The league had indicated it may not have been in a position to release a fixture until February but the eased border restrictions and the improving COVID-19 situation in Australia has enabled it to develop a fixture with some certainty up to and including the Anzac Round, with the traditional Anzac Day clash between Essendon and Collingwood held on April 25.
The AFL informed clubs that, at this stage, it plans to release rounds seven to 23 in blocks of approximately four to six weeks with at least four weeks’ notice to allow clubs, broadcasters and fans to plan.
The newly created VFL/east coast league will also have 20-minute quarters plus time on, with the fixture yet to be determined.
Meanwhile the AFL has abandoned its controversial conference system for the AFLW competition, with the league to be played with a single ladder.
The season will also start on Thursday January 28, a week earlier than usual, while matches will be ticketed for the first time.
The decision to abandon the conference system has been made in order to maximise the chance of a season being completed should another coronavirus outbreak occur.
Similarly, the decision to introduce tickets has been made with COVID-19 in mind, with tickets helping with COVID-19 safety.
“We are proud the 2021 season will see all matches ticketed, 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,” AFLW chief Nicole Livingstone said.
The 2020 AFLW season ended without a premiership being awarded because of the impact of the pandemic.
“The absolute commitment from the AFL remains to complete the season and award an AFLW premier in 2021,” Livingstone said.
“We have been working hard behind the scenes to not only ensure the season commences, but also to allow for us to remain as adaptable as possible as the season progresses in a constantly changing environment.”
The league has committed to nine home and away rounds plus three rounds of finals next year, in accordance with the AFLW collective bargaining agreement struck late last year.
The grand final is scheduled to be played on the second weekend in April.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter