The NAB AFLW competition is now whole, with the AFL Commission throwing the door open for Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney to join in the 2022/23 season.
It means all 18 clubs will now have an AFLW side after beginning as an eight-team competition in 2017.
Port Adelaide and Sydney had not previously applied for a licence, while Essendon and Hawthorn first submitted applications ahead of the 2019 intake.
As previously decided by the Commission, the upcoming 2021/22 season will stay at 14 teams, giving the new sides around 16 months to prepare for their debut.
Currently, Hawthorn and Essendon field sides in the VFLW competition, while Port Adelaide and Sydney run junior academy programs.
Rules around list builds are yet to be confirmed, but in expansions prior, existing teams saw a certain number of players walk to the new clubs, with any additional players over that maximum resulting in compensation.
For fans eager to see just who will join their new AFLW side, list builds won't commence until the conclusion of the upcoming 2021/22 season.
AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said the 2022-2023 NAB AFL Women’s season was the appropriate time to welcome all four clubs into the competition.
“To accelerate the growth of the NAB AFLW Competition and to allow for greater opportunities for AFLW players, it is paramount that we engage all 18 AFL clubs and their supporter bases,” McLachlan said.
“The decision to expand the competition again, after the AFLW was expanded from eight teams to 10 teams in 2019 and then to 14 teams in 2020, comes as the number of women and girls playing football has grown to more than 600,000 nationally.
“With an additional four clubs entering the NAB AFL Women's Competition in Season Seven, we will grow to 540 AFLW players across all 18 clubs, the largest employer of female athletes in the country, presenting further opportunities for women and girls involved in women’s football pathways, from NAB AFL Auskick to the elite competition.
“It has been often said that clubs haven’t felt whole if they didn’t have an AFLW team, and I am proud to say that the NAB AFL Women's Competition will now be complete with the addition of the new four clubs.
“The entry into the competition is based on the clubs delivering on the key criteria within their submission, especially across resourcing, facilities, corporate support and investment into their AFLW program.”
AFL General Manager, Women’s Football Nicole Livingstone said that allowing all four remaining clubs to enter the NAB AFL Women’s Competition by Season Seven, would provide further opportunities for women in our game.
“Our primary objective is to provide women and girls with an equal opportunity to play elite Australian Football and to increase the female participation and interest in our game,” Livingstone said.
“Through the growth of the NAB AFL Women’s Competition over the past five years, we have seen more women and girls picking up a footy across all levels of our game, and we can’t wait to build on that momentum with a new cohort of AFLW fans in Season Seven.
“As we welcome four new clubs to the Competition, we will continue to work with the AFLW players, the AFLPA and the clubs over the coming years to make AFLW the sport of choice for women and create legitimate career opportunities for women within our game.”