VFL Women’s: A Changing Competition

It was a poetic end to the VFL Women’s home and away season.

The Seaford Tigerettes lost to the Box Hill Hawks by 32 points at RF Miles Reserve.

The former is a foundation club of VFLW, the latter a newcomer as part of Hawthorn’s AFLW licence bid.
The former is entirely volunteer run, the latter superbly resourced with professional coaches and high-tech facilities.
The former finishes the season winless, the latter has built a strong foundation for moving up the ladder.
The former does not have a VFLW future following last week’s confirmation that the St Kilda Saints would assume their licence in 2018. The latter is the prototype for the future of the best state competition in the country.


The growing pains of women’s football, friends. To strengthen the burgeoning national competition, VFL Women’s will soon be comprised of an AFL-affiliated team for every club that has applied for a licence… which is all of them. It may be 2018, it may be 2019 but the day will come when VFL Women’s is unrecognisable from its origins.


Long-time teammates will be separated, coaches replaced by those who have higher qualifications and aspirations and grassroots clubs will drift back to local competitions. The competition will be stronger, a real pathway for the national competition.


The mighty Darebin Falcons have been the Wikipedia-level-fact best women’s team in the country for nigh on a decade. A factory for great players and promoters of the game that has always run off the smell of an oily rag, the day will come when they are just another local team.


Diamond Creek, the largest female football club in the country and off-field pioneers for the game’s professionalism, will probably be making ends meet in the Northern Football League next season.


It is not yet known how the St Kilda Sharks will look in 2018, as their home ground of the Peanut Farm Reserve will be unavailable and it is expected that the Saints’ VFLW berth will see them take naming rights. The Eastern Devils are even more uncertain about their VFLW future with the team holding a celebratory dinner last Sunday in anticipation that their win over Geelong was the end of an era.


Geelong were the other AFL affiliated team setting sail in 2017 and their final round loss to the Devils wasn’t a dampener on a season in which they exceeded expectations. The Cranbourne Eagles have already said adios to VFLW, with the Casey Demons set to assume their licence in 2018.


The outlook is brighter for Melbourne Uni and the VU Western Spurs, as their alliances with North Melbourne and the Bulldogs respectively means they may be able to continue for the time being, albeit with a compromised identity and divided control of their clubs.


In the lead-up to the inaugural AFLW season, these clubs were given their due as benchmark-setters for women’s football. Within a couple of years, maybe even a few months, they will be pushed from the future as the game moves beyond its grassroots heritage.


History will be lost. It will be as necessary as it will be sad.



About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. Great summary of the likely outcomes Callum. I’ve watched the Box Hill Hawks with great interest this season (obviously I have a very close interest playing for them!) and haven’t given a lot of thought to how the competition will evolve. But I think you are spot on here – the big league will move in, and the unaffiliated will disappear.

    Women’s footy started with enormous goodwill and support from the barrackers and the general public. That will be tested in the coming years as some clubs are put to the sword “for the greater good”. Having said that, it will be good for women’s footy if the powerhouse clubs like Darebin are brought back to the field. It is not sustainable to have only 2 or maybe 3 teams vying for the premiership each year.

    I can’t bring myself to yell out “Go H****!” But I can yell out “Go Box Hill!”

  2. Cat from the Country says

    The Maryborough Castlemaine District Football Netball MCDFNC has female teams called the Carisbrook Lions
    There are about 6 male teams (Redbacks) and this year for the first time, three girls teams. Seniors, youths and girls.
    Two of these new teams are in rhe finals in their first year!

  3. Maybe some of these clubs should look at alignments with VFL clubs now that the VFL Development League is no longer at the completion of this season. The Spurs have played at least one curtain-raiser to Williamstown this season & would be a natural fit & provide a pathway to the AFLW for those good enough, rather than being relegated to a suburban competition where it would be much more difficult to get noticed, playing on poorer grounds with sub-standard facilities. The grounds & facilities of VFL clubs have to be up to AFL standards, for the precious players of the AFL clubs.

  4. John Butler says

    Callum, I think all of this is inevitable only if you look at things only from the AFL perspective. The AFL have always want ed everything on their terms. I doubt any alternatives were even contemplated, let alone explored. That is the price of doing business with them.

    This will end up a repeat of what happened to the old VFA, which has largely been gutted and turned into an AFL reserves comp. Except the VFLW has a lot less history and financial clout behind it, so will it will be all the easier to absorb.

    Some of this would have been hard to avoid in any circumstance, if women are to eventually have the option to make a living from football (something, by the way, the AFL is yet to offer more than a few), but it says a lot about the the AFL that a community organisation such as the Darebin Falcons, who have been exemplary on every level, can’t be included in the AFL world view.

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