DISCUSSIONS are progressing in the development of the new AFLW Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the finish line is not yet in sight.
There has been enormous uncertainty for players and clubs alike of late, as the CBA between the AFL and AFLPA needs to be completed before the AFLW Sign and Trade Period can begin.
Expansion announcements up until this point (for example, Erin Phillips to Port Adelaide) have been commitments only – players are unable to sign contracts until the new pay deal is in place and trades (for example, Izzy Huntington to GWS) cannot be made.
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While dates are yet to be finalised, clubs are still planning for a mid-June pre-season commencement, counting back from a season starting in the pre-finals bye round in the AFL (end of August).
It also means the NAB AFLW Draft will have to be held before that mid-June pre-season start.
"The negotiations are progressing between us and the AFL. Like any negotiation, there's back and forth as we're negotiating through the various issues. From the PA's perspective, there's no bigger priority for us then getting to some certainty here," AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh told womens.afl.
"We owe it to the players as we owe it to the clubs to get this sorted out. It's progressing, but we haven't reached an agreement yet, and meetings are ongoing.
"There's an acute awareness from us (about trade/pre-season), and as I said, there's no bigger priority. We're doing all we can to move this forward to an agreement so we can provide some certainty as soon as we possibly can."
Womens.afl understands the season length is one of the sticking points, with no certainty the second 2022 season will be longer than 10 home and away rounds, despite the addition of four new teams.
"We've got a vision for 2026, and there were six key issues we laid out as part of that. This CBA has to take us in a substantive way towards that, and without getting into the specific details of the negotiations, we still have some work to do with some of the issues there. We're still progressing," Marsh said.
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"It's obviously very difficult to have a sign and trade period until you know what TPP (total player payment) looks like, and list sizes and other things that form part of this, so it's important we get the CBA done, but we don't want to unnecessarily hold things up.
"You can't put a timeline on it when there's two parties involved, but from our perspective, as I said, there's no bigger priority. We're trying to get this done as soon as possible so we can get the players and the clubs the certainty they want."
The AFL has been contacted for comment.