THE AFLW industry is bracing itself for a rapid turnaround between seasons, with a bumper Sign and Trade Period and draft to be held in the next few months.
Dates for the key off-season periods are yet to be set, but clubs have approximated rough timings by working back from a season beginning in the finals bye week of the AFL season (weekend of the 27-28 August).
They believe the expansion signing period will run in late April, with the full AFLW Sign and Trade Period to begin in early May.
The NAB AFLW Draft could be held in late May/early June, with pre-season to begin a few weeks later in mid-late June.
Some quick decisions will need to be made by clubs, with the AFLW Grand Final now fixtured for April 9, and AFLW player contracts expiring in mid-April.
It has also been confirmed players who have signed two-season contracts during last year's Trade Period can still walk to an expansion club if approached and they're willing to make the move.
The two-season contract is seen as a show of faith by the club towards the player, and it would be unfair on the latest round of expansion clubs if a whole host of players were off-limits, which has not been the case in previous expansions.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the AFLPA and AFL will also have to be signed before the new season begins.
"When we went to the AFL Commission in mid-March, we had obviously done pre-work. We had taken it to the AFLW Competition Committee, and the conversation was 'fantastic', from that committee," AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone told womens.afl.
"They are leaders in our industry who are challenging us to be bold, and understanding the reasons for wanting to change the time. The discussion is then, is it season seven, or season eight? And we want to make sure we continue to raise the value, the viewership and the audience of AFLW. We want to make sure we capitalise on the right window.
The industry as a whole has had a really big couple of years ... but what moving a season does, is gives the whole industry – men's and women's – a break come mid-December, all through January
"The conversations we've been having with stakeholders, everyone's in support of it, and telling us to push forward. There's obviously some machinations that need to take place, like a CBA and agreeing to some terms and conditions in there, but we've started that work."
The AFL is working to a similar timeline.
"Our team here at the AFL is prepping for that. We've already formed a working group across business, because it's big. It's not just putting football players on a field, it's everything to do with a big industry now," Livingstone said.
"We've got a steering committee sitting above it so we can make decisions fast when we have to. I feel confident in the work we've done in the past 10 days since the Commission met to really put the foot down.
"The industry as a whole has had a really big couple of years, and we need to be respectful that everyone in the community has had a really big couple of years. But what moving a season does, is gives the whole industry – men's and women's – a break come mid-December, all through January.
"The players who I've spoken to, the lure of not having to go for a run or watch what you're eating on Christmas Day, to spend time with family and not thinking in a few days I'll be back on the park, is immense and exciting. Whilst there'll be some pain, there's also some big rewards in being able to deliver season seven."