AFLW season seven kicks off on Thursday evening, August 25, with the traditional clash between Carlton and Collingwood at Princes Park.
Most important points:
- Essendon and Hawthorn meet in round one but Port fans will have to wait until round two for a home game
- A series of double-headers will take place between the men’s final and ‘floating’ AFLW matches
- The season remains at 10 rounds despite the introduction of four new teams, with four weeks of finals
Last season – which took place in January – the AFL took an experimental approach to the AFLW opener, with St Kilda taking on Richmond at Frankston Park, but the match drew only just over 3,300 spectators.
In August, the AFL hopes to see a return to the hustle and bustle of the AFLW’s inaugural years, where the opener drew between 15,000 and 25,000 in seasons one through four.
The first round will also feature a blockbuster clash between two of the competition’s four new clubs, Essendon and Hawthorn, which will take place in Port Melbourne on Saturday night.
Sydney fans will be able to see their side in action for the first time at North Sydney Oval, against St Kilda, at dusk on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Adelaide and Melbourne will meet in a grand final re-match at Norwood Oval, with Daisy Pearce likely by her side for one final season and tilting towards an elusive premiership.
However, fans of Port Adelaide will have to wait until round two for the Power to take the field in Alberton, which will see Port’s first match against West Coast.
AFL excludes season extension for the time being
Despite the introduction of four new clubs, there will still be only 10 rounds of regular season, meaning not all clubs will play against each other.
Instead, the final series has been extended to four weeks, to take place between the top eight teams.
Asked about the choice – which has been a sticking point during recent collective bargaining talks – AFL furnishing boss Travis Auld said the league’s focus has been on “developing a truly level, competitive league”.
“The focus right now, especially with the expansion of four new teams, is to bring that down,” Auld said.
“How long that is, I don’t know… what has worked for us so far, with AFLW, is to take each step at a time and then make decisions based on what we learn, so we’ll keep doing that.
Double-headers are held with men’s finals
In a change of direction for AFLW, double headers are in favor, with the season kicking off in the new slot of the men’s competition pre-final bye week.
Due to this, the first five rounds will take place during the men’s finals series, with the AFL indicating that AFLW games on Saturday in September will have “floating” time slots so they can be moved to best match the men’s finals games.
There will also be four AFLW games played on the Victorian Grand Final holiday, on Friday, September 23, while Richmond and the Brisbane Lions play at Punt Road on the grand final day at 11:10am.
After the men’s final, two AFLW games will be played as double-headers every Friday-evening.
The popular Indigenous round will again be split into two rounds (in rounds three and four), while the AFLW will debut a ‘Dreamtime’ match between Essendon and Richmond for the Bombers’ inaugural season.
Pride Round also returns in round eight, with a double-header on Saturday at Princes Park, but the traditional game between Carlton and the Western Bulldogs will not be played this year.
With all four clubs remaining in the competition – Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney – four state derbies will be held in the biggest stadiums: the SCG, Gabba, Perth Stadium and Adelaide Oval.
Again, AFLW is played in several locations around the country, including the regional Victorian towns of Warrnambool, Ballarat and Mildura, as well as Mackay in Queensland.
The Tasmanian Kangaroos from North Melbourne will continue to play matches in Launceston (round four) and Hobart (round one), while the Gold Coast Suns will hold a match at Broadbeach (in Kombumerri Park) in round five.
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