The inaugural AFL women’s league is set to be an eight-team competition, probably played next February and March.
The March AFL Commission meeting will confirm the tendering process for the teams as interest in women’s football skyrockets.
“There’s a revolution going on,” said AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.
While details are far from finalised, the most likely structure will be four Victorian teams and one apiece from SA, WA, NSW and Queensland.
It remains unclear how players will be allocated to the teams, with a draft of the top talent one possibility.
McLachlan is feeling vindicated that he pushed for the women’s league to be brought forward by several years.
“I’ve stuck my neck out with the 2017 as opposed to a bit later,” he said.
“There’s been concern around the depth.
“But the success of the academies, the talent searches … means that I think next year … it looks more like eight teams rather than six.”
Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have pioneered AFL women’s football and it is inconceivable that they would not field two of the Victorian teams.
“They’ve owned this, those clubs,” McLachlan admitted, while stressing no decisions had been made.
As the AFL forges ahead with planning for the league, there will be 10 women’s games this season – including two between the Demons and Bulldogs.
Their second game this year will be a showcase fixture on the Saturday night of the new bye weekend, between round 23 and the finals.
McLachlan said no decision had been made on where the game would be played, but it would be televised.
He said Etihad Stadium will be available, but it might be better for a smaller ground such as Whitten Oval to host the game.
The women’s league early next year will probably be seven rounds and then finals.
The AFL is yet to decide whether the league matches will be stand-alone or played in conjunction with NAB Challenge pre-season games.
The February-March schedule is so the national league does not interfere with women’s state competitions.
McLachlan said women’s football was the biggest driver of the growth in Australian Rules participation.
“Clearly, women’s football is a huge growth story,” he said.
He said there were 165 women’s club teams last year and they were targeting 250 this year.
McLachlan added the game rules could be modified from the men’s format.
He also said corporate interest in the prospective women’s league was strong.
THE 10 WOMEN’S GAMES FOR THE 2016 SEASON:
* Round One:
March 6: Melbourne v Western Bulldogs, Craigieburn
April 2: SANFL All Stars, Adelaide Oval
April 9: Sydney v GWS, SCG
April 9: West Coast v Fremantle, Domain Stadium
April 16: Brisbane v Gold Coast, Gabba
* Round Two:
May 22: Melbourne v Queensland, MCG
June 5: Western Bulldogs v WA, Etihad Stadium
June 5: SA v NSW, Adelaide Oval
* Round Three:
Sept 3: Melbourne v Western Bulldogs, TBA