Just glorious at the MCG.
The second AFLW season is less than four weeks away. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the opening round.
The number of teams hasn’t changed in 2018. The AFL postponed expansion of the AFLW competition until 2019, when North Melbourne (together with Tasmania) and Geelong will enter new teams into the league. In 2020 West Coast, Gold Coast, Richmond and St Kilda will enter, taking the total number of teams to 14.
The season opens on 2 February with Carlton playing Collingwood at Princes Park, and it continues until 24 March, meaning the latter parts of the competition will be up against the men’s preseason competition and the AFLX weekend. Despite this, the AFLW fixture has no double-headers with men’s games in 2018.
Matches will be played at Traeger Park in Alice Springs for the first time for AFLW, with Melbourne scheduled to play Collingwood there in a move to support programs in the Northern Territory. The Pies have not moved to play at Victoria Park, with two games at Olympic Park and a game at Moe.
Like last year, Adelaide will play one game in Darwin and GWS will play one game in Canberra. The Crows games in Adelaide have been moved from Thebarton Oval to The Parade after the success of games held last year at the larger capacity venue.
Like last season, all matches will have free entry, with the sole exception of the Fremantle vs Collingwood game at Perth Stadium on 10 February, where entry will cost $2.
At least one game per round will be broadcast on Channel Seven or 7mate across the entire competition, including the season-opening fixture. Adelaide and Fremantle games will also be broadcast locally into Adelaide and Perth. GWS and Brisbane games will not be shown locally on the Seven network unless they’re part of the Saturday night fixtures.
All games will be broadcast live on Foxtel as well as free on the AFL website.
There were some big movements over the offseason through various trades. Carlton traded picks for Nicola Stevens from Collingwood and signed Tayla Harris from Brisbane while losing Nat Exon and Isabella Ayre to Brisbane and Bianca Jakobsson to Melbourne, who traded Deanna Berry to the Bulldogs as part of a three-way trade.
Melbourne later traded Pepa Randall to GWS for Ashleigh Guest. Collingwood would get Jamie Lambert from the Dogs, while the Giants would gain Alicia Eva from Collingwood in another three-way trade.
Three rule changes come in for the 2018 season, the biggest being that the AFL has decided to modify the out of bounds rule. A player will now give away a free kick if they kick or handball the ball over the boundary line without it being touched by an opposition player.
There will also be a reduction in the number of interchange players from six to five, meaning teams will now have 21 players in total – 16 on the field plus five on the bench.
Finally, there will be the implementation of time-on for the last two minutes of each quarter, as happened in the women’s grand final last season.
Total player payments have increased by $500,000 this year under a revised payment system whereby the minimum wage of a senior listed player rose from $8,500 to $10,500. However, it should be noted that it amounts to a 36 per cent increase in contracted hours but only a 20.96 per cent increase in total player payments.
Players have signed 24-week contracts which include two weeks of annual leave. Players will now commit 13 to 15 hours per week during the preseason and ten hours during the season proper. Matchday hours are on top of the ten-hour week.
At the close of the season there will be a period during which Victorian AFLW clubs will have to give up certain players to be recruited by incoming clubs to the value of 100 points, with players being ranked by an AFLW committee that will place a value of between ten and 50 points on every listed player. Points will be based on performance and will also take into account injury, age and other relevant factors.