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AFLW: Blues hope to earn back rights to season opener

Carlton and Collingwood won't open the AFLW season in 2019 - AFLW,Carlton Blues
Carlton and Collingwood won't open the AFLW season in 2019

CARLTON is hopeful it will regain its NAB AFL Women's season opener against Collingwood in the near future, having been taken off the primetime slot in 2019.

The Blues finished on the bottom of the AFLW ladder last season, parting ways with coach Damien Keeping at the conclusion of the campaign after a series of disappointing performances.

They were subsequently turfed from the blockbuster season-opening fixture next year, despite drawing an average crowd of more than 20,000 people to both clashes against the Pies at Ikon Park during the first two years of the competition.

Carlton CEO Cain Liddle said it was now the club's responsibility to reclaim what it hoped would be a traditional fixture.

"Selfishly, from a Carlton perspective, I'd say it is (a shame), but there's a commitment on behalf of the entire industry and all of the clubs to grow this game," Liddle said.

"The AFL, to their credit, are saying they've got a product that's new and that there's a degree of flexibility and they're using it.

"It's our job now, and (new coach) Daniel Harford's job, to play a brand of football that broadcasters want to see as the first game up in lights.

"Hopefully this time next year, we're talking about us having round one here again."

Carlton travels to Hobart to face expansion side North Melbourne in round one next season, while fellow expansion team Geelong will host the season-opening fixture against Collingwood at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday, February 2.

Speaking as the Blues welcomed supplements company Bioglan as a new AFLW sponsor, Liddle said he could understand the AFL's reasoning in allowing its two new women's teams to host matches across the first round of the year.

"We've all got a commitment to grow women's football, so when two new clubs come into the program the reality is we have to give them the chance to shine," he said.

"North Melbourne, with its affiliation with Tasmania, gets to have a crack and we're really privileged that we'll get to play them.

"Then obviously Geelong, down at its stadium … they've put a lot of resources into that and they'll also get to kick off the season, so we understand that.

"The round five game against Collingwood, we still expect it to be a huge blockbuster here. We'll be running our family day on that day, so we still expect a massive crowd that night."

Carlton's night matches at Ikon Park last season were overshadowed by criticism of the stadium's lighting, with Brisbane AFLW coach Craig Starcevich describing the conditions as "terrible" and "not good enough".

However, Liddle confirmed the Blues are working on ways to improve the facilities across the entire ground in order to make Ikon Park the new home of women's footy.

"We'll be bringing in lights next year," Liddle said.

"But as we've mentioned, we continue to work really hard with the federal government to add to the funding that the state government has already committed to turn this into the home of the AFLW.

"It's the ideal-sized stadium at around 20,000 capacity, so we really see a day here where the lights will be broadcast standard and all of the periphery facilities will be the equivalent of what one of the male players would see when they go to Marvel Stadium or the MCG."