'We are heartbroken': AFLW rocked by 'devastating' virus development

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

The AFLW community is reeling following the decision to abandon the 2020 competition with just three games remaining in the season.

The AFL Commission considered awarding the AFLW premiership to one of the four clubs still in contention but ultimately decided it would have felt “contrived” after calling the season off.

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AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced the decision on Sunday afternoon to cancel the rest of the AFLW season because of the coronavirus crisis.

It came soon after Carlton had booked their place in a second-consecutive preliminary final with a 29-point win over Brisbane at Ikon Park.

Carlton Blues players run out before the AFLW semi-final against Brisbane Lions. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

Fremantle, North Melbourne and Melbourne were also still in the hunt.

“It was incredibly disappointing and I think the decision ended up being obvious today, but I would've loved to have finished (the season),” McLachlan said.

“There was a range of discussions and whether it would be the minor premier, (which is) difficult with two conferences.

“There was a leader there ... but in the end, that would've all been contrived.

“There's not a winner this year because we've been stood down by something much bigger.”

AFLW community reacts to ‘devastating’ news

Fremantle would have had strong claims if the AFL had decided to award the women's premiership, after winning all seven of their matches in 2020 and thrashing Gold Coast by a record margin on Saturday in their semi-final.

But the Dockers had not played any of the other preliminary finalists this year and North Melbourne were widely considered as flag favourites.

After the news broke, the Dockers tweeted: “Devastating news for our girls. So proud of everything they've achieved in 2020, we've loved every moment.”

Carlton coach Daniel Harford was philosophical when asked, after his side's 6.8 (44) to 2.3 (15) win over Brisbane, whether football should continue during the pandemic.

“From a footy perspective, yeah, you'd love to keep going but there are bigger things in life than just footy - we understand that,” he said.

“We love footy and we are so passionate about footy and our girls are just brilliant at the game at the moment. I want to see them achieve as much they can out of it but we understand the bigger picture.

“Footy is just a small component of life and there's much more important stuff going around at the moment.

“We're not too stressed about it; we're just living for the moment.”

Fremantle Dockers players celebrate a goal in their AFLW semi-final. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Players divided over AFL’s call

The AFL Players’ Association said the situation was heartbreaking.

“We are heartbroken for our AFLW players that the season ends for them this way. It is obviously incredibly disappointing for our AFLW finalists who have put their passion and commitment into season 2020,” CEO Paul Marsh said.

“It was discussed with AFLW player delegates from all clubs last week as to their preferred finals structure and, after consultation, the majority view was to push to a top eight, knowing that there was a risk the competition might come to an early conclusion if the COVID-19 situation continued to intensify.

“Unfortunately, this is now the case. We congratulate all AFLW players on their contribution to the 2020 season.”

Fremantle Dockers player Ebony Antonio appeared to be angry about the cancellation, tweeting: “No leadership.”

Former Collingwood player Meg Hutchins said she believed the grand final should have been played on Saturday.

But Carlton’s Katie Loynes disagreed, saying the AFL made the right call.

“With what teams??? Conferences hadn’t finished, we hadn’t played Freo and neither had Melbourne,” Loynes wrote.

“The AFL got it right in my opinion.”

Melbourne Demons player Bianca Jakobsson believed the league’s hands were tied because of the short-term nature of AFLW players’ contracts.

with AAP