AFLW: A season review and a look ahead


Saturday’s AFLW Grand Final between the Adelaide/NT and the Lions was a fantastic finale for what was great introduction to professional women’s footy. As a Carlton and Giants’ member, the promotion of the women’s teams was outstanding. That 6,400 turned up to Manuka when the Brumbies got less than 9,000 the same night is testament to that promotion and the support of the concept from club administrators. There were many positives that came out what could have been a disaster for women’s  footy had the league flopped. So I would like to give my view on what worked and what needs to worked on to hopefully ensure the AFLW continues to development and ongoing success.


The Teams – Eight was the most teams that the league could have fielded. There was vast difference in ability and skills levels due to a number of factors. Clubs recruited from existing women’s clubs as well as from a cross section of other sports, particularly soccer, netball and basketball. Great athletes don’t always make great footballers and many of the cross coders were anywhere near the more experienced footballers. To field any more teams would further dilute to pool of talent resulting in the quality of games dropping off and support diminishing. While other clubs understandably want part of the action, an expansion of teams would be ill advised until there is continuity of participation from junior football through to senior football. As a generalisation, the better teams had up to six really good players while the teams that struggled had two or three. Spread those player over another four clubs and the end product will suffer significantly. My daughter had to stop playing mixed footy at 14 and only had the option of open women’s footy or to stop playing, which she did until this year. That four to five year hiatus must be addressed somehow however there presently aren’t the numbers to create viable competitions.


Skills/Scoring – As I’ve outlined above, the drop off in skills below the top three to six player was marked in some teams. The same could be said of the men’s league but the basics skills of some were very poor and can’t, and shouldn’t be, be glossed over if the league is to garner the support of the crusted on traditionalists who looked for any reason to bag it. I also suspect that the game plans that some teams were trying to implement were not realistic at this stage of the league’s development and this exposed players of lesser skill and experience. I feel that the women’s league should not  try to be a clone the men’s. Promote one on won contests and an open playing style. This also assist in increasing scoring, which was another gripe with keyboard heroes in the Sun-Herald. Another factor was the enormous pressure that was applied by all players. There was no shortage of effort in attacking the ball carrier and the intensity of contests was top notch by any standard. I believe that the skills will gradually begin to match the intensity over the next five years.


Talent Pool – As I’ve already mentioned, the AFLW drew many players from other codes and sporting backgrounds. This is fine and recruits such as Brianna Davey, Soccer, and Erin Phillips, Basketball, were outstanding however I reckon the latter my have had a few kicks with dad in her formative years. A concern for women’s sport in general is if, as I believe it will, salaries increase and the season is expanded, then footy will start to cannibalise other codes as seasons begin to cross over. The new structure of the netball league will protect the majority of its’ better players however basketball and soccer will be hurt. Other sports such as athletics and swimming will also be affected as recruiters look for elite athletes to fill their ranks. That has ramifications for Olympic sports. However, if the general rate of female participation in sport increases in Australia, then that can only be good.


Tackling – There was no question for me that one of the highlights of the women’s league was the tackling and importantly, how the umpires interpreted them. Pity they won’t apply the same adjudication in the men’s comp ensuring endless stoppages. A lack of awareness from less experienced players probably contributed however the tackling was often fierce and hard, no more so than in yesterday’s GF. There was also a lot of high contacts which normally came from poor techniques and I suspect many player actually not knowing how to brace themselves for a tackle. Tadhg Kennelly commented when he first played AFL he had no idea how to ready himself to be tackled and was a constantly hit in the head. This raises concerns in relation to concussion and needs to be monitored. Again I feel that things will naturally be corrected as we don’t want to see that intensity diminished.


Ticketing – Plenty of critics said that the only reason people went was because it was free. Rubbish. People would have paid a reasonable fee however I think the free entry was a clever move in the inaugural season. If your willing to travel to attend the game I am sure $5-10 would not faze anyone if it is solely funnelled back into junior girl’s footy. There was no doubt a novelty factor for some spectators, particularly the first game at Princes Park. However, you can’t hide from the numbers and the numbers were fantastic. The Suns would kill for them.  AFLW games should be played as curtain raisers if the AFL is really committed to the women’s game. How about playing a Carlton v Collingwood netball game before the men’s and women’s AFL games? Price it at say $10 above normal general entry and I would be surprised if 15-20,000 people didn’t show up. You bring new supporters to the game including more young girls who presently don’t follow footy and possibly become keen to play it. If the precious men’s league are concerned about the playing surface, play the netball and AFLW after the men’s game around 5.30pm. Kids are home by 8.30pm. It would be one of the most unique sporting events in the world.


Game Day – Foxtel’s coverage of games left a bit to be desired from my viewpoint. The commentary was forced at times and embellished far too often. While I have a great respect for Kelli Underwood as a media person, as a caller she is grating. Kelli over amps passages of play and players often reverting to clichés. While not needing to point out obvious player errors or deficiencies, commentators need to ensure their calls reflect what the viewer is seeing other wise it comes across as a bit condescending at times, which I know was not intentional. The on ground interviews were good and the post match chats actually offered a good insight in to player personality. Pity Channel 7 got the GF. Great Brian Taylor didn’t.


The AFLW has been a success by any measure. My best aspect, the girls looked, while super competitive, like they were were having fun. When was the last time you could say that about the men’s comp.  You are never going to win over some hard heads but as the league develops, and the skills and scoring improve, more and more will become converts. Well played girls and the AFL for achieving some thing I am sure many thought they would never see. Now if Brianna could please swap spots with Daisy Thomas. Actually, I doubt the girls would take him.
































About Tony Robb

A life long Blues supporter of 49 years who has seen some light at the end of the tunnel that isn't Mick Malthouse driving a train.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Thanks Tony, for your original feedback and repeating it for my call out for feedback. I hadn’t caught up with all the GF reports. Doing so now. Well done.

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