The 2019 AFLW schedule was announced at Victoria Park in Melbourne (the spiritual home of Collingwood Football Club) on October 26. The season will see the debut of two expansion clubs, Geelong and North Melbourne, bringing the number of AFL clubs with women’s teams to ten. As announced by the AFL in September, the AFLW will introduce a conference system, with the ten competing teams divided into the creatively named Conference A and Conference B.
Each team plays seven regular season matches, four against teams in its own conference and three “cross-over” games against teams from the other conference, and each conference will have its own standings. The top two teams from each conference will qualify for a preliminary final (first in Conference A vs second in Conference B, and vice-versa) on March 23, with the winner of each progressing to the Grand Final on March 30 or 31.
Conference A includes the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and North Melbourne, while conference B consists of the Brisbane Lions, GWS, Collingwood, Carlton and Geelong. Ladder positions from last season determined the make-up of the conferences, while the Cats and the Kangaroos were each placed in separate conferences as they enter the competition and won’t play each other at all unless they make the finals.
The length of the AFLW regular season has been a contentious issue since the AFL announced the competition would be expanded to ten teams in 2019 and 14 teams in 2020. With the expansion there was growing expectation that the AFLW would have a longer season featuring more home and away games for each of the participating clubs, even though the League wanted to keep the AFLW season within a short time frame to avoid overlapping too much with the end of international cricket season in Australia (late January) as well as the AFL regular season, which starts in late March. When the Herald Sun reported in early August that the League was considering a AFLW schedule comprised of six regular season rounds, plus two weeks of finals, Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce slammed the proposal as “gimmicky” and disrespecting players and coaches. The League eventually settled on seven regular season rounds and two weeks of finals.
While Carlton and Collingwood kicked off the regular season in the first two years of women’s competition, this will no longer be the case in 2019, with the Blues replaced by the Cats in the season opener against the Pies. The game will be played at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday February 2 at 6.40 PM AEDT (2.40 AM US EST). This will be followed two hours later by the premiers of the past two seasons, Adelaide and Western Bulldogs, facing off at Norwood Oval. North Melbourne will make their AFLW debut on Sunday, February 3 against Carlton at North Hobart Oval. The Kangaroos AFLW team will have a strong Tasmanian focus; some players will be based in Tasmania and some home games will be held in the state.
While there will be at least one crossover game between conference teams during every round of the regular season, Round 2 will be dedicated solely to crossover games. In this round Western Bulldogs will unfurl their premiership flag at Whitten Oval on Saturday night, February 9, before their clash against Geelong.
Collingwood have moved their AFLW home games from Olympic Park to Victoria Park for the 2019 season, with the Magpies to play two games at the venue against old rivals Melbourne and Brisbane Lions, and a third home game at Marvel Stadium (formerly Etihad Stadium) against North Melbourne in Round 6 as part of a Saturday double header. There will be just three Friday night games and three five-day breaks for teams, with the Giants copping two of the short breaks.
AFL Head of Women’s Football Nicole Livingstone said the conference system might take a bit of time for fans to get used to “…but we also know that it’s going to create excitement and discussion throughout our season”. She added a new domestic broadcast deal with Channel Seven and Foxtel was still being worked on, but an announcement is expected soon.
Sources: afl.com.au, The Age, AAP
Article last changed on Wednesday, November 07, 2018 - 1:35 PM EST