THE AFLW has abandoned its controversial conference system in favour of a single ladder for 2021 with matches also ticketed for the first time.
The nine-round home-and-away season will start on January 28, with the full fixture to be released on Friday.
The conference system that was first introduced for 2019 and resulted in some weak teams making the finals, has been scrapped.
Instead, all 14 teams will be placed on a single ladder with the top six teams qualifying for the three-week finals series.
The grand final is scheduled for the second weekend of April.
Matches will now be ticketed in another change for the women’s competition in its fifth year, ensuring each venue is COVID-safe.
The league is yet to reveal ticket prices.
“We are proud the 2021 season will see all matches ticketed,” AFL head of women’s football Nicole Livingstone said.
“We have listened to supporters of women’s football who continue to indicate a willingness to pay to attend AFLW matches and support the growth of the competition.”
The scrapping of the conference system will be widely applauded.
The flaws were most prominent in 2019, when both Geelong (12 points) and GWS (eight points) made the finals from the weak Conference B, while Melbourne (16 points) missed out from Conference A.
The AFLW has gone from strength to strength since being launched in 2017.
More than 600,000 women and girls now play football across the country while the AFLW has expanded from eight teams to 14 – growing from 216 players to 420.
League heavyweights were criticised earlier this year after they were forced to cancel the AFLW season midway through the finals.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Australia at the tail end of the 2020 home-and-away AFLW season, the AFL had the option of heading straight into an AFLW grand final between the winner of Group A and the winner of Group B.
Instead, the league attempted to push ahead with a three-week finals series, which was brought to a halt after just one week when coronavirus restrictions made it impossible to continue.
The unbeaten Fremantle Dockers, who thumped Gold Coast by 70 points in the semi-finals, and Group A leaders North Melbourne were the teams hardest done by.
(C) AAP 2020