ESSENDON has joined the ranks of clubs keen to introduce a women's team in 2017, with the Bombers announcing they will bid for a licence when the competition begins.
The AFL continues to push forward with its plan to introduce a full-scale women's competition within two years and the Bombers are among the clubs who will ask to field a side.
The club hosted more than 80 of Victoria's best female footballers at its Tullamarine base on Tuesday evening as part of AFL Victoria's Women's Academy training program.
The club's legendary four-time premiership coach Kevin Sheedy addressed the group of players, while current coaches Mark Harvey, Mark Neeld, Guy McKenna and Hayden Skipworth were also involved in the session.
"We are very excited about the opportunity to field a women’s team in an AFL competition and will be doing everything we can to obtain a licence ahead of the 2017 inaugural season," Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell said.
"The introduction of a women's team aligns with the club's strategic objectives.
"We are committed to supporting women’s participation at a grass roots community level but also at an elite level when it comes to establishing career pathways."
Kevin Sheedy talks to leading Victorian female footballers at the Dons' training base. Picture: AFL Media
The Bombers will continue to investigate ways to identify local women's talent in the area, and will hold two more training sessions for the group – next week and again in March next year.
The group of players trained in different areas of the club's facilities on Tuesday night, including the weights room, indoor facility and on the oval.
Neeld, who has taken on the newly created role of game performance manager at the Bombers, said the club was keen to open its doors to the aspiring footballers at Tuesday night's session.
"We're fortunate we've got a great high-performance facility which we'd like to think is the best in the country," he said.
"When people walk through the door and walk through here it does have a 'wow' factor, but it's really practical and we'll see with tonight's training session there'll be a group training inside, groups on the two ovals and a group in the gym.
"We'll be able accommodate all of the players throughout the session."
Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have led the way in building women's football, with the clubs playing two games this season and one being telecast on national TV.