Imagine, you step onto the field, your debut year as a team in the league, and your debut in your dream team as an elite sports player. Your time to shine arises and at the opportune time, you manage to find yourself in the right position, at the right time, with the right skills, to intercept a mark and line up for your very first goal at AFLW level.
You take your time and follow your routine, you’ve done this before, just never at the highest level, don’t let the nerves throw you off now. A big breath in, you line up, run through, and kicking the ball, bang! Score your first goal!
Your team-mates pile in on top of you cheering whilst the crowd… yell silently from their home screens and online viewing platforms. The skeleton team of coaches, medical personal, TV crew, security, and grounds crew are the only fans around to celebrate your momentous moment. Round 6 of the AFLW season 2019 and the declaration of COVID as a pandemic has changed the season.
AFLW On The Rise
Starting in 2017 with 8 teams, the AFLW was established within Australia as a professional league of AFL female players. Since then the league has now grown to 14 teams playing head to head across 9 rounds of football as the fifth season of AFLW starts to ramp up this year.
The teams, many well known by supporters, align with their male counterparts and include; Adelaide Crows, Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle Dockers, Geelong Cats, Gold Coast Suns, Greater Western Sydney (GWS), Melbourne Demons, North Melbourne, Richmond Tigers, St Kilda, West Coast Eagles and Western Bulldogs, with plans to include more teams in the coming years.
With such a disrupted year in 2020, the stage is set for unknown precedence as last year’s 8 round season was cut short at the end of round 6, with no premiership, awarded. A bi-pool system in 2020 held North Melbourne and Fremantle at the top of their pools, but with no closure on the season.
Player-trades and an online player draft have seen some disturbances and inter-state trades amongst clubs, with some marquee players from the first few seasons making trades.
This however still hangs in the balance of the current climate over the COVID pandemic. This week disruptions to the Australian Open Tennis tournament dashed the training capacity of elite athletes through mandatory isolation. This draws light on how much of the fixture for sport hangs in the balance.
Hot Spot Shuffle
Talking with one football operations manager the current setting is ever-changing due to state border closures, outbreaks, and the latest news from around the country and the world. To plan for a set nine-round season, may seem unthinkable at this time.
Some teams have already made interstate moves such as GWS to Albury during the Northern Beaches Sydney outbreak mid-pre-season, and Western Australia/South Australian teams; Fremantle, West Coast, and Adelaide Crows, seem bound to play each other as WA has border closures and isolation restrictions for other incoming states.
Not all is lost, plans are still in motion for Round 1 where the first game held will be Carlton v Collingwood at Ikon Park 28th January 2021 as these women take the field to continue to make history as the development of women’s professional sport continues to grow.
*note changes to COVID circumstances may have changed since the publication of this article. Please refer to your local state health advisory updates for latest news and details.
Kelly Thompson is the newest member of the Sports journalist team. Kelly currently plays AFL for Casey Demons in the VFLW, and practices what she preaches as a HOPE (Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education) Teacher in Melbourne’s southeast.