Slowdowns sure, but AFLW is growing rapidly as the Irish track evolves

The big splash was delivered skillfully and strategically. The day before the AFL’s 2022 fixture list was announced, the AFLW CEO and a host of players gathered at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne. Determined to make a statement.

Simultaneously, a well-produced video appeared on social media, promoting a bright future. The Women’s Coaching Acceleration Program has been launched. Then came the great pledge. A vision of women’s football for 2021-2030. AFLW female players will become the highest paid sportswomen in an Australian national competition and at least half of AFLW senior coaches will be women by 2030.

For sports organizations around the world, getting rid of the obstacles of Covid has been like trying to escape quicksand. Heading into its sixth season, the league knew that a firm launching pad was crucial.

“Last year was obviously crazy, but overall I really enjoyed it,” says Aisling McCarthy, native of Tipperary and star of the West Coast Eagles.

She is busy preparing for her fourth season Down Under and was recently named to the squad’s management group. “The whole league, especially the level, has taken another step up. The few extra hours we have now are starting to show. The players are fitter and faster.

“There are also better routes now. When the competition started, the teenagers entered academies and juvenile competitions. Their programs are really good, so we’re getting talent ready to go now. “

It is a crucial campaign in more than one way. The current collective agreement expires in 2022. As attendance, standards and the number of teams increase, so too must the incentives.

“For me, it was important to grow the game gradually. Improve the level of competition and all with that. Increase footfall and make a mark of it, I think they’ve come to that. You had to pay to attend games last season and that didn’t slow down the crowd.

“The broadcast is better and they’ve been very good at gradually developing the game. Four new teams joining next year means another 130 spots, that’s a huge number of players to find somewhere. In order to keep the standards high, I actually think they have to be slow with this. The problem is, at the same time you have girls trying to balance full time jobs in a league with increasing demands. “

Under the current ACB, player payouts are based on four tiers. A privileged few occupy level 1, $ 37,155 (€ 23,757) for 2022. The scale goes down from there to level 4, $ 20,239 (€ 12,941) – against $ 13,400 (€ 8,568) in 2019. In As a result, the team’s total payout is $ 717,122 (€ 458,569). Any increase from here is to be offset by the addition of four new clubs for 2023. It has been suggested that this expansion will result in another crop of Irish rookies, but CrossCoders agent Jason Hill is not so sure.

Hill will manage 10 Irish players in 2022. Crosscoders are also currently accepting Expressions of Interest for 2023 through their website. Yet the emphasis seems to be on quality rather than quantity.

“It’s interesting. You talk to clubs now; many wonder if they have the capacity to deal with both out-of-state and Irish players. Look at the latest expansion, only two clubs have recruited players from Ireland, and it has taken Geelong to face one player (Mayo’s Rachel Kearns) so far, two years after their arrival.

“The more established clubs want to know who is there because the players might be leaving to go elsewhere, but more and more clubs are saying, ‘I want to see them here before.’ I would say it’s a more sale. difficult than before Covid. The talent pool has also grown, so there is not such a pressing need to look elsewhere. “

Some are likely to take alternative routes. the Irish Examiner understands that ex-Fermanagh captain Joanne Doonan, who spent a season with Carlton in 2020, is set to join a VFL squad next January in hopes of landing an AFLW deal through it.

A strategic review is underway, but Hill is hopeful that actual player expectations, not perceived ones, will influence the next step.

“I think there is a huge misconception in all areas that women players want to be paid the same as men to go full time. This is not the case. They would gladly take a full-time salary to be a full-time athlete. I don’t think it’s a huge leap. There seems to be a perception that they want the same. If you really asked the players, they would take a medium step. “

There are also obvious ramifications for Irish players. Although it has been widely reported that several stars have recently signed two-year agreements, it should be noted that most contracts have an opt-out before the new CBA.

In addition, the Irish way is still evolving. It wasn’t that long ago that some prospects saw their moving expenses wasted on their outgoing flights. While this was not necessarily wrong, most established clubs absorb the travel costs on their own and use the relocation costs for accommodation. Most of these missteps are due to a lack of understanding, not professional misconduct.

A minimum standard for Irish recruits is necessary. The AFL players’ association is aware of this. In addition to the payouts and the progression of the league, another issue has arisen around the courses.

Closer to home, the fallout within AFL Ireland has yet to be fully resolved after former Banshees coach Mike Currane left the organization this year.

Currane is the current AFLW Ireland operator and skills coach who works with several current players including Bríd Stack, Ailish Considine, Aisling McCarthy, Orla O’Dwyer and Lauren Magee. It is understood that the AFLW hierarchy is aware of the situation and arbitration is underway.

Hill previously worked with Currane. When asked about his thoughts on the matter, he suggested that official channels were the best available medium for potential inter-county recruits.

“There is a formal process in place with the AFL Players Association, not even with the AFL, to be a registered player representative because they believe that unless you go through some level of training and verification background in the industry, something could happen.

“It helps, especially in the worst case scenario. If something goes wrong and a player wants to complain. For example, if something is wrong with the Crosscoders, they have the AFL PA to whom we report. If something is wrong at all, they can withdraw our license to practice as an agent. If a player is looking for a way to access the AFLW, they should probably check out the official channels. It’s not just Crosscoders. There are hundreds of registered agents who can help.

Currane, who helped found AFL Ireland in 2000, remains solely focused on elite AFLW coaching, talent identification and development.

“I am currently working with a number of top players on an ongoing basis on skill development and helping with introductions and exploring AFLW opportunities with AFLW clubs,” he explained when he spoke. been contacted.

“I think it’s important to stress that any player can contact an AFLW club directly and are not required to pay fees to join programs or commissions to agents. I can’t wait to see more Irish players sign up over the next two seasons.

The league continues to move towards the ultimate goal of a full time league.

What becomes evident is that in Ireland and Australia it will encounter its fair share of speed bumps along the way.

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