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Women's growth drives record numbers

Stevens kicks off AFLW pre-season Nicola Stevens fronted the media at Ikon Park to kick off the 2018 AFLW pre-season.

CARLTON'S AFLW defender Nicola Stevens was on hand to help the AFL announce record participation of Australian Football across all levels. 

With more than 1.5 million people playing the game, a total of 1,547,915 participated in 2017 – a 10 per cent increase on the previous year. 

Females made up 30 per cent of that number after the introduction of the NAB AFL Women's competition this year. 

As a point of comparison, cricket had 1.4 million participants, of which 27 per cent were women. 

AFL game development manager Andrew Dillon told reporters at Maribyrnong Secondary College on Thursday the aim was to have males and females playing football in equal numbers. 

Nicola Stevens and North Melbourne's Majak Daw with the Maribyrnong Secondary College girls football team. (Photo: AFL Media)

"It is a goal. I think it's a couple of years away but I know anecdotally, I was in Byron Bay for the diversity championships earlier this year and the Byron Bay Magpies will have more girls than boys playing next year," Dillon said.  

"It is happening, but it will happen slowly."

The huge lift in women playing the sport was a surprise to the AFL.

"We knew that there would be a big jump on the back of the AFLW, but to be sure, the 76 per cent increase was way beyond our expectations," Dillon said. 

"I think we'll get maybe not the same increase, but a substantial increase again for 2018."

Carlton will once again kick off the AFLW season, taking on Collingwood at Ikon Park on Friday 2 February 2018.

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