Expansion of the AFL Women’s competition has not been ruled out for 2018, with the AFL Commission to gather further information before making a decision.
A decision on expansion was hyped on social media, but the AFL is choosing to investigate the current competition and whether expansion for 2018 is viable or not.
The announcement comes after the St Kilda Football Club urged the AFL to expand immediately for the 2018 season, asking the league to “ride the wave of momentum” and capitalise on the immediate success.
It is widely predicted that two more Victorian clubs will be awarded licences first, providing a home for the wealth of talented Victorian youth players on display in the TAC Cup and regional under-18s competitions.
The AFL previously stated that clubs that had submitted unsuccessful bids for licences in 2016 would be given first priority, meaning Geelong, North Melbourne and St Kilda are the prime candidates.
Geelong is all but guaranteed one of the licences with a strong women’s system already in place, and the club occupying an area filled to the brim with potential league talent, some of which have already featured in the AFLW.
Though North Melbourne and St Kilda are deserving candidates, it would be difficult to look past Hawthorn as a top option for the second licence.
The club did not put in a bid in 2016, but has since established a VFL Women’s team performing under the banner of the Box Hill Hawks.
With such a large supporter base and an established partnership with Tasmania – a frequently highlighted AFL growth area – Hawthorn seemingly ticks all the boxes.
North Melbourne also waves the Tasmania flag, as the Hawks have a presence in the north of the state while the Kangaroos occupy Hobart.
As for the Saints, their no-frills commitment to women’s football, and the $8 million redevelopment of Moorabbin Oval as a primary football community ground, is well worth considering.
The outsider of the Victorian clubs for an AFLW licence is Richmond, which also received a provisional licence in 2016.
If a licence is to be awarded to an interstate club, West Coast is the clear front runner.
Although Fremantle seemed to struggle with a lack of depth in 2017, the Eagles were awarded a provisional licence in 2016 and are the only club outside of Victoria seeking a side that did not have their bid accepted.
Whether there is enough talent to be shared amongst two teams is another question, with a number of Western Australia’s top stars joining interstate teams on marquee contracts.
13 of the AFL’s 18 clubs put in bids for licences in 2016: Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Geelong, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, West Coast and Western Bulldogs.
Essendon, Gold Coast, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney elected not to.