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'The situation has got real messy, real quick' - AFLW's future hangs in balance amid dispute

Eighteen Irishwomen are currently on lists for the 2020 season.

Carlton Blues' Darcy Vescio (centre) is one of the faces of the dispute.
Carlton Blues' Darcy Vescio (centre) is one of the faces of the dispute.
Image: AAP/PA Images

EIGHTEEN IRISH PLAYERS have signed for clubs ahead of the 2020 season, but the future of the AFLW hangs in the balance because of an ugly dispute Down Under.

The dispute surrounds the number of games played each season and pay, with players, league officials, the AFL, the AFL Players’ Association [AFLPA] and lawyers all involved, and no agreement reached as of yet for this coming season — the fourth edition — with strike action a real possibility.

A disgruntled group of players sought legal help earlier this week in response to the AFLPA’s handling of AFLW pay negotiations.

It’s understood that the main issue, however, is that players want a longer season, with a vote underway on a collective bargaining agreement.

The AFL’s current offer is for the 2020 season to have eight home-and-away games and three finals games, with 2021 extending to nine and three, and 2022 to 10 and three.

But some players are calling for 13 home-and-away games each — where every team plays each other (rather than a two-pool format, as is the case now) — and finals, but the AFL will not entertain this proposal because of a broadcast agreement.

The AFL say that their current offer is their best and final offer, with players’ options now to accept it, or strike and risk it all to get a longer season, more pay and greater equality across the board.

The first vote on the upcoming collective bargaining agreement was rejected a few weeks back, and Friday’s online vote requires a 75% yes vote to pass.

That ended up as a “farce,” of sorts, however, with the AFLPA forced to hold the 5pm voting deadline open through the weekend after it emerged that a number of players did not receive a voting link.

“This is a farce,” Maurice Blackburn senior associate Jacinta Lewin — a lawyer acting on behalf of the group — told the Herald Sun, “a clear accounting, voting mechanism is fundamental to the integrity of the vote result.

“This lack of process and clarity has done nothing but generate more uncertainty for AFLW players. The AFLPA needs to act quickly to replace this ballot with one that is legitimate.”

AFLW agent and CrossCoders founder Jason Hill told The42 from Australia today: “The situation has got real messy, real quick and right now there aren’t a lot of answers for what happens if the players vote no on this version of the collective bargaining agreement like they did the first.

“From what I understand the main contention isn’t around pay per se but actually around season-length and the fact they haven’t seen the final agreement between the AFL and the AFLPA.

“The players have been told this is the final offer from the AFL and that they might not re-enter into negotiations even if the players vote no.

“We’ve seen this watershed moment in pretty much every sport that moves from amateur or semi-pro to professional and pretty much every single one of them has had a threat, or real, strike action. I guess the question is are the players willing to risk it all to gain what they want?”

Hill added: “I know most of the players just want to play the game but even those who think this way know they’re agreeing to a deal they consider ‘less than ideal’ and wouldn’t if they had another option.

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“I do believe that the season will go ahead as planned but will this be the agreement that gets that all in place? I’m not sure.”

An extended AFLW season would obviously be a concern for ladies footballers who balance both as they return home for the tail end of the league, and line out in the summer’s All-Ireland championship.

Read more here, and here.

The 18 Irishwomen currently on AFLW lists for 2020 are:

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

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Emma Duffy

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