The AFL announced the 2023 AFLW fixture on 17th July. The delay was due to protracted negotiations between the League and the AFL Players Association on a new collective bargaining agreement for both AFL and AFLW players. AFLPA remains firm on its commitment to a 17-round competition by 2026 but has agreed to the same number of regular season rounds as last year (ten rounds), in order to get the competition going, and to provide the platform for future negotiations to expand the season length.
The eighth season of the women's competition will begin on Friday night, 1st of September, when Melbourne unfurls their Premiership flag at Ikon Park before taking on Collingwood. The first round will take place during the pre-final's bye weekend of the men’s season. Four weeks of finals start in November, with the Grand Final on Sunday, 3rd of December. Once again, the final round will be released as a floating schedule, with exact dates and times to be determined later in the season.
Three derbies will take place in the opening round - Adelaide v Port Adelaide, Sydney vs GWS, and Fremantle v West Coast. Other games in the round include Carlton v Gold Coast, Geelong v Western Bulldogs, and Hawthorn v Essendon on Saturday, and North Melbourne v St Kilda and Brisbane v Richmond on Sunday. The round will mark the senior coaching debut of Lisa Webb (Fremantle) and Matthew Buck (Carlton).
Games played between Rounds 2 and 5 will be scheduled around the men’s AFL finals series, with Friday games starting at 5:05 PM AEST (3:05 AM US EDT) and Saturday games held in late morning and early afternoon. The League will also be able to adjust the Round 4 game between GWS and Adelaide, scheduled for the Saturday morning, in the event of an AFL preliminary final at night. Round 5, which lands on the same weekend of the AFL Grand Final, will commence with a Cats-Demons clash on the Thursday night before four games are played on Friday, including three in Melbourne. Essendon and Collingwood will then face off on Grand Final day, 30th September, with the match at the AIA Centre to commence at 11:10 AM AEST (9:10 PM US EDT Friday).
Essendon, as flagged in late 2021, will play its home games at Windy Hill (which hosted men’s VFL/AFL games from 1922 to 1991) following stage 1 of the precinct redevelopment, with the first game to take place on Sunday, 10th of September, against St Kilda. In their first year in the women's competition, the Bombers spread their home games at Marvel Stadium, North Port Oval, Ikon Park, and Reid Oval in Warrnambool in Victoria’s southwest, but this season four of their five home matches will be at Windy Hill, with the Country Game against Geelong at Reid Oval.
Indigenous Rounds will take place in Rounds 7 and 8, with celebrations kicking off between Adelaide and Western Bulldogs at Norwood under lights. Richmond and Essendon will compete in their second AFLW Dreamtime game, while the QClash between Brisbane and Gold Coast will be a showcase of the rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander talent across both team’s lists. The second week of Indigenous Round will see the AFLW head up to Cairns for the Friday night clash between Hawthorn and Richmond.
Round 10, which has been designated Pride Round celebrating diversity and inclusion, will feature the Grand Final rematch between the Lions and the Demons at Brighton Homes Arena in outer southern Brisbane suburb of Springfield. The venue, which opened in November 2022 for the season seven decider, will host all of the Lions’ home games.
For the first time, potential venues for this year’s AFLW Grand Final have been locked in for all 18 teams, should they earn hosting rights by being the highest-placed finisher. Many large venues such as MCG and SCG are not available in December due to cricket. The possible Grand Final venues are:
- Alberton Oval: Port Adelaide
- Norwood Oval: Adelaide
- Brighton Homes Arena: Brisbane and Gold Coast
- Fremantle Oval: Fremantle
- GMHBA Stadium: Geelong
- Henson Park: GWS and Sydney
- Leederville Oval: West Coast
- Ikon Park: all Melbourne-based teams
Other features of the 2023 season include:
- Regular season games will take place in every state and territory of Australia except Northern Territory. North Melbourne will venture to Tasmania twice, playing against St Kilda in Hobart and the Brisbane Lions in Launceston.
- The Western Bulldogs will return to Whitten Oval for their home games after the venue was out of action for Season 7 while it underwent redevelopments.
- Hawthorn will play four of its five home games at Kinetic Stadium in Frankston, instead of Box Hill City Oval (which will remain its training headquarters).
- Richmond will play all its home games at Ikon Park due to the redevelopment of Punt Road Oval.
- Sydney Swans will open their season with back-to-back games at North Sydney Oval, including the opening round derby against GWS. Their three remaining home games will be held at Henson Park in Marrickville, in the city’s inner south. The Giants will split their five home games across Canberra’s Manuka Oval (two), Blacktown in western Sydney (two) and Henson Park (one).
The new season will feature longer quarters and a strict interchange cap of 60 rotations, under changes announced by the League in June. Quarter lengths will be increased to 15 minutes plus time-on for goals or major injuries only, with time-on in the final two minutes also allowed for stoppages. The quarter-time and three-quarter-time intervals will be reduced in length from 6.5 minutes to six minutes, and the half-time break reduced from 16 minutes to 14 minutes.
Commenting on the schedule release, AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said it was important to reach an agreement with the AFLPA “... and not delay the fixture any further to provide certainty to players, clubs and fans”. AFL Executive General Manager Clubs and Broadcast, Travis Auld, who will depart the League on 2nd of August to become the new CEO of Australian Grand Prix Corporation, said: “We are delighted to present a fixture that strikes a balance between excellent broadcast slots and optimal access for fans … Access and affordability continues to be at the heart of our decision making, ensuring match-ups are spread, teams get standalone prime slots where applicable and games continue to be played at heartland venues within their respective communities.”
AFL General Manager Women’s Football, Nicole Livingstone, said: “We are grateful for the support of our players and clubs who have continued prepare for this season, undertaking strong pre-seasons while discussions with the AFLPA were continuing … This season is set to be better than ever, and we are looking forward to seeing exiting and competitive games with the skill level of our athletes continuing to be showcased and celebrated by all.”
AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh said: “(AFLW) players believe the release of the fixture will provide fans and clubs with the certainty needed to deliver a successful and exciting 2023 season of AFLW. The CBA negotiations between the AFLPA and AFL remain ongoing. Progress has been made in recent weeks, however there is still much work to be done before a proposed deal can be considered by players.”
Sources: afl.com.au, foxsports.com.au, abc.net.au, author's notes
Article last changed on Saturday, July 22, 2023 - 6:06 PM EDT