Sydney will play their home games across four venues, with two games at Henson Park, and North Sydney Oval, the SCG and Melbourne's Punt Road Oval to host one game each.
AFL General Manager Women’s Football, Nicole Livingstone, said that the expansion into an 18-team competition will be a showcase of remarkable progression for female football: “Season Seven is shaping up to be a thrilling fourteen weeks of elite football. We have 540 athletes ready to do battle, with new and old rivalries ignited, the next generation of talent ready to shine, and our game’s superstars preparing for our biggest season yet... We’re challenging every footy fan and supporter of women’s sport to show up and support our athletes. ”
AFL Executive General Manager Finance, Clubs and Broadcasting, Travis Auld, said the new season schedule was a major win for footy fans and supporters of women’s football, with the League doing everything it can to give AFLW fans the best experience and opportunity to support their favourite team. When asked if the League would look to grant AFLW players’ wishes to extend the season so that each team can play each other once, Auld said: “The focus at the moment, particularly with the expansion of four new teams, is to bed that down...what's worked for us, so far, with AFLW, is to take each step at a time and then make decisions based on what we're learning, so we'll continue to do that...There’s no doubt you can see through our investment in the competition that we want to continue to support it and make sure it continues to grow, it’s just at what speed.”
Sources: AFL media release, AAP, ABC
Article last changed on Saturday, July 09, 2022 - 2:02 AM EDT