CBA talks at a 'standstill', season length a sticking point

NEGOTIATIONS for the next AFLW season remain at a standstill less than three months away from the mooted start date.

The AFL and AFL Players Association are locked in talks trying to finalise the new collective bargaining agreement.

But frustration is boiling over at clubs about how to prepare their part-time players as the competition expands to 18 teams next season.

The AFL is determined to keep the season to 10 rounds despite the addition of Sydney, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Essendon.

Port Adelaide recruit Erin Phillips in her new colours on April 27, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce, who has been one of the leading identities of the AFLW since the competition's inception, admits players are desperate to see genuine growth ahead of a push to be fully professional by 2026.

Pearce helped out with coaching NAB League players last weekend and said the underage crop is anxious to know if there will be a draft next month.

“We want 12 (games) in the next season and then 14 in the season after that," Pearce told SEN.

"I think most players would be accepting given the short turnaround that we don’t have a lot of time to change things.

“If it was 10 (games) and then we saw significant growth beyond that, I think most players would be satisfied by that.

Daisy Pearce speaks to AFLW Academy players during their game against the U23 All-Stars on May 8, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"We caught up as a player leadership group (on Wednesday), frustratingly, we didn't learn too much more.

"It’s at a bit of a standstill at the moment.

"The group’s really united and I’ve never been more confident this is top of the agenda for the AFL Players Association.

"We want certainty but also wanting to balance that with getting a good deal in an important phase for the competition.

"It's tricky on so many levels and it is a bit frustrating, but we also know we have to get a good deal as we go towards trying to be a professional competition."

Daisy Pearce in action during the R6 clash between Melbourne and GWS on February 12, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Pearce believes it is imperative for the code of Australian Rules Football to make the women's game a priority.

"Women's football has been a reason why the game has grown and will continue to grow in the next 10 to 20 years," she said.

"To me it's more what's the cost of not doing it (becoming professional) and encouraging women and girls to play and engage with this sport."

Collingwood captain Steph Chiocci, who works in education, described the lingering uncertainty about next season as a "sad reality".

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"My Leave without Pay has already been approved for Term 3 and 4 in preparation for an August start that may not happen," she wrote on Twitter.

Chiocci's Magpies teammate Sarah Rowe kicked off a discussion on social media last month after pleading for the league to let players "plan their lives".

Rowe's tweet was replied to and shared by several other players, including Adelaide star Ebony Marinoff and Melbourne spearhead Tayla Harris.