AFL Women's

Last updated

AFL Women's
Most recent season or competition:
2021 AFL Women's season
AFL Women's logo.svg
Sport Australian rules football
Founded15 September 2016,
Melbourne, Australia
Inaugural season2017
CEO Nicole Livingstone
No. of teams14
Headquarters Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Most recent
Brisbane (1st premiership)
Most titles Adelaide (2 premierships)
TV partner(s)
Sponsor(s) NAB, Chemist Warehouse
VFL Women's
WAFL Women's
SANFL Women's
AFLW Under 18 Championships
Official website

AFL Women's (AFLW) is Australia's national semi-professional Australian rules football league for female players. The first season of the league in February and March 2017 had 8 teams; the league expanded to ten teams in the 2019 season and 14 teams in the 2020 season. The league is run by the Australian Football League (AFL) and is contested by a subset of clubs from that competition. The reigning premiers are Brisbane.




In 2010 the Australian Football League commissioned a report into the state of women's football around the country. [1] Along with findings concerning grassroots and junior football, the report recommended the AFL Commission begin working toward the establishment of a national women's league. While the option of new stand-alone clubs was considered, a model using the resources and branding of existing AFL clubs was to be the preferred model for the planned league. [2]

The first on-field step towards the competition took place in 2013, when the AFL announced an exhibition match to be played between women's teams representing Melbourne and Western Bulldogs in June that year. The historic match had a crowd of 7,518 and was won by Melbourne by 35 points. [3]

On 15 May 2013, the first women's draft was held, establishing the playing lists for the two clubs in the forthcoming exhibition match. [4] The match was played on 29 June 2013 and marked the first time two women's sides had competed under the banners of AFL clubs. The exhibition series was repeated with one game between the clubs in 2014 and two in 2015, the last of which, played on 16 August 2015, was the first women's AFL game to be broadcast on free-to-air television. It attracted an average audience of 175,000 which outweighed the 114,000 average audience for the AFL men's clash between Adelaide and Essendon of the previous day. [5]

The success of these exhibition matches prompted the AFL to accelerate its plans for a nationwide women's competition, announcing a preferred start date of 2017. [6] Prior to this, the league had announced only aspirational plans to have the women's competition established by 2020. [7] The already-planned 2016 exhibition series was expanded at this time, with a total of ten matches to be played in venues across the country and featuring a range of new temporary representative teams. [8]

In 2016, the AFL opened a process for existing clubs to tender applications to join the new competition. The eighteen clubs in the men's Australian Football League had until 29 April 2016 to place a bid for a licence, with thirteen clubs making bids. These were Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Geelong, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, West Coast and the Western Bulldogs. [9] The AFL's preferred distribution of clubs was four clubs from Victoria and one each from New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. [10]

The inaugural teams were announced on 8 June 2016. As the only teams to bid in their respective states, Adelaide, Brisbane and Greater Western Sydney were granted licences to compete in 2017. [11] Both Western Australian clubs made bids, with Fremantle's bid chosen ahead of West Coast's. Eight Victorian clubs made bids: Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Carlton and Collingwood were successful, with Geelong, North Melbourne, Richmond and St Kilda unsuccessful. All five unsuccessful bidders were granted provisional licences. [12]

Details about the branding of the league were released in the second half of 2016. The AFL announced that the league would be named "AFL Women's" or AFLW for short, on 15 September 2016, with the logo being unveiled on 19 September 2016. [13] [14] The logo is a stylised rendition of an Australian rules football ground goal square and goal posts, drawn from a perspective which shows a "W". [14] On 10 October 2016, the National Australia Bank was named as the league's naming rights sponsor. [15]

Carlton and Collingwood players contest the first ball-up in the inaugural AFL Women's match in February 2017. The match was played before a lockout crowd of 24,568 - the highest attendance of the inaugural season. First AFLW Ball Up 03.02.17.jpg
Carlton and Collingwood players contest the first ball-up in the inaugural AFL Women's match in February 2017. The match was played before a lockout crowd of 24,568 – the highest attendance of the inaugural season.

The first premiership game was played on Friday, 3 February 2017 [16] at Ikon Park. The AFL had initially planned to host the game at Melbourne's Olympic Park Oval, with a capacity of just 7,000, but was forced to change the venue to Ikon Park due to overwhelming interest and a lack of adequate seating. [17] The match was deemed a "lockout" with a capacity crowd of 24,568 in attendance, with a few thousand estimated to have been waiting outside. [18] As a result, Gillon McLachlan, the AFL's CEO, personally apologised to those who missed out. The game was also a great success on TV, attracting a national TV audience of 896,000 including 593,000 metropolitan free-to-air viewers, 180,000 regional free-to-air viewers and 123,000 on Fox Footy. [19] The Melbourne metropolitan audience of 424,000 was on par with that of Friday night AFL men's matches. [19]

The inaugural season concluded with the Grand Final held on Saturday, 25 March 2017. The Adelaide Crows were crowned the league's first premiers after defeating minor premiers the Brisbane Lions. The scoreline read Adelaide 4.11 (35) def. Brisbane 4.5 (29). [20]

Expansion (2019–20)

Expansion of the competition occurred in two instalments, with two clubs added in 2019 and four in 2020, to result in 14 teams in total. The ten AFL clubs not originally participating in the competition were invited to bid for inclusion, with priority given to the five clubs that unsuccessfully bid to participate in the inaugural season. [21] The deadline to lodge submissions was 16 June 2017. The only clubs not to bid were Port Adelaide and Sydney. [22] North Melbourne worked with AFL Tasmania to craft its bid, with the club aiming to play home matches in Melbourne, Hobart and Launceston, and also select half of its playing list from Tasmania. [23] [24] A final decision on which clubs are admitted to the competition was expected by the end of July 2017 but was delayed several times to September 2017. [22] [25] [26]

On 27 September 2017, the AFL announced that North Melbourne and Geelong had been selected to come into the competition in 2019. [27] North Melbourne retained its commitment to playing matches in Tasmania. [28] The league then expanded an additional four teams in 2020, with the AFL selecting West Coast, Richmond, Gold Coast and St Kilda to join the competition. [27] [28] The growth in clubs was accompanied by the introduction of American-style conferences for the 2019 season, further details of which can be found in the season structure section of this article. The conferences were abandoned in favour of the traditional single ladder ahead of the 2021 season. [29] The 2020 season was curtailed and eventually cancelled without a premiership awarded due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expansion of AFL Women's
ClubEntry in 2017Entry in 2019/20
Granted entry
Adelaide YesYesN/A
Brisbane Lions YesYesN/A
Carlton YesYesN/A
Collingwood YesYesN/A
Essendon NoN/AYesNoNo
Fremantle YesYesN/A
Geelong YesNoYesYesN/A
Gold Coast NoN/AYesNoYes
Greater Western Sydney YesYesN/A
Hawthorn NoN/AYesNoNo
Melbourne YesYesN/A
North Melbourne YesNoYesYesN/A
Port Adelaide NoN/ANoN/A
Richmond YesNoYesNoYes
St Kilda YesNoYesNoYes
Sydney NoN/ANoN/A
West Coast YesNoYesNoYes
Western Bulldogs YesYesN/A


Australia Melbourne Inner Locator.PNG

West Coast
Brisbane Lions
Gold Coast
Greater Western Sydney
Western Bulldogs
North Melbourne
St Kilda

The competition's fourteen teams are based across five states of Australia. Eight are based in Victoria (seven in the Melbourne metropolitan area), Queensland and Western Australia have two teams each and New South Wales and South Australia have one team each. Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Tasmania are the only states or territories not to have AFL Women's teams, however North Melbourne has a formalised partnership with Tasmania, which enables the club to draft players from and play home games there.

ClubColoursMonikerStateHome venueExhibition
FirstTotalTotalMost recent
Adelaide Adelaide AFLW icon.png Crows South Australia Norwood Oval 20162017+522019
Brisbane BrisbaneAFL.svg Lions Queensland Hickey Park 201620162017+512021
Carlton Carlton AFLW icon.png Blues Victoria Princes Park 20162017+50
Collingwood Collingwood icon.svg Magpies Victoria Victoria Park 20162017+50
Fremantle Fremantle AFLW icon.png Dockers Western Australia Fremantle Oval 201620162017+50
Geelong AFL Geelong Icon.jpg Cats Victoria Kardinia Park 2018201930
Gold Coast AFL Gold Coast Icon.jpg Suns Queensland Carrara Stadium 20162019202020
Greater Western Sydney Greater Western Sydney AFLW icon.png Giants New South Wales Blacktown ISP Oval 201620162017+50
Melbourne Melbourne AFLW icon.png Demons Victoria Casey Fields 20132013*2017+50
North Melbourne AFL North Melbourne Icon.jpg Kangaroos Victoria & Tasmania^ Arden Street Oval 2018201930
Richmond AFL Richmond Icon.jpg Tigers Victoria Punt Road Oval 2019202020
St Kilda AFL St Kilda Icon.jpg Saints Victoria Moorabbin Oval 2019202020
West Coast West Coast Eagles 2018 colours.png Eagles Western Australia Lathlain Park 20162019202020
Western Bulldogs Western Bulldogs AFLW icon.png Bulldogs Victoria Whitten Oval 20132013*2017+512018
^ denotes that the club has a formalised partnership with this state or territory
* denotes that the club had a foundation women's team
+ denotes that the club was a founding member of the AFLW


Below are the venues that were going to be used during the 2021 AFL Women's season before the fixture changed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

VenueCityHost club(s)CapacityGames
Arden Street Oval Melbourne North Melbourne 5,0002
Blacktown ISP Oval Sydney Greater Western Sydney 10,0003
Carrara Stadium Gold Coast, Queensland Gold Coast 25,0004
Casey Fields Melbourne Melbourne 12,0004
Fremantle Oval Perth, Western Australia Fremantle 17,5004
The Gabba Brisbane, Queensland Brisbane 42,0001
Hickey Park Brisbane, Queensland Brisbane 5,0004
Kardinia Park Geelong, Victoria Geelong 36,0004
Lathlain Park Perth, Western Australia West Coast 15,0005
Manuka Oval Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Greater Western Sydney 16,0001
Moorabbin Oval Melbourne St Kilda 10,0004
North Hobart Oval Hobart, Tasmania North Melbourne 18,0001
Norwood Oval Adelaide, South Australia Adelaide 22,0005
Princes Park Melbourne Carlton 24,5685
Punt Road Oval Melbourne Richmond 5,0004
Ray Mitchell Oval Mackay, Queensland Gold Coast 10,0001
Sydney Showground Stadium Sydney Greater Western Sydney 24,0001
Victoria Park Melbourne Collingwood 15,0004
Whitten Oval Melbourne Western Bulldogs 12,0004
York Park Launceston, Tasmania North Melbourne 21,0001


Melbourne's Elise O'Dea evades Hannah Scott of the Western Bulldogs in round 3, 2017 O'Dea shrugs Scott's tackle 18.02.17.jpg
Melbourne's Elise O'Dea evades Hannah Scott of the Western Bulldogs in round 3, 2017

The club's playing lists were constructed from scratch through the later stages of 2016. All participants in the 2017 season are required to be over the age of 17.

Initially, clubs were asked to nominate a list of desired players, with the AFL assigning two of these "marquee" players to each club. In addition, clubs were able to sign a number of players with existing connections to the club, or with arrangements for club sponsored work or study. [30] [31] [32] This number varied for each club, in an attempt to equitably spread talent across the teams. In addition, clubs were required to recruit two "rookies" – people with no Australian rules football experience in the previous three-year period. The majority of players were later recruited through the 2016 AFL Women's draft. [33] The balance of list spots was filled with free-agent signings in the week following the draft. In total clubs have a 27 active listed players in addition to injury replacements signed to take the spot of long-term injury affected players.


The current collective bargaining agreement, in place until the end of the 2022 season, has total player payments per club of $576,240 in 2020 and $717,122 in 2022. [34] Players are split into four tiers.

Tier [34] 202020212022


The rules are mostly the same as men's AFL, with a few exceptions. For 2019, the main differences were: the women used a slightly smaller ball; played shorter quarters (15 minutes instead of 20); had 16 on the field at a time (instead of 18); 5 interchange players, and no limit on the number of player rotations (instead of 4 interchange players, and 90 total rotations). [35]

Other differences for 2019 were throw-ins were 10 metres in from the boundary; and a "last touch" out-of-bounds rule applies, except within the 50-metre arcs. During 2018, the "last touch" rule applied everywhere. [36]

Season structure


Prior to the commencement of the home-and-away season teams are paired off to play an exhibition trial match. In 2017 these matches took place during varying weeks of January.

Premiership season and finals

For the first two seasons of competition, the home-and-away season was operated on a single table and seven matches were played by each of the eight teams. The two highest placed teams at the conclusion of the home-and-away season qualified for the Grand Final match, in the absence of a longer finals series.

With the addition of two extra teams in 2019, the AFL Women's home-and-away season introduced conferences, a concept not common in Australian sports. [37] [38] The top two teams from the respective conferences qualified to the preliminary finals, with the first-ranked team in Conference A meeting the second-ranked team in Conference B and the opposite employed for the other preliminary final. The winners of those matches then met in the Grand Final. [38]

The use of conferences was retained in 2020, along with the inclusion of four additional teams. The fourteen teams were split into two conferences of seven, with teams playing each other team in their conference once. The top four teams in each conference qualified for the finals series. The first round of the finals consisted of four knockout finals, with teams from opposite conferences playing against each other: first in Conference A versus fourth in Conference B, and so on. This left a final four of North Melbourne, Fremantle, Carlton and Melbourne, with two rounds of finals to be played. At this point the season was abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with no 2020 premier.

In 2021, the league reverted to a single 14-team ladder. Each team played nine matches, with the top six qualifying for a three-week finals series. All finals are knockouts, with the top two teams having a bye in the first round of the finals. [29]


The following major individual awards and accolades are presented each season: [39]

Media coverage


In its inaugural 2017 season, all matches were televised live by affiliate partners the Seven Network and Fox Footy. [40] As part of the initial broadcast deal, the free-to-air carrier Seven broadcast one Saturday night game per week as standard, in addition to the league's opening match and Grand Final. Pay TV network Fox Footy televised all premiership season matches, including simulcasts of the Seven-hosted matches other than the Grand Final. [41] The two television networks covered the costs of broadcasting these matches, with no licensing fee payable to the league in exchange. [42]


The official internet/mobile broadcast partner of the AFL is BigPond, part of Telstra. The company hosts the league website as well as those of each of the eight participation clubs. The AFL has retained digital broadcast rights to matches in the league's inaugural season and will stream all matches live and free on the league website and mobile app. [42]

Outside Australia, the inaugural season is available on Watch AFL. [43]

Corporate relations


The National Australia Bank is the league's inaugural and (as of 2019) current naming rights partner. [44]

All playing and training equipment as well as all licensed apparel and hats for the league's clubs are manufactured by Cotton On. [45]

Other 2017 league sponsors included Wolf Blass, Chemist Warehouse and Kellogg's. [46] [47] [48]

The official ball supplier is Sherrin. [49]


Official match day attire together with other club merchandise is sold through the AFL's stores and website as well through the clubs and through some retailers.

Women's exhibition games (2013–2016)

Prior to the creation of the league, the AFL ran four years of exhibition matches between sides representing Melbourne and Western Bulldogs. In 2016, the series was expanded to multiple teams from around the country.

2013 exhibition game
Sunday, 30 June Melbourne 8.5 (53)def. Western Bulldogs 3.3 (21) MCG (crowd: 7,500) Match report

2014 exhibition game
Sunday, 29 June Western Bulldogs 4.2 (26)def. by Melbourne 10.12 (72) Etihad Stadium (crowd: 24,953 (D/H)) Match report

2015 exhibition series
Sunday, 24 May Melbourne 4.13 (37)def. Western Bulldogs 4.5 (29) MCG (crowd: 29,381 (D/H)) Match report
Sunday, 16 August Western Bulldogs 5.6 (36)def. by Melbourne 6.4 (40) Etihad Stadium (crowd: 27,805 (D/H)) Match report

2016 exhibition series
Sunday, 2 March Melbourne 3.3 (21)def. by Western Bulldogs 6.5 (41) Highgate Recreational Reserve Match report
Saturday, 2 AprilSANFL Blue 5.4 (34)def.SANFL Red 5.2 (32) Adelaide Oval (crowd: 51,585 (D/H)) Match report
Saturday, 9 April Sydney 9.8 (62)def. Greater Western Sydney 5.3 (33) SCG (crowd: 37,045 (D/H)) Match report
Saturday, 9 April West Coast 13.10 (88)def. Fremantle 3.5 (23) Domain Stadium (crowd: 40,555 (D/H)) Match report
Sunday, 10 AprilNorthern Territory 13.11 (89)def.Tasmania 7.11 (53) Peanut Reserve Match report
Saturday, 16 April Brisbane 5.8 (38)def. Gold Coast 3.6 (24) Gabba (crowd: 20,041 (D/H)) Match report
Sunday, 22 May Melbourne 14.7 (91)def. Brisbane 3.2 (20) MCG (crowd: 26,892 (D/H)) Match report
Sunday, 5 June Western Bulldogs 8.5 (53)def.Western Australia 5.10 (40) Etihad Stadium (crowd: 28,769 (D/H)) Match report
Sunday, 5 JuneSouth Australia 4.3 (27)def.NSW/ACT 3.7 (25) Adelaide Oval (crowd: 40,896 (D/H)) Match report
Saturday, 3 September Western Bulldogs 14.6 (90)def. Melbourne 7.9 (51) Whitten Oval (crowd: 6,365) Match report

Premiers and awards


ClubYears in


PremiershipsRunners upPremiership


Runner up


Adelaide 2017–present212017, 20192021
Brisbane Lions 2017–present1220212017, 2018
Western Bulldogs 2017–present102018
Carlton 2017–present012019
Melbourne 2017–present00
Collingwood 2017–present00
Fremantle 2017–present00
Greater Western


North Melbourne 2019–present00
Geelong 2019–present00
Richmond 2020–present00
St Kilda 2020–present00
Gold Coast 2020–present00
West Coast 2020–present00

Best and fairest

The best and fairest award determined in the same way as the Brownlow Medal for men, with umpires award 3, 2, and 1 votes to the best three players in each game, and suspended players ineligible.

2017 Erin Phillips Adelaide
2018 Emma Kearney Western Bulldogs
2019 Erin Phillips [52] Adelaide
2020 Madison Prespakis [53] Carlton
2021 Brianna Davey
Kiara Bowers [54]

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

The MVP award is voted on by the players' peers, in a similar method to the Leigh Matthews Trophy for men.

2017 Erin Phillips Adelaide
2018 Courtney Gum GWS Giants
2019 Erin Phillips Adelaide
2020 Jasmine Garner North Melbourne
2021 Brianna Davey Collingwood

Leading goalkicker

2017 Darcy Vescio Carlton14
2018 Brooke Lochland Western Bulldogs12
2019 Stevie-Lee Thompson Adelaide13
2020 Caitlin Greiser St Kilda10
2021Darcy Vescio (2)Carlton16

See also

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