One of the big questions remaining on the AFLW agenda is when we will see the remaining four teams added to the competition.
The league has expanded rapidly in its short life, going from eight to 14 teams in just four seasons and this has put a strain on the depth of the talent pool around the country and particularly in Victoria.
Essendon, Hawthorn, Sydney and Port Adelaide are the AFL sides still without a license, with the expectation currently that we will see them added by 2023.
St Kilda coach Peta Searle would like to see the league take a deep breath and hold off on any expansion in the next 12 months, given the impact COVID-19 has had on women’s football.
Victorian players at all levels of women’s footy were not able to play in 2020 because of the lengthy lockdown period and Searle feels AFLW needs a period of consolidation before further growth.
“It’s a difficult question given no footy was played this year. You’d like a bit more footy to be played before you can go deeper into the draft pool,” Searle told SEN’s The Boundary AFLW Podcast.
“You’ve got this year of consolidating, I think given we had a year without footy, let’s have another year of consolidation.
“Richmond, I guess they got help from the AFL in terms of priority picks and so did West Coast, so you’d like to be in a situation where that doesn’t happen before you (expand) again.
“I also know the AFL is probably keen to get the other two in (Hawthorn and Essendon) and for lots of positive reasons overall, but personally and selfishly, I’d probably like a little more consolidation around just giving expansion clubs a bit more of a chance to catch up to those who have been playing for five years.
“Where we are this year in our game-plan from where we were last year just based on the fact that we played six games is extraordinary, so I can’t imagine how much easier it is for teams that have played five years.”
St Kilda, Richmond, West Coast and Gold Coast are the four most recent expansion sides, with the Tigers and Eagles struggling to compete at AFLW level in 2020.
Both finished their respective seasons with percentages in the 30s and both were handed compensation picks by the league heading into 2021.
Collingwood star forward Chloe Molloy agrees with Searle and feels the league should stay at 14 teams for 2022.
“I tend to agree with you. A little bit of breathing space to get the competition balanced, especially after 2020 with it cut short and 2021, no idea what it’s going to look like,” she said.
“A bit of breathing space for the teams, especially the expansion teams, so we don’t see a big discrepancy between the two.”
Listen to SEN’s The Boundary AFLW Podcast below