AFLW season seven will kick off with the traditional clash between Carlton and Collingwood at Princes Park on Thursday night, August 25.
- Essendon and Hawthorn will meet in round one, but Port fans will have to wait until round two for a home game
- A range of double-headers will take place between the men’s finals and ‘floating’ AFLW fixtures
- 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 opted for an experimental approach to the AFLW opener, with St Kilda taking on Richmond at Frankston park, but the game only drew just over 3,300 spectators.
In August, the AFL will be hoping for a return to the crowds of the AFLW’s inaugural years, where the opener drew between 15,000 and 25,000 over seasons one to four.
Round one will also boast a blockbuster clash between two of the competition’s four new clubs, Essendon and Hawthorn, to take place at 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, in the Saturday twilight slot.
Adelaide and Melbourne, meanwhile, will meet in a grand final re-match at Norwood Oval, with Daisy Pearce likely leading her side for a final season and tilt at an elusive premiership.
Port Adelaide fans, however, will have to wait until round two for the Power to take the field at Alberton, with Port’s first game to be played away against West Coast.
AFL rules out extending season length for now
Despite the introduction of four new clubs, there will still only be 10 rounds of regular competition, meaning not all clubs will get to play each other.
Instead, the finals series has been extended to four weeks, to take place between the top eight teams.
Quizzed about the choice — which was a sticking point at recent Collective Bargaining Agreement talks — AFL fixtures boss Travis Auld said the league’s focus was on “developing a real even, competitive competition”.
“The focus at the moment, particularly with the expansion of four new teams, is to bed that down,” Auld said.
“How long that is, I don’t know … what’s worked for us, so far, with AFLW, is to take each step at a time and then make decisions based on what we’re learning, so we’ll continue to do that.
Double-headers to be held with men’s finals
In a change of direction for AFLW, double-headers are in favour, with the season kicking off in its new slot of the pre-finals bye week of the men’s competition.
This sees the first five rounds take place during the men’s finals series, with the AFL signalling that Saturday AFLW games during September will have “floating” timeslots so they can be moved to best align with men’s finals fixtures.
There will also be four AFLW games played on the Victorian grand final public holiday, on Friday September 23, while Richmond and the Brisbane Lions will play at Punt Road on grand final day at 11:10am.
Post the men’s finals, there will be two AFLW matches played as double-headers each Friday night.
The popular Indigenous Round will again be split across two rounds (in rounds three and four), while the AFLW will debut a ‘Dreamtime’ game between Essendon and Richmond for the Bombers’ inaugural season.
Pride Round will also make its return in round eight, with a double-header on Saturday at Princes Park, but the traditional match-up between Carlton and the Western Bulldogs will not be played this year.
With all four remaining clubs joining the competition — Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney — there will be four, state-based derbies held at the biggest stadiums: the SCG, Gabba, Perth Stadium and Adelaide Oval.
Once again, AFLW will be played in a variety of locations around the country, including the regional Victorian towns of Warrnambool, Ballarat and Mildura, as well as in Mackay in Queensland.
The North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos will continue to play fixtures in Launceston (round four) and Hobart (round one), while the Gold Coast Suns will hold a game in Broadbeach (at Kombumerri Park) in round five.
Posted , updated