The AFL Commission is reportedly considering a change to the scheduling of the AFLW season, including starting next season as early as August 2022.
- Scott Gowans says his team is already preparing for a possible August start date for next season
- The AFL CEO said a decision on the start date was expected in the “next couple of weeks”
- Four expansion teams — Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney — will enter the AFLW in the new season
The current AFLW season is still underway, with the final round of the regular season to be played this weekend, and the grand final scheduled for the first weekend of April.
Starting season seven in August 2022 would therefore mean a break of just four months between seasons for the part-time athletes.
It would also mean the final four new teams — Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney — would have to enter the competition much earlier than envisioned. Season seven had been slated to start in late 2022 or early 2023.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan was asked about the planned change following a meeting of league executives in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“It will be a quick process and we’ll have a decision on that in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
Scott Gowans, who will coach Sydney when the club enters the competition, said his side was already preparing for an August start date.
“I just think there’s enough rumours going around,” Gowans said.
It is believed that the players are broadly supportive of the proposed August start date, however there are a number of issues to be resolved.
These include looming CBA negotiations, with the current deal to expire at the end of the current season.
This year’s AFLW season has been particularly taxing on the playing cohort.
It began on 7th January, after the AFL originally intended to start it in late December 2021. The AFLW has traditionally started around the beginning of February or end of January.
By starting early, AFLW has this year been been forced competed with the Australian Open and the men’s and women’s Ashes for an audience.
Ironically, given the start was delayed due to ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19, it has also coincided with the Omicron outbreak.
All teams were impacted to varying degrees by COVID-19 infections, with most at some point unable to field a side and a raft of fixtured games re-scheduled and mid-week matches introduced.
Players were also – as has been the case for years – forced to play in extreme heat, while a number have succumbed to ACL and other serious injuries.
This includes 2021 best and fairest Bri Davey, the player adjusted best afield in last year’s grand final in Kate Lutkins, and most recently Collingwood’s Brit Bonnici and St Kilda’s Rhi Watt among a host of others.
Should next season be brought forward, all would miss another season of football.
The AFLW sign and trade period would also need to be moved forward, giving the final four clubs very little time to assemble their lists.
Source: AFL NEWS ABC