ASSUMING the AFL Women’s competition runs in an identical format next year as it has in 2020, questions are asked about what the Conferences may look like in 2021. We know that due to travel the two West Australian sides and the two Queensland sides will be in opposite conferences, but from there it is all up in the air. We take a look at a possible way they might structure the conferences next year.
Based on the rules from last year, the top two teams from 2020 – in this case it is Fremantle and North Melbourne – are in opposite pools. From there, we seeded the next two sides (based on wins and also the fact they won their finals) in Carlton and then Melbourne in opposite pools. It leaves the four losing finalists that round out the top eight. Due to the fact both Brisbane and Gold Coast should be in the same Conference, we have placed them in Conference B, meaning the GIANTS and Collingwood head to Conference A.
Looking at the six remaining sides, the next strongest performers were St Kilda, then Geelong and Adelaide. The Saints head to Conference B with the Crows as one might perceive that Conference as slightly weaker giving both the Queensland teams are still young and building, while Geelong heads to what shapes to be a dangerous Conference A. They are joined by the next best side in the Western Bulldogs there, which means the two sides south west of Melbourne are in the same conference. Rounding out the Conferences are West Coast and Richmond with the Eagles naturally joining Fremantle in Conference A, leaving Richmond to join Conference B.
See the two hypothetical conferences below:
Looking at how the teams performed this year and possible improvement from some of the younger sides, there could be eight or nine contenders for the title. The likes of Fremantle and North Melbourne deserve favouritism, but the next group should be Melbourne, Carlton and Adelaide – with their top two players returning from injury. After that group, you cannot discount Collingwood who pushed a number of the top-end sides in 2020, and they might be in that B+ tier if you like, with Geelong and Brisbane not far behind. The Western Bulldogs, Gold Coast and St Kilda are the three that could really improve in season 2021, but they are still young so are probably another season away from being a premiership contender – though you never say never. West Coast and Richmond are still feeling themselves out and had some promising moments in 2020, but are realistically the two underdogs heading into 2021.
The Conference system could provide the league with numerous possibilities, but next year if all teams are fully fit to begin 2021, it could be the most competitive year so far. With more and more talent coming through the junior AFL Women’s pathway, it is an exciting time in women’s football.
Of course we all want to see a 13-round season where each team plays every other team, but until that happens, then the best scenario is as many great games as possible across the two conferences. Next year will be a must-watch.