By Sarah Olle, courtesy of Fox Sports.
THE inaugural AFL women’s league is set to be an eight-team competition, probably played next February and March.
The March AFL Commission meeting will confirm the tendering process for the 8 AFL teams as interest in women’s football skyrockets.
“There’s a revolution going on,” said AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.
While details are far from finalised, the most likely structure will be four Victorian teams and one apiece from SA, WA, NSW and Queensland.
It remains unclear how players will be allocated to the teams, with a draft of the top talent one possibility.
McLachlan is feeling vindicated that he pushed for the women’s league to be brought forward by several years.
“I’ve stuck my neck out with the 2017 as opposed to a bit later,” he said.
“There’s been concern around the depth.
“But the success of the academies, the talent searches … means that I think next year … it looks more like eight teams rather than six.”
Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have pioneered AFL women’s football and it is inconceivable that they would not field two of the Victorian teams.
If they are given licenses, it’s expected that they’ll be able to retain at least two marquee players.
“They’ve owned this, those clubs,” McLachlan admitted, while stressing no decisions had been made.
The AFL also announced that 10 women’s exhibition matches would be staged this year, up from two in 2015.
The matches will be played across three rounds in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, with the first round designed for players training in state academies.
The second round will be dedicated to state representative matches, with the best footballers in the country taking part.
And the third round will stage the Hampson-Hardeman Cup between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs in the bye week between round 23 and the first week of finals.
Of all the rounds, this will most closely resemble the two exhibition matches that took place last year.
The Hampson-Hardeman Cup will be staged on the same weekend as the EJ Whitten Legends match, as the AFL trials with a new fixturing format.
AFL general manager of game and market development Simon Lethlean said the depth of talent in the women’s game was outstanding.
“As we countdown to the national competition in 2017, this series of exhibition matches will open up more opportunities to feature our leading players that are currently training with state academies across the country,” he explained.
“We are currently working with our venue and broadcast partners to maximise access and coverage opportunities throughout the exhibition match series.”
The SMJFL provides great opportunities for girls to be involved in junior football, as well as pathways to the elite level.
CLICK HERE for more information on the South Metro Girls competitions.
2016 Female Football Exhibition Series (all times are local)
Melbourne v Western Bulldogs
5.10pm Sunday March 6
Highgate Recreational Reserve, Craigieburn
SANFL All Stars
10.40am Saturday April 2
Sydney Swans v GWS Giants
1.40pm Saturday April 9
West Coast Eagles v Fremantle
3.10pm Saturday April 9
Northern Territory v Tasmania
12.10pm Sunday April 10
Peanut Reserve, St Kilda
Brisbane Lions v Gold Coast Suns
7.40pm Saturday April 16
Melbourne v Queensland
10.40am Sunday May 22
Western Bulldogs v Western Australia
12.40pm Sunday June 5
South Australia v New South Wales
1.10pm Sunday June 5
ROUND THREE — HAMPSON-HARDEMAN CUP
Western Bulldogs v Melbourne
7.20pm Saturday September 2
*All times subject to change