Players' perspectives: Can an 18-team, 10-round AFLW fixture ever be fair?

Isadora McLeay and Imogen Evans are AFLW players currently taking part in an internship at Disney and ESPN, where they are given the opportunity to gain real-life work experience while having the flexibility to pursue their footballing goals and aspirations.

This week, the girls discuss whether an 18-team, 10-round competition can ever be fair.

Imogen Evans, Collingwood


As I've argued numerous times, the AFLW fixture will only be fair when the competition's season length is extended to a minimum of 17 rounds and each team plays each other once.

This discussion point reemerged this weekend after West Coast coach, Michael Prior, spoke out on his frustration with the league's fixturing, arguing it was unfair for his side to have to play reigning premier Melbourne.

"Eighteen teams in the comp and only 10 games, how we play [Melbourne] is beyond me," Prior said during his post-match press conference. "That's what you get when you have fixturing like that."

While I can understand some frustration, I do feel Prior's comments are somewhat off the mark. In my mind, the Eagles facing the best team in the league is simply just how the cookie crumbled, and there's not much you can really do about it.

For some context, West Coast's Season 8 fixture includes three-finalists and seven-non-finalists. On the other hand, Melbourne's Season 8 fixture includes six-finalists and four-non-finalists. The Eagles have hardly been shafted.

The AFLW fixture is constructed based on the previous season's results, in a bid to create the 'fairest' possible outcome for each team. With that said, the actual formula used hasn't exactly been shared with the players, and a little more transparency is probably needed moving forward.

Greater transparency would clarify Prior's concerns, and others who may feel there's bias or a lack of equality in the competition.

But it all brings me back to my main point. I'll reiterate that the fixture will never be 100% fair until every team in the competition plays against each other. That's not undeniable, but rather the reality of the situation.

Isadora McLeay, GWS

In my opinion, no, this type of fixture is not fair.

The recent comments from Eagles coach Michael Prior has sparked a debate around the fixturing in AFLW.

But West Coast isn't the only team who just faced a side in the top four. Look at the Giants, we have faced three out of the top four teams in the space of five weeks. That's a pretty rough run in what's still a 10-game season.

Compare that fixture to other teams, such as Carlton and Sydney, who have only faced North Melbourne and Brisbane.

There must be a system that can be put in place to ensure every side faces an equal amount of top, middle and bottom teams throughout the season. At the moment the fixturing is distorting who the best teams in the competition actually are.

Last year, in season seven, North Melbourne played every bit like a top four side, but their final ladder position had them just scraping into the top eight. The Kangaroos were then able to work their way into a preliminary final. And then there was Richmond, who enjoyed an easier fixture, earned a top four finish, but were knocked out of finals in straight sets.

The ladder shows clear disparity, and in AFLW holds no reassurance to how a team is ranked amongst the competition.

Now if the result on the weekend was reversed, Prior would not have made those comments. But for such a young developing side, who already have some future stars of the competition, facing a team like Melbourne can be the best lesson of what success looks like.

But back to the question at hand. The fixturing for AFLW has been an issue for quite some time. We currently have teams in the league who have never played each other in the history of the league. That's a complete joke!