The 2019 AFLW season will be having a conference system, with the competition to be split into two groups of five.
Every team will play seven home and away games, as it sets out to start on the first weekend of February. The Grand Final is set to be held on the last weekend of March, which will be round two of the AFL season.
Teams will play every team in their own conference, and play three other teams in the other conference. This format will see rivalries being created.
The details of the fixtures are expected to be released in October.
Nicole Livingstone, AFL’s head of women’s football, thinks that conferences will work well with the AFLW competition.
“We landed on conferences because part of our mantra with AFLW is to be unique and innovative, and we believe this is part of that progress,” Livingstone said.
“We recognise in having a seven-game home and away season not everyone will play each other once, so conferences allow for fairer ladders that reflect that, rather than a traditional ladder.”
Livingstone plans for the AFLW to expand in terms of the number of teams and players, and also including an extra week of finals.
“Part of what we would like to do is continue with our growth and growth can be deemed in different ways. We’re looking to grow our fan base…and looking at the best period of time for that as well,” she said.
“We’ve got 60 more players and 120 more in 2020, so it is growing very fast, just in different ways.
“We haven’t gone with nine home and away games because we recognise that a finals series was determined by the playing group as something they wanted.”
Brisbane recruit Lauren Arnell stated that the first two seasons showed that the quality of the matches improved towards the end of the season.
Livingstone responded that the AFL took into account the players wellbeing with deciding the format.
“Whilst I recognise that players would like to play longer, and some sections of the fan base would like to go longer as well, we also need to recognise that at the moment, they’re part-time athletes.
“The feedback we get back through the AFLPA and the players themselves is they’re also struggling with things like leave at work, managing time off and the period of the competition,” she said.
“A lot of players spoke to me at the end of the eight-week season saying they were absolutely exhausted. We do need to also have a product that’s viable and sustainable and have something to move up to in the future.”
Adding extra games would see an increase in costs by the AFL. The AFL has said that it was a juggling act to fund the women’s competition as they need to invest in talent pathways in the country and the main competition.
Geography and keeping the competitions even are two of the key factors the AFL will take in when making the decision.
The most likely formation will see the 2018 finishing positions as well as adding in the two expansion sides, one in each conference.