For the second season in a row, the AFL has placed a week off before the finals series, a void that was filled by the Women’s All-Stars Match last year.
This year, with the AFL Women’s competition already established, a State of Origin match between the league’s best is the perfect way to take out many birds with one stone.
We hear the same conversation every year. The NRL has its State of Origin series, the AFL media discusses whether we should bring it back, and the conversation ends with the conclusion that coaches won’t let it happen because they won’t risk the best players getting hurt.
At this point, you can put a line through a men’s State of Origin match, but the market for an AFL version will never go away.
The easiest way to make everyone happy is to give the match to AFLW.
In fact, it’s such a simple decision it’s hard to see why it hasn’t happened yet – it ticks every box.
By the time the bye weekend comes around, the state level women’s seasons would have recently ended, so all the players would be in form.
It would be the perfect way for recruiters and experts to judge how players are tracking in the lead-up to the women’s draft and the season itself, act as a showcase match that would bring the spotlight back to AFLW every year before the competition begins, and it gives us something to watch during the week off.
The spotlight would be entirely on them in the week leading in and it could become a marquee fixture for women’s footy.
The biggest issue would be working out the teams that actually play the match.
As a long-term goal, the senior women’s National Championships, which haven’t been been played since the 2013 carnival in Cairns, could make a return in the bye week.
Historically dominated by Victoria, the emergence of star players in other states would mean a much more competitive competition, with the best two teams playing a marquee televised fixture on the weekend.
As for the immediate future, the simplest solution would be Victoria versus the Allies, and given how dominant the Lions and Crows were in the inaugural season, that would certainly be quite a spectacle.
Teams like GWS, Fremantle and Brisbane are already made up of most of the talent of their respective states so you’d have to combine a few states so it doesn’t end up as 80 per cent of one team versus 80 per cent of another.
Add Tasmanian players in with the Victorians and it could quickly become a yearly fixture and part of the footy calendar.
Fans wanting State of Origin footy will get their fix, AFLW gets spotlighted, the league gets to keep its week off after round 23, and AFL coaches don’t have to worry about their players getting injured before finals.
Here is a vague idea of what the teams could look like. To clarify, the players are picked based on where they live, not the team they represent:
FB: Nicola Stevens (Coll) – Danielle Hardiman (Carl) – Melissa Hickey (Melb)
HB: Hannah Scott (WB) – Brianna Davey (Carl)
C: Stephanie Chiocci (Coll) – Daisy Pearce (Melb) – Elise O’Dea (Melb)
HF: Bianca Jakobsson (Carl) – Katie Brennan (WB)
FF: Darcy Vescio (Carl) – Sarah Perkins (Ade) – Phoebe McWilliams (GWS)
Foll: Alison Downie (Carl) – Emma Kearney (WB) – Ellie Blackburn (WB)
Int: Jess Dal Pos (GWS) – Karen Paxman (Melb) – Meg Hutchins (Coll) – Lauren Arnell (Carl) – Laura Duryea (Melb) – Lauren Pearce (Melb)
FB: Ebony Antonio (Fre) – Leah Kaslar (Bri) – Courtney Cramey (Ade)
HB: Chelsea Randall (Ade) – Samantha Virgo (Bri)
C: Emma Swanson (GWS) – Emily Bates (Bri) – Kaitlyn Ashmore (Bri)
HF: Sabrina Frederick-Traub (Bri) – Kellie Gibson (Ade)
FF: Kate McCarthy (Bri) – Tayla Harris (Bri) – Jacinda Barclay (GWS)
Foll: Emma King (Coll) – Ebony Marinoff (Ade) – Kara Donnellan (Fre)
Int: Erin McKinnon (GWS) – Emma Zielke (Bri) – Lara Filocamo (Fre) – Jessica Wuetschner (Bri) – Nicola Barr (GWS) – Tahlia Randall (Bri)
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