The 2020 AFLW schedule was announced at Melbourne’s Moorabbin Oval, St Kilda’s administration and training base, on October 29, two days before the AFL schedule was revealed. The new season sees the introduction of four expansion teams – Richmond, St Kilda, Gold Coast and West Coast – making it a 14-team competition. The controversial conference system, introduced in the 2019 season, has been retained, with seven teams each in the conference. Reigning AFLW Premiers Adelaide are in Conference A, alongside Geelong, North Melbourne, GWS, Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast and Richmond, while Conference B features Carlton, Fremantle, Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Collingwood, St Kilda and West Coast.
The AFL allocated the conference teams mainly on a “snaking allocation” based on 2019 final finishing positions. The League took into account that teams in Conference A won a combined 18 games against teams from their own conference in 2019, while Conference B won a combined 17. However the strength of each side's off-season recruiting and trading and travel distances were also taken into account, thus Brisbane and Gold Coast, and Fremantle and West Coast, were placed in the same conferences to minimize travel for players juggling work and study commitments.
Each team plays every other side in their own conference once and two teams from the other conference for a total of eight games in the regular season. The top team in each conference will have a bye in the first week of finals, and will then play the winner of games between the second and third-placed team in each conference in Preliminary Finals. The Grand Final will be played on Saturday April 18 and will be hosted by the team with the most premiership points during the regular season.
The 2020 AFLW season kicks off with Richmond taking on last season’s runner-up Carlton at Ikon Park on Friday, February 7, while St Kilda will play their first ever game in the national women's competition against the Western Bulldogs at Moorabbin Oval two days later. There will be 11 cross-conference games, one of which is the Grand Final rematch between Adelaide and Carlton at Adelaide’s Richmond Oval in Round 4.
For the first time, there will be regular season doubleheaders featuring AFLW and AFL teams. The first doubleheader takes place on Saturday, March 21 at Sydney’s Giants Stadium, when GWS and Geelong clash in Round 7 of AFLW, before both clubs face each other again in Round 1 of AFL. The other two double bills will be held on Saturday, March 28, when Carlton and Fremantle face off at Marvel Stadium in AFLW Round 8 before the Blues take on Western Bulldogs in AFL Round 2 clash at the venue. On the same day, Brisbane hosts North Melbourne at The Gabba in AFLW in a twilight game, before the men’s teams play in the AFL. There will also be two doubleheaders with AFL preseason games. On February 22 at the Gold Coast, the Suns will take on the Lions in AFLW before the men’s team clash with Geelong in the Marsh Community Series. At Morwell in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley on March 8, Collingwood will play Western Bulldogs in AFLW before the men’s team play St Kilda in the preseason game.
Other notable games for 2020 include the first women’s western derby between Fremantle and West Coast at Optus Stadium in Round 2, the first women’s Q-Clash between Gold Coast and Brisbane in Round 3, and the first AFLW game at Punt Road Oval, between Richmond and North Melbourne also in Round 3.
AFLW boss Nicole Livingstone said at the schedule launch that since the conference system was recommended by the Competition Committee in April, no other scheduling model had been considered for the competition. Livingstone said the committee could use discretion to alter conferences due to factors such as significant player movement, but it had not needed to intervene in the “snaking” model for 2020. She said when the League was setting the conferences for 2020 it “…also wanted something that was going to be able to stand the test of time for the next couple of years. We will look to set them the same way (snaking allocation) for 2021 and 2022… We listened to feedback from last year and we wanted to make sure on a competitive balance point of view, as much as we can, because we are talking about human element being involved here, with teams being able to perform day in, day out, week in, week out.”
The 2020 AFLW schedule was confirmed after a weeks-long dispute over the new AFLW collective bargaining agreement. The first vote saw only 70 per cent of players voting in favour of the agreement, short of 75 per cent threshold required. The players later voted with 98 per cent agreeing to a revised agreement, which steadily increased the number of matches to be played over three years and ensured the AFL would committ to a review of the women's national competition.
Sources: afl.com.au, Herald Sun, The Age
Article last changed on Saturday, November 09, 2019 - 1:31 AM EST