With one game remaining, the women’s AFL Premiership competition might be the exact evidence required by the anti-conference crowd to grabs their torches and pitchforks and storm the AFL headquarters castle.
The top four clubs in Conference A are clearly superior to the clubs in Conference B.
In Conference A, the Fremantle Dockers are staring straight down the barrel of a gun that will see their finals hopes dashed by Conference B sides Carlton and Geelong. The Dockers are currently 5 – 1 on the season and have only Melbourne standing between them and a 6 – 1 record.
The Melbourne Demons could finish with a win over Adelaide and still not qualify.
Carlton should beat Wester Bulldogs in the final fixture of the home-and-away competition, meaning they would finish with a 4 – 3 record.
Geelong is in pretty much the same position, having only GWS in the way of a 4 – 3 record.
Melbourne and Fremantle supporters can only watch in horror, especially Fremantle, where a 6 – 1 record and a percentage far above Carlton and Geelong would see them back in WA, watching finals and wondering what they could have done better.
This was not what the AFL was hoping for when it was decided to trial a conference scheme in the AFLW. If it were the AFL men’s game, the finals starting today would be Adelaide, North Melbourne, Fremantle and Melbourne.
The negative impact of the Crows or Dees running off with the title after beating Carlton or Geelong in a sledging would be felt as far away as China.
The premiers from the 2019 season will always bear the stigma of an asterisk alongside their names, an asterisk saying “First and last year of conference play in the AFLW. R.I.P.)”
It is one of those unexpected consequences that the world of sports delights in serving up and is something of a shame, because the AFLW has been a smashing success, including two new clubs in 2019 and four more being added to the list for 2020.