WITH the announcement that the VFLW and AFLW seasons will align in 2021, it has brought a much anticipated pathway to the forefront of the competition.

Carlton’s Senior Coach Daniel Harford spoke on SEN’s Bob and Andy to voice his excitement about the opportunity this will present for women footballers.

“I think it’s a significant outcome for the pathway to women’s football in Victoria,” Harford said.

“This is a great opportunity for that window of time to be solely dedicated and focused from our perspective on developing players from the second tier and even the under-18s (the NAB League) going forward, to be ready sooner rather than later to be AFLW players.”

Speaking from his experience as a coach, Harford noted it was hard to develop players who weren’t getting game time in AFLW games, as they weren’t getting any in-game experience.

“I think the fact that we’ll all be together, girls that miss out on playing for the AFLW can go back into the second-tier competition and keep playing,” he said.

“It is very difficult when you have the conversations about why they’re not playing or what they need to do.

“A lot of times from our perspective it was hard to give advice or a direction to head because they were doing all they could but everything was going swimmingly in the team structure, no injuries or anything, so this will give them a chance to play and show their wares.”

As well as giving the current AFLW players more chances to play, it will also give the aspiring AFLW players a chance to show what they can do against the professional players.

With the competitions running at the same time, both tiers will be at their peak fitness, giving them the chance to compete on a level playing field.

“It’s a great opportunity for the younger players coming through the VFLW or the mature-age players to show the AFLW system that they’re more than capable of competing against those players who are in peak season,” he said.

“That’s the difference: everyone is in peak season at this one time, where there used to be the AFLW window and the VFLW window.”

At the prospect of returning to a regular season after Covid-19, Harford was optimistic about the upcoming challenges.

“I feel good, all the indications are at the moment that things will go as planned now,” he said.

“Everything is subject to change but I’m pretty bullish that the way that the AFL has managed this environment through the men's season, hopefully we’re nowhere near as dire come February when the AFLW is supposed to start.

“We’ll have plenty of contingencies in place to make sure that the season not only starts, but finishes as well.”