The Essendon Bombers have committed to fielding a VFL Women’s team in 2018, a further commitment from a club hoping to be awarded an AFL Women’s licence.
The side will play out of Craigieburn and partner with the Calder Cannons Youth Girls Academy Program, to go with Essendon’s already strong ties with AFL Northern Territory.
“There is an abundance of talent in this region and an Essendon VFL team supports the club’s influence on the football pathway, from grassroots to our future AFLW team,” Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell said of the VFLW side’s introduction.
“Our academies programs in the north-west of Melbourne, Tiwi Islands and West Arnhem Land have been structured to influence and enable all aspects of the system that grows, develops and nurtures female footballers.
“Our VFL Women’s team will provide an important aspiration for local girls playing junior football and our home grown talent will now be able to continue their football pathway locally at Highgate Reserve.”
Campbell has also looked to the United States to better understand how to integrate an elite women’s team with an already established mens’ team.
“I had a conference call with the Portland Thorns, which is aligned with the Portland Timbers (Major League Soccer club), and are seen as best practice when it comes to the establishment of a men’s and women’s football program,” Campbell said.
“We’ve created a platform through engagement with them to get their insight through how they feel and things that they’ve done that have worked well and things that they could improve on.”
Essendon’s announcement comes at a time when the Bombers are preparing their final presentation as part of their AFLW licence bid submission, as fellow Victorian clubs have also done or are in the process of doing.
“We feel confident in our submission, we feel confident in the process we put in place to build our submission and it will be nice to be able to bring that to life and present it to the steering group.
“There’s great anticipation around an AFLW licence and hopefully entering the competition in 2019.
“I feel like we’d be really well supported from the get-go.
“We feel with that alone that we can help grow the game of girls’ football across the country.”
The AFL is expected to announce which clubs will receive expansion licences as early as next week.
Either two or four teams will be selected after Essendon, Geelong, Gold Coast, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast have all presented to the AFL.