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The 2021 AFL Women’s season schedule has been revealed with major changes. The two conference system, which was used last year and this year, has been abolished, with the 14 teams competing for a single ladder. The decision to abandon the conference system has been made in order to maximize the chance of a season being completed should another COVID-19 outbreak occur. The pandemic disrupted the 2020 season so much that it was abandoned after just one week of finals was played, with no premiership awarded.

The season will start a week earlier than usual on Thursday January 28, with a clash between Carlton and Collingwood at Ikon Park. It will be the third time in five seasons the two traditional rivals open the season, and the only Thursday night game of the season. The league has committed to nine regular rounds plus three rounds of finals next year, in accordance with the AFLW collective bargaining agreement struck late last year. A Pride Round will be held in Round 2 and an Indigenous Round in Round 5. 

Among the key points of next season:

  • 2020 minor premiers Fremantle will open their season against GWS at Fremantle Oval on Sunday afternoon, January 31. 
  • Richmond will play four home games at Melbourne’s Punt Road Oval (Swinburne Centre), the club’s training ground and head office. 
  • Collingwood will play all their home games at the club’s spiritual home, Victoria Park, after a multi-million dollar upgrade to the venue, including state-of-the-art change rooms and recovery facilities under the Sherrin Stand.
  • Games will be played on Friday and Saturday nights until Round 7. In Rounds 8 and 9, twilight games will be held on Fridays and Saturdays as curtain-raisers to men’s AFL games at night (the line-ups to AFL games will be announced before Christmas). 
  • Games will be played at Mackay, Canberra, Launceston, Hobart, as well as The Gabba and Giants Stadium towards the end of the regular season. Marvel Stadium will not host any AFLW games next season.

The season will conclude with a six-team, three-round finals series, with the Grand Final presumably to fall on the weekend of April 18-19. In week one, the third-placed team will face the sixth-placed team in the first elimination final and the fourth-placed team will host the fifth-placed team in the second elimination final, with the two teams having a rest. In week two, the minor premiers will host the winner of the first elimination final and the second-placed team will host the winner of the second elimination final. The two preliminary final winners will contest the Grand Final.

AFL Head of Women’s Football Nicole Livingstone said the earlier-than-usual start time and the single ladder for the 2021 season were part of the measures put in place to provide maximum flexibility for the competition in the event it was interrupted. She said: “We have been working hard behind the scenes to not only ensure the season commences, but also to allow for us to remain as adaptable as possible as the season progresses in a constantly changing environment… While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the community, the health and welfare of everyone remains the priority and the AFL will deliver a full season in a safe manner anchored in the advice of public health officials and medical experts.”

The COVID-safe measures include all AFLW games being ticketed for the first time in a bid to help contact tracing. Tickets will cost A$10 for adults, and those under 18 allowed in for free, although they will still need to buy a ticket. Livingstone said: “We are proud the 2021 season will see all matches ticketed, we have listened to supporters of women’s football to indicate a willingness to pay to attend AFW matches and support the growth of the competition.”

Sources: afl.com.au, 7news.com.au, theage.com.au
 

Article last changed on Wednesday, January 06, 2021 - 5:57 PM EST


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