Gillon McLachlan calls the growth of women’s AFL a revolution and on Wednesday they stormed their Bastille.
The AFL chief executive watched proudly at the MCG on Wednesday as league chairman Mike Fitzpatrick launched the inaugural women’s league.
“Our game is on the cusp of changing forever and changing for the better,” Fitzpatrick said.
It will run for two months from early next February and feature eight teams all aligned with AFL clubs.
Pioneering women’s clubs Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs joined Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle and GWS as the first teams.
While Geelong, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast missed out, they were granted provisional licences and could join the league in 2018.
The league has lofty goals for the women’s league, with AFL development manager Simon Lethlean saying they hope stars such as Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce will be full-time within four years.
“I don’t think we can say in two-four years’ time that it will be fully-professional for women, but we’d certainly love it to be,” Lethlean said.
“Make it sustainable, make it long-term and be here in 100 years with 18 teams and broadcast and sponsorship support.”
The top players initially will be paid $25,000 per season and will also have ambassador roles.
Lethlean met with the eight clubs immediately after Wednesday morning’s historic launch to start thrashing out details of how the league will run.
The first step will be for each club to submit a handful of candidates over the next fortnight to be their two marquee players.
Lethlean hopes the clubs and players will work out the successful candidates, while admitting the AFL could become involved if there are problems doing it.
Pearce, the No.1 player in next year’s league, already works at Melbourne.
She laughed while admitting she made it clear to McLachlan after the launch that there is one option for her team.
“I can tell you how that one’s probably going to work – I think that Daisy has a relationship with Melbourne that will mean she should be there,” Lethlean said.
“The AFL will work with the clubs and the girls to make it happen properly.”
For players such as Pearce, the league is a dream come true.
Young girls were involved in the launch announcement and Pearce said it was notable that they now assume they can play AFL.
“They don’t think this is amazing or incredible, because they’re little girls who have grown up thinking `of course I’m going to play AFL’,” Pearce said.
“Part of me thinks they should really cherish that this is happening and should acknowledge the significance.
“But part of me is also glad they don’t … (it’s) a good sign of progress.”