THE new era in female football in Western Australia begins this Sunday with the launch of the inaugural WAFL Women's competition with East Fremantle playing Peel Thunder, and Swan Districts taking on Subiaco.
On the back of the momentum built by the past three seasons of the AFL Women's competition, the WA Football Commission is launching WAFLW in 2019 to replace the previous league competition that was the WA Women's Football League.
The WAWFL is still in operation running a reserves and Youth Girls competition, but league football now for 2019 will feature the five clubs that make up the WAFLW competition.
Now the action gets underway with Round 1 action this Sunday beginning at East Fremantle's New Choice Homes Park with East Fremantle hosting Peel Thunder, with bouncedown at 2pm.
Then it's Swan Districts playing Subiaco from 2.45pm in the other match of the round at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval. That match will feature a livestream at www.wafl.com.au.
It's an exciting new era with the beginning of the WAFLW competition starting with the two matches on Saturday afternoon, with Claremont having the bye first up.
The league will see the teams have 16 players on the field at any one time with five on the interchange while playing 18-minute quarters with no time-on.
There will be 15 rounds in the inaugural season with each team playing one another three times and having three byes before a three-week finals series will conclude with the Grand Final held on the weekend of WAFL preliminary final on September 14 or 15, and broadcast live on Channel 7.
The opening two matches of the season on Sunday afternoon both loom as fascinating contests as well and will provide plenty of insight into what could be in store for the rest of 2019.
It begins at New Choice Homes Park with East Fremantle hosting Peel Thunder from 2pm.
East Fremantle won the league premiership in WAWFL in 2018 while Peel Thunder has been a perennially strong outfit as well setting the stage for what should be a terrific season-opener.
Sharks defender Evie Gooch, fresh off being part of the Fremantle Dockers AFLW season, is looking forward to the new WAFLW competition and seeing how the teams shape up.
"Everyone is stoked I think with the new structure of this season with the new competition and there are some big things to look forward to," Gooch said.
"There's obviously a few nerves there before the first game and Peel have always been a really good competition against us over the years. We are looking forward to the game and hopefully the girls have a great weekend and get things off to the perfect start.
"It's so hard to tell now which teams will be strong with the talent moving into the five clubs rather than the eight teams from last season. Every team looks really strong at this point so we'll just have to wait and see how it plays it out to see who the standouts are."
The second game of the opening round then takes place at Steel Blue Oval between Swan Districts and Subiaco.
Subiaco played off in the Grand Final at league level in the WAWFL competition last year and look to have a strong line-up once more in 2019, but so do Swan Districts as a traditional powerhouse of female football in WA.
Another AFLW star from Fremantle is Ashley Sharp. The lightning quick forward won't be playing for Swan Districts on Sunday, but will be into the team soon and is looking forward to seeing how the Black Ducks shape up to start the new competition against Subiaco.
"We've obviously been looked at as one of the benchmarks WAFL clubs that everyone wants to play like, so that's what we are looking to bring into this new competition as well," Sharp said.
"We want to be seen as the benchmark that everyone can strive towards. But the other clubs are looking strong too and like East Fremantle who came out and won the premiership last year.
"It's a new competition and you don’t know what's going to happen. The standard will lift to another level and all the young girls are now old enough to play league footy having come through the ranks and we are going to have to play against them."
OPTUS WAFLW ROUND 1
EAST FREMANTLE v PEEL THUNDER – NEW CHOICE HOMES PARK, SUNDAY 2.00PM
Live scores, stats
SWAN DISTRICTS v SUBIACO – STEEL BLUE OVAL, SUNDAY 2.45PM
Live scores, stats