Local AFL officials have welcomed Wagga Council’s commitment to try to attract a Women’s AFL (AFLW) premiership game.
Council on Monday night said it will explore hosting a game, potentially in 2020.
While AFL staff and council have had preliminary talks, next year was too soon. The draw for the 2019 competition, which runs through February and March, was released last week.
"We were hopeful that it may have happened in 2019; we're now being told that isn't going to happen, but hopefully in 2020,” Mayor Greg Conkey told The Daily Advertiser.
"We're very hopeful that will happen in 2020 and we have set aside some funds for that."
Council’s resolution refers to ‘the future’ rather than a specific year and gives general manager Peter Thompson authority to negotiate with the AFL and agree to a game should it be within council’s budget (which remains confidential).
The AFL’s game development manager for southern NSW, Marc Geppert, applauded council’s decision.
“They were very supportive,” Geppert said. “The timeframe wasn’t going to work for next year, but this decision is a massive boost for us. Whether it was going to be 2019 or 2020 or 2021, it’s great to have that support.
“It’s another form of elite sport for us here, which we don’t get a hell of a lot of… to get a premiership game of AFLW would be unbelievable for the city.
“The women’s sport scene is a bit of a new thing for people and I think us as a code and local councils, if we can support these events, they will continue to grow.”
Wagga hosted a double-header of cricket’s Women’s Big Bash League at Robertson Oval last January, although the city recently lost a Sheffield Shield match, which would’ve been on this weekend, because a pitch couldn’t be prepared in time.
There’ll be no AFL presence next year with the Riverina missing out on a pre-season JLT series game.
“It’s always disappointing but with the shortened format of the JLT series, it makes it very difficult to bring the games regionally, especially when you’re talking about travelling,” Geppert said.
“We’ve been very lucky and very blessed that we’ve had so many pre-season games in our region in recent years.”
Blacktown and Lismore will host the only two NSW games in the 2019 AFL pre-season.
Geppert said an AFLW game in the near future would be a significant benefit for the women’s game.
“Any time we can get that sort of boosting game at the start of the year, it certainly helps in terms of recruitment,” he said.
“An AFLW game would certainly help. The first season at a national level was really how we got our girls competition going. The girls could see there was a real pathway there.”
There are 21 teams in the AFL girls competition in Wagga and another 10 youth girls teams in a South-West competition.
Five teams contested the inaugural AFL Southern NSW women’s competition in March and April this year.
“We’re hoping to push that to six or eight teams next year,” Geppert said.
“We’d love to see more of the Wagga-based Riverina and Farrer League footy clubs put in teams.”