• Sabrina Frederick-Traub of the Demons celebrates a goal with Emma Swanson (L) during a Women's AFL exhibition match between Western Bulldogs and Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on August 16, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
If the hype is to be believed, we are just a shade over 12 months away from the start of an AFL women's competition.
By
Peter Holden

1 Feb 2016 - 3:45 PM  UPDATED 1 Feb 2016 - 3:45 PM

It's been over a year after the AFL committed to the idea and there has been no further information released regarding the starting point of the proposed national competition. While a national talent search is underway, the proposed start of 2017 remains unconfirmed by the AFL.

This is a major problem currently facing many players and supporters of female footy: not knowing, therefore not being able to explain to others, when this national competition will start.

How long the competition will run for, what teams will be involved and how players will be picked are also questions that remain unanswered.

To be brutally honest, the AFL's communication regarding the proposed national competition is like a drunk donkey trying to play an accordion; there's a lot of noise going on that's got everyone's interest, but the tune is incoherent.

Over the past few months there has been hints about what might be coming down the road, but numerous curveballs have been thrown leading everyone back to square one.

Before the 2016 league competitions around the country begin, it's important to compile all the information we have available in one place to assess how the competition may shape up.

These are the pieces of the puzzle that have been released into the public domain so far.

How many teams will be involved in the first year?

No clear number has been given on the amount of teams that will contest the inaugural AFL women's national competition.

Back in October of 2015, AFL national female manager, Jan Cooper, told the ABC it could be four, six or eight teams; however, the head of female footy at AFL Victoria, Darren Flanigan, wants a 10-team competition.

“From just looking at the talent we’ve got, I think the more the better,” Flanigan told Fox Sports.

“The more girls into the AFL, the quicker that women’s footy will improve.

“My recommendation for the AFL would be to go with 10 teams.”

When will the season start?

The word doing the rounds is the women's competition season would start in February or March to run alongside the current NAB preseason matches, while freeing up the players to participate in their respective state leagues later in the year.

How long would the season last?

In his interview with Fox Sports, AFL Victoria's Darren Flanigan referred to a "five-game season".

How will the players be picked?

At the moment, it's still not known if players will be zoned, drafted or a combination of both, with mixed messages from AFL clubs adding to the confusion.

For example, the Adelaide Crows have announced partnerships with AFL NT and the SANFL to develop the elite talent across those regions which would suggest players will be zoned; however, Port Adelaide Power have announced Erin Phillips as their 'marquee player', which could mean clubs can directly sign some players without a zone or draft.

A zone system wouldn't do the South Australians any favours with the current low talent depth, while marquee signings from other sports could bring about another Karmichael Hunt or Israel Falou situation - both cases were far from a raging success.

How many players will be allocated to each club?

Since the middle of 2015, the 'word on the street' was a 30-player squad for each club.

However, in an interview given by the captain of Tasmania's Indigenous Kickstart team, Sophie Townsend, to the ABC, it seems that number will be less.

"At the moment there is probably 25 to a team in the draft, so they're looking to get about eight teams, so that's going to open up probably about [upwards of] 150 positions for women," Townsend said.

How much will the players be paid?

A few weeks after the televised women's exhibition match in August of 2015, some of the country's top female footballers met with the AFL Players Association, but no word has come back indicating if the AFLPA was able to negotiate a fair pay deal for the women who will play in the national competition.

“I’m not too sure when the payment side of things will come in,” Melbourne captain and AFL employee Daisy Pearce told Fairfax Media back in September.

“There’s been some initial meetings between the players and the AFL Players Association, so we have their support going forward into this national comp.

“Whether that equates to a pay cheque I’m not sure, but they’ll be there to advocate for our rights.

"In the initial phases I don’t think it will be huge pay contracts or anything like that, but I think most of us are happy being the pioneers because eventually one day we think we’ll get to that point where the pay is good.”

Rumours of players being paid just an honorarium were mentioned late last year, and there has been no mention of how much these elite female footballers will be compensated for the use of their image and name in marketing as of yet.

Any item, whether it be footy cards, posters, guernseys etc, portraying the likeness of the players who participated in the first ever women's national competition will one day be worth a nice little fortune to memorabilia collectors, not to mention the images of the players being used by the AFL to increase the value of its own brand.

There will be people out to make money off the hard work done by these women and there's still no word if they'll get their fair share.

What will happen to the players discovered in the National Talent Search?

Of the 100+ women who tried out in Melbourne for the AFL's National Talent Search, about 20 have been invited to train with the Victorian Women's Football Academy.

This will be repeated in other capital cities over the coming weeks as the cream of the crop get picked to train with their state's respective academies.

How will these potential star footballers be allocated within the state leagues?

One would hope the state football powers will encourage these new recruits to sign with clubs that finished at the lower end of the table to help balance out their league's talent.

If they were able to be 'poached' by any of the top clubs, it would be a disaster for women's footy and would see the continuation of lopsided competitions around the country.

What chance will the current players have to impress the recruiters?

An article by the Western Australian Football Commission prior to Christmas, plus the release of the QWAFL fixture this week, have started to give a clearer picture of the women's representative football fixture for 2016.

When the Victorian Women's Football Academy was launched last year, notice was given that the AFL Queensland and AFL NSW/ACT academies would be visiting the Victorians some time in March.

There has been conflicting information about whether these visits will involve trial matches or whether it will be a joint training session.

What is known is that the Queenslanders, as either the Brisbane Lions or Gold Coast Suns, will be playing the Melbourne Demons women's team on Sunday May 22nd, as flagged in the QWAFL fixture.

The West Australians have declared they will be taking on the Victorians on Sunday June 5th at Etihad Stadium, but considering the QWAFL news, this could mean the Western Bulldogs women's side will be taking on a West Coast Eagles team representing WA.

Women who have missed out on selection for the sides representing AFL teams will still have a chance to impress recruiters, with under-23 state matches to be held on the Gold Coast in June according to the WAFC, while the annual National Youth Girls Championships will be held this year during May in Melbourne.

The last opportunity our elite female footballers will have to play representative footy is on the weekend of September 3/4. This weekend is the gap between the last AFL regular season match and the finals.

There's no doubt this will be an event hyped by the AFL and shown on TV, but details of the participants remain scarce.

It is hoped that more information regarding the competition will be revealed before the beginning of the AFL's regular season on March 24, with a fully-planned competition plan released before the season's conclusion.