THE ESTABLISHMENT of the new AFL Women's competition is the major reason behind an enormous spike in participation numbers, according to latest figures released by the AFL.
A 56 per cent increase in female community club teams boosted the total female participation by 19 per cent to 380,041.
Overall participation across all levels of the game jumped 12.5 per cent to a record 1,404,176.
In announcing these figures, AFL general manager of game and market development Simon Lethlean revealed that 354 new women's and youth girls' community teams had been established, for an overall tally of 983 teams.
"The growth in female club participation illustrates the importance of having an elite national competition for players to aspire to," Lethlean said.
"Women and girls now represent 27 per cent of total football participation across all competitions and programs and we expect this to grow as NAB AFL Women's becomes firmly entrenched in the Australian sporting landscape."
Participation numbers grew all over the country, taking a significant leap from the 2015 tally of 1,247,575.
More males also played the game, with a 7.3 per cent increase in community football participation and a five per cent rise in the number of teams across all competitions.
Lethlean enthused that these results highlighted the game's "appeal to people regardless of their age, gender or background".
NAB AFL Auskick numbers also expanded by 6.9 per cent, with almost 196,000 children involved.
2016 participation overview
• Overall participation 1,404,176 (up 12.5%)
• Community club participation 360,648 (up 7.3%)
• NAB AFL Auskick participation 195,719 (up 6.9%)
• Total teams 25,770 teams (up 5%)
• AFL 9s 22,004 (down 1.11%)
• School competition participation 270,337 (up 13%)
• Total female participation 380,041 (up 19%)
• Female community club teams 983 (up 56%)
• No. of girls playing NAB AFL Auskick 53,409 (up 21%)
• Females now account for 27% of all participants