AFLW Season 2019 Conferencing, Contracts, Cruciates and Concussions.

By Melanie Foley, Physiotherapist

March 6, 2019

Carlton AFLW at training

With only two rounds left in the ALFW, I've taken the time to reflect on a few factors that influence the competition.

In its third year ALFW is seeing a growing swell of talented young players coming through and with it improvements in speed, flow and scoring.

How good is watching the awesome star-studded North Melbourne (Tasmania) Kangaroos play a brand of footy that encapsulates everything that is great about the game? Quick clearances, smart coordinated attacks, hard defence, courageous tackles and loads of spectacular goals.

I love watching this game!

However my beloved Pies, sitting at the bottom of the weaker conference, have been rather testing on the spirit. Not to be disheartened their relatively young list in the first stage ‘rebuilding’ shows enormous promise.

It must be said I would have liked another year with the likes of Duffin, King, Garner and Hope with their black stripes rather than blue but that’s part of building this new league – how to keep your players? What are you offering?

Three years in - what’s working and what are the issues facing the women’s game?

Conferencing and Contracts

This year introduced ‘Conferencing’. With 10 teams and only 7 weeks for the home and away season clubs have been split in to 2 groups of 5 – playing each club in their conference and 3 cross conference games. The top two teams in each of the conference will play a preliminary final within their conference and the winners then face each other in the GF.

Unfortunately one of the issues facing this system is that in 2019 we have seen a clear difference between conference A and B. Conference A is stronger. Therefore Conference A prelim final may well test the 2 best teams of the season, not the grand final.

So this brings up the issue of deciding the conferencing based on the previous season. With players contracts only committing players and clubs to each other for 1 year and additional teams coming into the competition vying for talent the strength of a team between seasons can vary enormously.

This makes selecting for the conferences challenging. Hopefully as the game continues developing a bigger pool of young players in the wider community the quality and quantity of the draft will too rise, meaning just more talent for every team.

I’d like to see the clubs commit with longer contracts as well, so that young girls, boys and older tragics like me can let our hero worshiping take hold, as it is I’ve had to acknowledge that The Kangas are my ‘other’ team as 4 of my favourite players now reside at Arden Street.

Cruciates and Concussions

The other major factor magnified by a short season is the impact of injury.

Acknowledging the dramatically higher incidence of ACL injuries in AFLW compared to AFLM (approximately 1 ACL rupture per team per season in both AFLW and AFLM, difference being the women's 7 week season compared 23 weeks of home and away in the men's competition) however, it is generally a season stopper for both the men and the women.

Concussion on the other hand, which also attracts a higher incidence in AFLW compared with the male counterparts, may attract 1 or 2 weeks out of the season – that’s a quarter of the season!

With such a short season managing players bodies has never been so important.

With more and more talent coming from the younger players it will continue to challenge teams. Injury prevention conditioning and year round planning must be a focus to ensure fit, strong bodies with well trained neuromuscular programming to jumping, landing, cutting and pivoting.

With so much research in to the extrinsic and intrinsic factors leading to higher incidence in ACL and concussion in female athletes – encouraging results show that when you improve movement patterns you attract less risk in injury. This combined with players of the future coming up through the ranks of Auskick, junior football and representative football acquiring years of development specific to footy also leading to a decrease risk of injury.

The Prep to Play, PEP – Injury prevention and performance warm-up and FIFA 11+ programs all utilise similar principles in a neuromuscular warm-up involving running, cutting, pivoting, jumping and landing. Up to 70% reduction of injury rates have been demonstrated by the use of these types of warm-up. In a sport that has seen unprecedented uptake in girls these programs should be utilised at all levels to develop movement patterns required to play our great game.

Links to injury prevention warm-up below.

https://coach.afl/prep-play-warm

https://www.aclstudygroup.com/pdf/pep-program.pdf

https://www.kort.com/uploadedFiles/KORT/Content/Services/Sports_Medicine/Concussion_Management/FIFA-the-11-Booklet.pdf

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