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Meg
31st August 2022, 12:38 AM
I came across most of this useful summary of differences between women’s and men’s AFL games in Q&As on the Swans site. I’ve added a couple more that I’m aware of.

Game time - women's games are 15 minute quarters with time on called only in the last two minutes of each term. (So quarters take about 20 minutes all up.)

Shorter season - the AFLW season is shorter than the men's, with 10 games and finals.

Number of AFLW players on the field - 16 players - the team is arranged in a 5-6-5 configuration with 5 forwards, 6 midfielders, and 5 defenders.

Number of AFLW players on the bench - five players sit on the bench and there is no cap on the number of interchange rotations.

Size of ball - women play with a smaller ball. AFLW matches are played with a size 4 Sherrin football which is slightly smaller than the men, who use a size 5. (Size 4 is about 2cm less in width and 3.5cm less in length than a size 5.)

Centre bounce - AFLW has no centre bounce. Because of the smaller ball, umpires throw the ball up in the centre of the ground.

Boundary throw-ins - AFLW boundary throw-ins occur 10 metres in from the boundary line. The aim is to throw the ball deeper into the corridor, around 25 metres into the field of play, creating more space around the ruck contest and minimising secondary stoppages.

Last-touch rule in AFLW - this rule only applies between the forward and defensive arcs. When the ball has clearly come off a single player, a free kick is given instead of a throw-in, and is signalled by the boundary umpire with a lasso motion. The aim is to reduce congestion and minimise secondary stoppages.


Please add to, correct or comment on any of the above.

Maltopia
31st August 2022, 02:02 AM
Are AFLW matches played on similar size ovals to AFL and VFL matches? I don't get why the women's is 5-6-5 instead of 6-6-6. Yes there is a longer bench, but it is less players on the field getting game time/experience (as well as shorter time).

Women have greater endurance than men (whereas men have more power and foot speed due to the testosterone) so why are the women's matches shorter in length and with fewer players?

Fewer forwards/defenders will mean more space to score which is probably adding to a greater spectacle but it seems wrong to me to have fewer players and shorter time. Women's soccer and hockey are the same number of players and same game length and pitch size as the men's game, so why not Aussie Rules?

Meg
31st August 2022, 06:31 PM
Are AFLW matches played on similar size ovals to AFL and VFL matches? I don't get why the women's is 5-6-5 instead of 6-6-6. Yes there is a longer bench, but it is less players on the field getting game time/experience (as well as shorter time).

Women have greater endurance than men (whereas men have more power and foot speed due to the testosterone) so why are the women's matches shorter in length and with fewer players?

Fewer forwards/defenders will mean more space to score which is probably adding to a greater spectacle but it seems wrong to me to have fewer players and shorter time. Women's soccer and hockey are the same number of players and same game length and pitch size as the men's game, so why not Aussie Rules?

My understanding relating to your questions, and a few other comments.

1. Size of grounds:

Yes AFLW is played on identical size grounds to those used by men. However they play on many more ovals than the ones used by the AFL - see the venues at the link below - most of them being suburban or regional grounds.

There is a case for women playing within smaller dimensions given women have less kicking-distance capacity (probably40-45m). This means in general play there are significantly more contests a team must win just to get a scoring opportunity.

The dimensions are reduced in women’s cricket by bringing in the ropes. I suppose that could be done in AFLW but I assume there would be a practical difficulty in moving the goal posts (or installing second sets in front of the men’s) and then removing them again.

And possibly smaller grounds means more on-field congestion, a topic which keeps arising in both the men’s and women’s games.


https://www.womens.afl/venues


2. Less players - 16 a side and 5-6-5 set up:

I think there are two reasons given for this.

(a) It is argued this is to open up the ground and remove congestion (which has also been suggested at times for the men).

(b) The second reason given is to improve average on-field player quality and enhance competitive balance, given the player profile and experience in these early days of AFLW.

It is arguable that ‘remove congestion’ hasn’t worked, rather what has happened is that two routes to leave congestion have been removed with coaches removing players from attack not from stoppages.

The ‘improve average player quality’ may have validity.

AFLW started in 2017 with eight teams and has been fast-tracked to 18 teams representing every AFL club in 2022. Currently each team has 30 players, so that is a total of 540 AFLW players.

While there has been a large increase in women’s football at all levels since the AFLW started, the massive spike in participation has been particularly at junior levels. So it will take a few years for that massive spike to be reflected in the number of elite-standard women footballers to be eligible for the draft.

3. Why are women’s matches shorter

Good question. One reason given has been that AFLW has been played in summer, often in the hottest part of the day, up to now. This year the season commenced in August, but the finals will be in November when it could be very hot.

Is that a convincing argument? Women play in the heat, for the same length of time as men, in plenty of other sports. Many people have complained about low scoring in the AFLW but we saw much the same result in the men’s game in the 2020 covid season when they had short quarters. Notably our own match when Richmond 4 10 34 def Syd 3 8 26 (shudder).

Personally I think it is patronising and should change as the AFLW comp matures. That said, there have been murmurs of desire by the AFL to reduce the length of the men’s game, so watch this space!

Ps: playing in the heat is also the reason that AFLW has 5 players on the bench and no cap on interchanges.

4. Ball size

You didn’t ask about this but I have seen it discussed elsewhere. The women use a somewhat smaller ball which, it is said, is easier to mark and handball (probably correct) and easier to kick.

Re the latter I have seen it argued that the smaller and lighter ball is actually harder to kick over long distance because the aerodynamics of the ball are less conducive to moving through the air.

liz
31st August 2022, 09:09 PM
Re endurance: I'm not sure about the general comment that women's endurance is better than men's. I guess it depends on what measure you use, and on what population (ie the broad population or elite athletes who have specifically trained for endurance events).

But regardless of the underlying traits, the women's game is currently semi-professional. The men (at AFL level) have been full time professionals for close to two decades. So it is to be expected that the players in the AFL will be physically closer to the peak of what they can achieve than the players in the AFLW. At least for now and until the women's game becomes closer to being fully professional.

Maltopia
31st August 2022, 11:42 PM
I agree with the ball being smaller, because women are physically smaller than men on average, and will have smaller hands, and also less kicking power relative to the weight of the ball. This is an equitable adjustment.

I think some of the other changes are patronising, hence my questions about those differences. So what if women haven't played for as often or as long as men have. Juniors and Auskick play with 18, so the women's game should as well.

Junior teams play with 18, as do low qualify country men's leagues, so playing with 17 seems to be a patronising change - not enough good women out there, so lets not have less developed players stink up the match.

If we want to improve the qualify of the women's players, then let more of them play in the top tier competition (18 more on the field every week) and for the full match length of the men's competition.

Here is an article about women's endurance capacity being greater than men's (talks about women having more slow twitch muscle fibres etc).

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-49284389

Meg
31st August 2022, 11:46 PM
Further re Liz’s point above re semi-professional AFLW v professional AFL:

There was an excellent recent opinion piece , written by Libby Birch who has been an AFLW player from the start of the comp, re the huge leap their new collective bargaining agreement has made towards providing players with professional conditions and environment. And the impact this can be expected to have on the standard of play.

A couple of glaring examples:

In 2017 the base wage for a player was $8,500 for 17 weeks. Players were forced to work in other paid jobs just to survive. In this current 2022-23 season, the average base wage has increased to $46,000 and the top tier one players receive $71,000.

In 2017, players were paid for just nine hours of training each week. This season players have been allocated 20 hours per week training in pre-season and the season proper, and six hours a week in the off-season.

The article is eye-opening.

https://www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/why-you-ll-see-better-footy-in-season-seven-of-aflw-20220825-p5bco3.html

Further, the men’s pre-season runs for almost 6 months (depending on a team’s ladder position in the previous season). The AFLW pre-season runs for less than 3 months.

This year the women’s pre-season commenced on 13 June and the first match of the comp was on 25 August. Considering this very short period. Scott Gowans has already done an amazing job in pulling together a new Swans team which was not embarrassed by far more experienced players last weekend.

I understand the AFLPA has flagged it wants AFLW players to be on fully professional 12-month contracts by 2026. Then we should expect excellent standards of fitness, skills and game sense.

And no reason for 15 minute quarters ....

Maltopia
31st August 2022, 11:49 PM
The only reason I can think of for shorter game time and less players that might be valid (for me), is the want to avoid injury to players who are not at peak physical condition for that length of game yet.

As the competition matures, I see no reason for not having 18 players or not playing the same length as the men's competition.

Meg
31st August 2022, 11:53 PM
Maltopia, I largely agree with your comments about player numbers and game length.

There is a suspicion that the AFL is using the women’s comp as a stalking horse for some things they would like to introduce into the men’s game. The ‘last touch between the arcs’ rule might also fit into this category.

So good to let the AFL know your views as any opportunity arises!

Meg
1st September 2022, 12:53 AM
Here is an earlier article by Libby Birch, written before her 50th AFLW game back in March this year, in which she talks about the huge improvements since the comp commenced in 2017.

“What stands out for me over my 50 games is how much the game has evolved.”

https://www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/a-milestone-moment-in-aflw-s-evolution-20220310-p5a3d0.html

bloodspirit
1st September 2022, 05:41 PM
My understanding relating to your questions, and a few other comments.

1. Size of grounds:

Yes AFLW is played on identical size grounds to those used by men. However they play on many more ovals than the ones used by the AFL - see the venues at the link below - most of them being suburban or regional grounds.

There is a case for women playing within smaller dimensions given women have less kicking-distance capacity (probably40-45m). This means in general play there are significantly more contests a team must win just to get a scoring opportunity.

The dimensions are reduced in women’s cricket by bringing in the ropes. I suppose that could be done in AFLW but I assume there would be a practical difficulty in moving the goal posts (or installing second sets in front of the men’s) and then removing them again.

And possibly smaller grounds means more on-field congestion, a topic which keeps arising in both the men’s and women’s games.


https://www.womens.afl/venues (https://www.womens.afl/venues)


2. Less players - 16 a side and 5-6-5 set up:

I think there are two reasons given for this.

(a) It is argued this is to open up the ground and remove congestion (which has also been suggested at times for the men).

(b) The second reason given is to improve average on-field player quality and enhance competitive balance, given the player profile and experience in these early days of AFLW.

It is arguable that ‘remove congestion’ hasn’t worked, rather what has happened is that two routes to leave congestion have been removed with coaches removing players from attack not from stoppages.

The ‘improve average player quality’ may have validity.

AFLW started in 2017 with eight teams and has been fast-tracked to 18 teams representing every AFL club in 2022. Currently each team has 30 players, so that is a total of 540 AFLW players.

While there has been a large increase in women’s football at all levels since the AFLW started, the massive spike in participation has been particularly at junior levels. So it will take a few years for that massive spike to be reflected in the number of elite-standard women footballers to be eligible for the draft.

3. Why are women’s matches shorter

Good question. One reason given has been that AFLW has been played in summer, often in the hottest part of the day, up to now. This year the season commenced in August, but the finals will be in November when it could be very hot.

Is that a convincing argument? Women play in the heat, for the same length of time as men, in plenty of other sports. Many people have complained about low scoring in the AFLW but we saw much the same result in the men’s game in the 2020 covid season when they had short quarters. Notably our own match when Richmond 4 10 34 def Syd 3 8 26 (shudder).

Personally I think it is patronising and should change as the AFLW comp matures. That said, there have been murmurs of desire by the AFL to reduce the length of the men’s game, so watch this space!

Ps: playing in the heat is also the reason that AFLW has 5 players on the bench and no cap on interchanges.

4. Ball size

You didn’t ask about this but I have seen it discussed elsewhere. The women use a somewhat smaller ball which, it is said, is easier to mark and handball (probably correct) and easier to kick.

Re the latter I have seen it argued that the smaller and lighter ball is actually harder to kick over long distance because the aerodynamics of the ball are less conducive to moving through the air.

Great post, Meg!

Regarding ball size, I read that women play with a size 4 Sherrin instead of the size 5 that men play with. Not sure if this is correct. Are there sizes 1, 2, 3? Or 6+? I also read that they don't bounce the ball because of its different size (as you already noted). I can't help but suspect this is also because it's already apparently a difficult skill that puts potential umpires off wanting to umpire.

Thanks for elucidating on the last touch rule. I was confused when I saw the umpires throwing the ball in between the arcs - but you have offered the explanation that it must have been because it wasn't clear which player the ball came off.

Meg
1st September 2022, 06:01 PM
Great post, Meg!

Regarding ball size, I read that women play with a size 4 Sherrin instead of the size 5 that men play with. Not sure if this is correct. Are there sizes 1, 2, 3? Or 6+? I also read that they don't bounce the ball because of its different size (as you already noted). I can't help but suspect this is also because it's already apparently a difficult skill that puts potential umpires off wanting to umpire.

Thanks for elucidating on the last touch rule. I was confused when I saw the umpires throwing the ball in between the arcs - but you have offered the explanation that it must have been because it wasn't clear which player the ball came off.

Yes there are balls smaller than size 4. The following comes from Sherrin’s ball size guide.


Size 5 is the official ball size of the AFL and is used in all AFL games.
Suitable for male players aged 15 years and up

Size 4 is the official ball size of the AFLW and is used in all matches
Suitable size for female players aged 14 years and up and for male players aged 14 – 15 years old.

Size 3 is the standard football size for both male and female players aged 12 – 13 years old

Size 2 is the standard football size for both male and female players aged 9 – 11 years old

Size 1 is the standard size football for male and female players aged 5 – 8 years old and is the Auskick size

Infant size is a novelty ball for infants and youths of any age. I assume this is what the players give to the crowd after the match.

See: https://www.sherrin.com.au/blog/what-size-sherrin-should-i-use

I don’t think there is a larger size 6 Australian Rules football. Though perhaps if Shaquille O'Neal wants to play for the Swans we will have to get Sherrin to custom manufacture one!

Meg
1st September 2022, 06:16 PM
Re ball size and centre bounce: it is said that the smaller size 4 ball doesn’t get sufficient height when bounced which is the reason umpires throw the ball up in the centre of the ground.

I suspect bloodspirit is also correct though that another factor is that the centre bounce is a difficult skill for all umpires to carry out proficiently.

The AFLW is providing another development pathway for umpires, including female umpires (see a separate thread on AFLW Umpiring to which I attached an article listing the large number of female umpires in 2022 AFLW Round 1).

Eliminating the disincentive of the difficult centre bounce might be part of the process in this stage of the development of these umpires.


Re the last touch etc. - yes, when the ball was being contested before it went over the boundary line between the arcs, and it’s not clear which player touched it last, it becomes a standard throw-in.

ScottH
5th September 2022, 12:42 PM
Thanks for the insight Meg. I have noticed the throw in was metres in from the boudary and explains the much lower scores.

As for the endurance men v women, I have no incite into the differences, but it does take a first year player several strong preseasons to build up their endurance and skill levels, so I imagine this is what the women are currently going through given it is their very first season.