PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: Tyanna Smith, Hannah Priest and Claudia Whitfort of the Saints celebrate after the 2021 AFLW Round 09 match between the West Coast Eagles and the St Kilda Saints at Mineral Resources Park on March 28, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Gary Day/Getty Images)

The AFL have locked in a historic expansion for 2023, with all 18 clubs to field a team in the women's competition.

Gillon McLachlan fronted the media on Thursday afternoon to announce the news, with the Essendon Bombers, Hawthorn Hawks, Port Adelaide and Sydney Swans to be included.

It's unclear what the season format will look like, however, all 18 clubs having a women's team is a giant leap forward for the sport.

According to an AFLW statement, all four of the new teams will be entering the competition for the 2022-2023 season in order to allow time for structures to be put in place, with the competition to stay at the current 14 teams for next season.

Rules regarding the list builds for the four clubs are yet to be set, however, Hawthorn and Essendon both have teams in the VFLW competition, while Port Adelaide and Sydney have junior academies.

It's understood the four new clubs had to detail their ability to enter the competition, including team build strategy, corporate support and facilities.

AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said it was the right time to complete the AFLW playing field.

“The decision to expand the competition again, after the AFLW was expanded from eight teams to 10 teams in 2019 and then to 14 teams in 2020, comes as the number of women and girls playing football has grown to more than 600,000 nationally," McLachlan said.

“With an additional four clubs entering the NAB AFL Women’s Competition in Season Seven, we will grow to 540 AFLW players across all 18 clubs, the largest employer of female athletes in the country, presenting further opportunities for women and girls involved in women’s football pathways, from AFL Auskick to the elite competition."

The AFLW began as an eight-team competition in 2017 and has rapidly expanded from there over the past four seasons. The Adelaide Crows, Brisbane Lions, Carlton Blues, Collingwood Magpies, Fremantle Dockers, Greater Western Sydney Giants, Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs were the initial clubs in the competition. They were joined by the Geelong Cats and North Melbourne Kangaroos in 2019, and the Gold Coast Suns, Richmond Tigers, St Kilda Saints and West Coast Eagles ahead of the 2020 season.