THE AFL has smashed the glass ceiling, announcing it will launch a national football league for women in 2017.
Eight teams will battle it out in the inaugural season, kicking off next year, with an all-star game slated for the bye round, to pit the best of the best against each other.
AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick has said the new women’s league would change the face of the AFL.
“Our game will never be the same,” he said.
“The number of women and girls playing club football has doubled over the past five years, as record growth, year on year, has seen female participation reach 25 per cent of the total number of Australians playing our indigenous game.
“Our CEO Gillon McLachlan calls it a revolution and it is.
“A fully fledged national competition where the best women in the country will grace AFL grounds, wearing AFL club jumpers, representing immensely proud and passionate tribes.
“The establishment of a national women’s league will provide a platform to inspire young girls to reach for the stars and provide another avenue for fans of Australian football to enjoy.
“Our game is on the cusp of changing forever and changing for the better.
“The concept of a national competition has been put together in short space of time but this day has been a long time coming.”
The women’s competition will run for eight weeks, in February and March 2017.
Bookies to bet on women’s AFL with
There are three trusted online bookmakers who have posted early markets on the new women’s AFL. While it is still early days, all three have opened markets on the 2017 premiership and you can guarantee, as we edge closer to the start of the new season, they will have a stack of futures markets, both individual and team, and odds available on every game.
Women’s football betting markets
sportsbet.com.au appears to offer the best odds of the three for the Women’s AFL, with the market below:
2017 Womens AFL Premiers Markets:
Western Bulldogs ($5)
Greater Western Sydney Giants ($9)
Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Women’s football in a nutshell
As we mentioned, there will be eight clubs to compete in the inaugural AFL women’s league season.
Greater Western Sydney Giants
There were actually another five applicants for a franchise, which were knocked back by the AFL.
Those clubs – St Kilda, Richmond, Geelong, West Coast, North Melbourne – have already been issued with provisional licenses and will be granted entry as soon as 2018.
Sydney, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, Gold Coast and Essendon did not make submissions.
The Western Bulldogs and Melbourne are seen as the trailblazers of women’s competition, the two clubs holding a series of exhibition games over the past few season, shining a spotlight on just what women can do.
There are no two more recognisable women than Melbourne’s Daisy Pearce and the Bulldogs’ Katie Brennan.
“We’ve seen on so many issues that sport is a powerful vehicle,” Pearce said.
“To see women out there playing a really physical sport, at our most powerful, will encourage change across all of society.”
Add in Brisbane Lions Tayla Harris and you have real star power to drive the competition.
The AFL had targeted 2020 for the launch of the women’s competition and, while there is still no complete framework for exactly what it will look like, clubs are in a flurry to sign coaches and players in the lead up to the new league’s launch.
Each team will submit a five person wish list to the AFL for the players they want, signing two marquees, with the rest going into a draft pool in each state.
Marquee players are set to earn a $25,000 base salary for the two month season, but, if they are forced to move interstate, will receive at least an extra $10,000 on top of that, as well as employment.
Those marquee players are set to be announced this month or early August.
That will be ahead of the Melbourne vs. Western Bulldogs exhibition match, which will be played in September under lights at Whitten Oval.
The AFL’s Simon Lethlean wants those marquee players suited up for the match.
“Knowing who the marquee players are most likely to be, I would very much like them to play in the upcoming Melbourne and Bulldogs match on Saturday, September 3 at Whitten Oval.
“Of the teams announced, the 16 women or the ones who are close to that, are definitely playing in the Melbourne and Bulldogs match, which is great and so it should be.”
The intriguing thing about the new league is the potential for women in other professional sports to cross the floor.
Clubs are set to look at soccer, cricket and athletics to hunt down the best athletes they can possibly find and turn them into footballers.
While it will be a new frontier for women in football, they won’t be going in blind.
And 11 member panel of experts and players has been assembled to help the women through the establishment of the league.
AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh, Melbourne player Lynden Dunn, director of the workplace gender equality agency Libby Lyons, and the chief executive of the Grace Papers organisation, Prue Gilbert, are part of the committee. The panel also consists of seven female players from across the country: Courtney Cramey, Emma King, Leah Kaslar, Bree White, Tiarna Ernst, Lauren Arnell and Maddy Collier.
“Our women’s football advisory committee will continue to provide guidance from a player and gender equality perspective, to ensure the league is a success and that players have strong support structures in place during and post their careers,” Marsh said.
Any expansion of the sport into uncharted territory has to be good news, but especially when it involves women.
It brings Aussie Rules in line with sports like cricket and soccer, with traditionally male dominated competitions giving women the chance to compete at the elite level.
It also gives punters a chance to wager their money on not only the men, but the women who play for their favourite team in Australia’s national sport.
So be loud, be proud and show your support for the best of the best women footballers in our nation. They deserve it.
The official betting partner of the AFL is Crownbet – so be sure to check out the latest offerings they have on the National Women’s Football League