The AFL is launching a national women's league next year

Ella Best and Tegan Siekman in GWS Giants jumpers at the launch of the AFL’s inaugural Women’s National League. Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

It’s a big day for women’s sport, with the Australian Rugby Union announcing the national women’s team, the Wallaroos, has its first naming-rights partner in Buildcorp, while this afternoon AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick announcing the first eight teams in the inaugural 2017 season of the national women’s league.

While 13 clubs made submissions for a women’s licence, just eight were approved.

The Adelaide Crows, Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, GWS Giants in Sydney, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have been given the nod

The remainder: the Geelong Cats, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast Eagles were granted provisional licences. Those five teams won’t hit the starting line until 2018 at the earliest.

With the battle for market share in women’s sport intensifying on a number of fronts, Fitzpatrick conceded that the national competition had “been put together in short space of time but this day has been a long time coming”.

“Our game will never be the same,” he said.

Fitzpatrick pointed to phenomenal growth in female participation, with the number of women and girls playing club football doubling over the past five years to now make up 25% of the total number of people playing AFL

“In 2015 there were 163 new women’s teams and more than 318,000 total female participants. This year we are forecasting 250 new teams will take the field,” he said.

Up until now, women’s AFL peaked at state leagues, with the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne playing exhibition matches in the last few years.

But today’s announcement was light on details, especially about remuneration for players. The short season before the start of the men’s comp will run for just six rounds until the top four teams in a finals for a grand final coinciding with round one of the men’s premiership.

Fitzpatrick said AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan called the move a revolution.

“The establishment of a national women’s league will provide a platform to inspire young girls to reach for the stars and provide another avenue for fans of Australian football to enjoy,” he said.

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