Will they be a happy team at Hawthorn? Inside the Hawks' AFLW application

IT'LL be a happy team at Hawthorn if the club is granted an AFLW licence.

With the application deadline of this coming Friday fast approaching, the Hawks will then present their bid during the following week. 

Womens.afl spoke to new Hawthorn general manager of operations and major projects Josh Vanderloo to preview the Hawks' bid. 

Over the following week, womens.afl will profile the four clubs applying for an AFLW licence, with bids due on Friday. 

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Application history

Hawthorn opted not to apply for a licence in 2016, but had a change of heart for the 2017 round (which resulted in a two-stage roll-out over 2019 and 2020).

The Hawks were not successful and instead invested their attention in their newly created VFLW side.

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Why they're confident

Hawthorn has built its bid around three touchpoints: the reach of the club, its investment in women's footy and the facilities which will be built in its future centre in Dingley.

"When you don't have a huge amount of access to AFLW players dropping back week in and week out to the VFLW, the strength of that is it gives us greater scope to play younger players who are coming through in the region," Vanderloo said.

"We've got partnerships with the Eastern Ranges and Gippsland Power.

"We've also got a partnership with the Eastern Footy League, so you're basically stitching a pathway through Auskick, the EFL and other leagues through Gippsland, all the way through NAB League and VFLW. Clearly, the finishing point there is an AFLW team."

Jeff Kennett enjoys Hawthorn's 2018 VFLW premiership. Picture: AFL Photos

Background in women's footy

When Hawthorn was unsuccessful in its bid for an AFLW side, it created a VFLW team, taking on Knox's old licence as Box Hill Hawks (while Knox moved to the EFL).

Rebadged as Hawthorn, the Hawks took out the flag in 2018, but have struggled somewhat in the past two seasons, finishing seventh of 13 teams in 2019 and ninth of 12 this year.

"Even though we didn't get a licence, we've continued to contribute and try and grow women's football through our VFLW team, which has been really successful and been an integrated part of Hawthorn since its inception," Vanderloo said.

"There's a lot of people who are really passionate about women's football who have had great experience with it through that time.

"We've put things in place like Bec Goddard as our VFLW coach and an all-female coaching panel, and we've encouraged opportunities for the best, most talented girls across the Eastern Ranges, Gippsland and then (NAB AFLW Academy member) Ashanti Bush coming from Katherine."

Selling points 

Hawthorn is promoting its scope of around 74,000 members as well as its focus on equal standing between its men's and women's sides.

"We think we're a compelling proposition due to our reach. 74,000 members, the strong presence in the east of Melbourne and through Gippsland, northern Tasmania and our NGA region in Katherine," Vanderloo said.

"We're moving into a world-class facility out in Dingley in a few years' time, which has been purpose-built with men's and women's football in mind.

"I've seen the blueprints and how it'll all be built, and it's absolutely an equal environment for men's and women's teams. Not having a licence and being able to go into a new facility has allowed us to plan for that with two teams in mind."

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Why they should be included

Hawthorn sees an AFLW team as the missing piece in the puzzle for women's footy in eastern Melbourne.

While its AFL star has dimmed somewhat of late, there's no questioning the club is a powerhouse of the industry.

VFLW coach Bec Goddard is likely to take the reins when an AFLW licence is granted, opening the door for a return to the top level for the inaugural AFLW premiership coach.

"We've been invited to present our submission next Thursday, it's a quick turnaround. We'll be touching on the key themes which I've already mentioned," Vanderloo said.

"The other part of it is the AFL is really keen on how we're structuring this up within the club and how we're supporting this from an investment and commercial viability perspective.

"We think the time's right, we've done everything we could have possibly done since missing out on a licence, so we're absolutely ready."