CARLTON will not feature in the season-opener of the 2019 NAB AFL Women's season, with expansion club Geelong hosting Collingwood at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong on Saturday February 2, at 6.40pm (AEDT).
The Cats-Magpies match will be immediately followed by a game between Adelaide and reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs at Norwood Oval in Adelaide at 8.40pm (AEDT), in the first of the season's Saturday night double-headers.
Carlton and Collingwood kicked off AFLW in 2017 to great fanfare, but last year's opening clash between the teams disappointed with just five goals scored.
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Rounds one, four, five and six will not feature Friday night matches; instead, there will be three games on either the Saturday or Sunday.
The AFL’s head of women's football Nicole Livingstone said the low number of Friday night games was to allow for longer breaks for the players in a part-time competition.
"The Fridays do create a little bit of difficulty for AFLW. Our players are only part-time at the moment, so they are still juggling commitments. It makes it difficult for the five-day turnaround," Livingstone said.
Both a broadcast deal and a collective bargaining agreement are expected to be announced in the next few weeks.
The Grand Final rematch between the Bulldogs and Brisbane won't occur until round four, while expansion clubs Geelong and North Melbourne won't play each other at all.
Under the two-conference system previously announced, the five teams in each conference will play each other, with three so-called "cross-over" games against teams in the other pool.
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The top two teams in each conference will qualify for a preliminary final (first in Conference A vs second in Conference B, and vice-versa), with the winner of each progressing to the Grand Final.
The preliminary finals will be held on Saturday March 23, while the Grand Final will be the week after.
The team that accrues the most premiership points will host the Grand Final. If the two teams are even on points, percentage will be taken into account.
Expansion club North Melbourne will play home games at North Hobart Oval, University of Tasmania Stadium (Launceston) and Chirnside Park (in Melbourne’s west), while fellow new team Geelong will play all its home games at GMHBA Stadium.
Collingwood has moved from Olympic Park Oval to the club’s traditional home at Victoria Park, while Marvel Stadium will host a double-header in round six.
Collingwood-North Melbourne and Western Bulldogs-Melbourne will be the first AFLW teams to play for premiership points at the recently renamed Docklands venue.
The anticipated Brisbane-North Melbourne clash will have to wait until at least the finals (if at all this year) after the two were put in separate pools and not drawn for cross-over matches.
Four Lions – Kaitlyn Ashmore, Brittany Gibson, Jamie Stanton and Tahlia Randall – joined the Kangaroos in the off-season, adding some spice to the potential match-up.
The Western Bulldogs will unfurl their premiership flag before their first home game, in round two, and will again play a pride game against Carlton, in round seven.
Entry will be free for all matches, including finals.
"In 2019 AFLW remains free. There will be no cost to enter. We want to grow our audiences, and we want to make sure at this early age of AFLW we're not putting up any roadblocks for families and people who want to watch it," Livingstone said.
"We've had varying views as to whether it’s better for people to have a reserved seat. There are costs associated with ticketing as well. We want to make sure that firstly, there are no barriers and (secondly), the uniqueness of AFLW is that we don't know what the [finals] venues are yet."
Games to look for
- Brisbane vs Greater Western Sydney, round one. The Giants were blown out of the water last time the sides met, losing a Grand Final spot, so they'll be keen for revenge.
- Collingwood vs Melbourne, round two. Collingwood had a big upset win over Melbourne in 2018 when they met in Alice Springs. This clash will be the first AFLW match at Victoria Park.
- North Melbourne vs Western Bulldogs, round three. The 2018 AFLW best and fairest Emma Kearney, along with Jenna Bruton and Daria Bannister, joined the Kangas in the off-season and will face their old side.
- Western Bulldogs vs Brisbane, round four. The 2018 Grand Final rematch.
- Carlton vs Collingwood, round five. Can the Magpies beat their rivals for the first time?
- Collingwood vs North Melbourne, round six. A whole host of players crossed to the Roos from the Pies in the off-season, so there might be some pleasantries exchanged.
- Carlton and Collingwood won't play each other in the first match of the season, but they will each play an expansion club, with Blues taking on North Melbourne and Collingwood facing Geelong.
- North Melbourne will play just one home game in Melbourne, with its other two home games in North Hobart and Launceston.
- The last time Collingwood's AFL team played Geelong's AFL team at Kardinia Park was round 15, 1999. Some of the most recent batch of AFLW draftees weren't even born.
- Morwell Recreation Reserve, in Victoria’ east, will host the Collingwood-Greater Western Sydney match. Collingwood have a community connection in the area and last season played in the nearby Gippsland town of Moe.
- No games will be played in Victoria in round three, with Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland hosting games.