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(Updated 12/31/2021 with schedule changes) After weeks of delay, the 2022 AFLW schedule was released in early December. The AFL had originally planned to start the sixth season of the women’s competition in December but decided to push it back to January 2022 to minimize the impact of interstate border restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as had occurred in the past two seasons. The 2022 season will kick off on Friday, January 7th with St Kilda hosting Richmond at SkyBus Stadium in Frankston, a bayside suburb around 25 mi southeast of Melbourne, while Brisbane Lions begin their premiership defense with the 2021 Grand Final rematch against the Crows at Noarlunga, 16 mi south of Adelaide on Sunday, January 9th. The schedule change was revealed on New Year's Eve, after the West Australian Government announced during the week it would close the state border to both Queensland and South Australia, due to recent surge in cases linked to Omicron variant of COVID-19 in both states. WA will reopen its state border to other parts of Australia on February 5th, when 90 per cent of the state's eligible population is expected to be double vaccinated.

Overall, seven changes were made to the schedule of Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 8. Fremantle (originally scheduled to take on Adelaide on January 8th) and West Coast (originally scheduled to host Brisbane the following day) will clash in the local Derby on January 8th, before flying to Melbourne to begin their road trip. Both the Dockers and the Eagles will feature in a doubleheader at Whitten Oval in Round 2, playing GWS and Gold Coast respectively, before another doubleheader at Punt Road Oval in Round 3, where the Eagles host the Crows, and the Dockers face the Tigers. The two WA clubs have both been given a home game in Round 8, when the Derby was originally scheduled.

As for the rest of the 2022 schedule, Richmond will play on Friday night in three of the first four rounds while the Cats play in Geelong in three of the first five rounds. The final two rounds of the regular season are floating schedules to allow the League maximum flexibility in scheduling the lead-up to three weeks of finals. 

Games will be played at 24 venues across the country, and in every state and territory of Australia for the first time. Apart from SkyBus Stadium, AFLW games will also be played for the first time at Henson Park in Marrickville, 4 mi south of Sydney’s Central Business District (which will host home games for GWS); Maroochydore Multi Sports Complex on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast (which will be the Lions’ home ground for 2022 while their permanent facility is under construction in Springfield Central in Brisbane’s south); and Trevor Barker Beach Oval in the southern Melbourne suburb of Sandringham, close to Port Phillip Bay. Several grounds will be restricted from hosting AFLW games for part or all the season for various reasons, with St Kilda’s home ground RSEA Park ruled out until February due to the ground’s turf redevelopment; Metricon Stadium unavailable for the first two rounds due to cricket commitments; while Ikon Park in Carlton not able to host night games while permanent lights are being installed. 

Themed rounds for 2022 are Pride Round in Round 3, Toyota Good for Footy Round in Round 6 and Indigenous Round in Round 8. Round 10 will see all 14 teams playing in Victoria on the weekend of March 11th-13th, as part of the State Government’s "Footy Festival" which will also feature five men’s games to open the 2022 season. The AFLW games will be played in Melbourne, Geelong, and Ballarat, with new Demon's recruit Tayla Harris facing her former side Carlton for the first time, when the two teams clash in Casey Fields. 

AFL General Manager of Women’s Football Nicole Livingstone could not wait for the new season to begin, saying: "We acknowledge the ongoing pandemic has been a challenging period for so many in our game and the wider community and we thank all players, clubs and supporters for their patience as we worked towards finalizing the fixture for the 2022 NAB AFL Women's Competition…It shapes up to be the best season yet with so much to look forward to from that opening round right through to the AFLW grand final.” Livingstone said the League and the players were happy with the arrangements for teams travelling in and out of WA: "We've continued our dialogue with the WA (state) government and we're aware of the fact that there's other arrangements in for other sports as well ... But again, we'll continue to keep that dialogue open and as a leader in the sports industry we're going to make sure that we do the right thing (protecting the health of players, officials and the general public)."

This is the last season before the AFLW transitions into a full 18-team competition at the end of 2022, with Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, and Sydney fielding their own women’s teams.

Sources: afl.com.au, abc.net.au, 7news.com.au, author's notes

Article last changed on Tuesday, January 04, 2022 - 2:20 PM EST


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