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AFLW survives crisis with league set to return unchanged for 2021 season

18 Irish players were on the books in 2020 – though there looks to be a clash ahead between pre-season in Australia and the inter-county football championships.

Mayo star Sarah Rowe has enjoyed two successful seasons with Collingwood.
Mayo star Sarah Rowe has enjoyed two successful seasons with Collingwood.
Image: AAP/PA Images

THE AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL League Women’s [AFLW], which 18 Irish players were involved in last season, is set to return unchanged in 2021.

The league survives the Covid-19 crisis relatively unscathed with the green light given for a February 2021 start for the competition’s fifth season. 

In a meeting yesterday, it was confirmed that no change would be made to the current collective bargaining agreement while player pay is planned to increase as expected before the pandemic.

The 2021 season will consist of a nine-week home and away season, followed up by a three-week final series. The 2020 season was cut short amidst the coronavirus crisis despite efforts to curtail the campaign, though the men’s league went ahead.

“It is the Commission’s view that it is critical at this juncture to provide clarity to the AFLW clubs and players by demonstrating our ongoing commitment to women’s football,” AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said.

With the sign and trade period approaching, the Irish contingent will draw huge attention especially given the potential overlap with the inter-county calendar here.

The TG4 All-Ireland championships look to be slated in from mid-October to December, which is expected to clash with the AFLW pre-season period. Tough decisions may need to be made, though delayed arrivals to Australia could also be explored.

Similar decisions look imminent in Mayo as manager Peter Leahy recently said his players will have to decide whether to commit fully to the Green and Red set-up or to AFLW going forward.

In one piece of list news affecting Irish players, Galway star Mairéad Seoighe has departed North Melbourne ahead of the 2021 season.

The 18 Irishwomen who were on AFLW lists for 2020 are as follows:

  • Sinéad Goldrick (Melbourne FC / Dublin)
  • Niamh McEvoy (Melbourne FC / Dublin)
  • Cora Staunton (GWS Giants / Mayo)
  • Yvonne Bonner (GWS Giants / Donegal)
  • Sarah Rowe (Collingwood / Mayo)
  • Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood / Cavan)
  • Aisling McCarthy (Western Bulldogs / Tipperary)
  • Katy Herron (Western Bulldogs / Donegal)
  • Niamh Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)
  • Grace Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)
  • Kate Flood (Fremantle / Louth)
  • Áine Tighe (Fremantle / Leitrim)
  • Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne / Mayo)
  • Mairéad Seoighe (North Melbourne / Galway)
  • Ailish Considine (Adelaide Crows / Clare)
  • Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions / Tipperary)
  • Joanne Doonan (Carlton Blues / Fermanagh)
  • Clara Fitzpatrick (St Kilda / Down)

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GREAT NEWS as @aflwomens set to return unchanged in 2021 👏 👏 AFL has informed AFL club presidents and CEOs that the AFL Commission ratified a recommendation by the football operations department for no change to the current AFLW CBA, and that the 2021 season should commence in February, with a nine-week home and away season, before a three-week finals series. How good is that! With the Sign & Trade Period approaching all eyes will be on the Irish Contingent and whether the number rises or falls or stays the same. With the first news re 2021 lists in the last couple of days being the delisting of Mairead Seoighe by North Melbourne, hopefully the update that budgets will be largely unaffected will see as many Irish returning as possible. (We are all so proud of Mairead who did herself, her family, friends, team mates and the Irish footy community proud & no doubt will be back stronger than ever 💪) There is of course the potential overlap now for the first time between the @ladiesgaelicfootball All Ireland Championship series which looks likely to run October to December and the AFLW Pre-season (dates yet to be confirmed) so some players may make the tough decision not to return to Aus this season, some will likely make the equally tough decision to go and potentially miss a home campaign or we may see some players making a delayed return to Aus in the new year after the LGFA season finishes subject to various clubs agreement. A number of additional Irish Players had held talks/ trials with various clubs (including clubs that had not to date signed any Irish Players ) pre-Covid after impressing AFLW Scouts, but it remains to be seen if these progress at this time given recent events. And of course there are a number of Irish players who were aligned with clubs VFLW teams who are also in with a great shout (despite the VFLW season largely being cancelled). And will we see the first ever transfer of an Irish Player between clubs for 2021 season ???? So much to look forward to and we cannot wait to see how it all unfolds. ☘️💚☘️ #AWholeNewBallGame

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Emma Duffy

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