The AFL Commission and league bosses could not reach a resolution on the expansion of the AFL Women’s competition at Tuesday’s day-long board talks in Geelong and have put off a decision on the distribution of new licences until grand final week.
A robust two-hour debate broke up with chairman Richard Goyder and his commissioners instructing the AFL to do more work on the women’s format after refusing to ratify a range of recommendations put forward by Gillon McLachlan and his football lieutenant Andrew Dillon. Eight AFL clubs, including five provisional licence-holders, face a nervous wait of a further five weeks before learning whether their clubs will be handed licences in time for the 2019 season.
The hot favourites are Geelong, West Coast and a hybrid North Melbourne-Tasmanian team, with Richmond and St Kilda also determined to convince the commission their submissions are compelling. The Kangaroos had tentative plans to fly to Tasmania this week and hold a joint announcement with premier Will Hodgman had their push been successful, but that has been placed on hold.
Gold Coast, led by new boss Mark Evans, have also heavily lobbied to join Brisbane as the second Queensland team, while Essendon and Hawthorn – which did not bid last time – have put forward strong cases.
The disputes yesterday centred not only on the number of clubs and which clubs deserved licences but also the structure of the competition once the league increased and whether the competition would be played in two conferences from 2019.
There were a wide range of different views at the meeting with some commissioners and executives concerned at pushing forward too fast for talent to develop while others were strongly of the view that the AFL – having brought forward the launch of the national league by several years – should continue to maintain its ambitious expansionist strategy.
Tuesday’s talks marked the second time this season the commission has failed to accept a recommendation from its executive regarding the expansion of the AFLW. In May it instructed the AFL team to do more work on its proposal before capping the league at eight teams for another year.