FEMALES now make up close to a third of a record number of Australian football participants worldwide.

Figures released on Sunday show a 14.2 per cent spike in female participation was a major driver in the 6.5 per cent growth of the game to 1,649,178 players in 2018.

AFL general manager of game development Andrew Dillon, speaking at an Open Skills AFL wheelchair session in Darebin, said the record number of 530,166 females playing the game was only set to grow.

"Participation in Australian football is continuing to increase year on year as a result of the hard work and commitment of our dedicated volunteers in conjunction with the AFL's commitment to increase inclusion and diversity in our game through the introduction of new AFL inclusion programs," Dillon said.

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"Without the efforts of the communities who support football right across the nation, the collective results would not be able to be achieved.

"The NAB AFL Women's competition has played a key role in contributing to an outstanding increase in football participation, growing by 14.42 per cent to reach a figure of 530,166, reflecting 32 per cent of all participation.

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"As a result of the increase in female football participation, the AFL has developed the Female Safety Guidelines to ensure more participants and coaches are armed with the knowledge to ensure greater safety on the field for all women and girls.

"Diversity and inclusion also saw a rise in participation numbers with a total of 268,091 in 2018, showing that Australian football really is the game for everyone."

AFL game development manager Andrew Dillon at Open Skills session. Picture: Martin Keep/AFL Media

The report shows all states and territories in Australia recorded growth.

International participation was also at an all-time high, with an 8.5 per cent rise outside of Australia seeing 185,173 people play the game.

Notbably, Chinese figures grew from 2200 in 2017 to 3354 last year.

The overall participation numbers exclude players from the 18 AFL clubs, however do include state league competitions.

2018 AFL participation highlights

Total participation – 1,649,178 (up 6.54 per cent)
International participation – 185,173 (up 8.45 per cent)
Community Club participation – 386,924 (up 4.2 per cent)
NAB AFL Auskick participation – 205,755 (up 2.81 per cent) across 4103 Auskick centres
AFL 9s participation – 24,032
School programs and competition participation – 1,014,876 (up 8.3 per cent)
Female participation – 530,166 (up 14.42 per cent)
Female teams – 2281 (up 35 per cent)
Indigenous participation – 98,446
Multicultural participation – 166,126
Disability participation – 3519
Accredited coaches – 35,090
Accredited umpires – 15,758