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.
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.
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.”
— Fremantle Dockers (@freodockers) March 22, 2020
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.”
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.”
— Ebony Antonio (@EbonyAntonio24) March 22, 2020
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.”
GF between Freo and North yesterday would have rewarded the best two teams this season (to this point) and got a result for the 2020 season. Now there will be no premier......
— Meg Hutchins (@hutchy_25) March 22, 2020
Don’t get me wrong - my heart breaks for all of the #AFLW players, and for all of their hard work and sacrifices going unrewarded...and I’m sorry if my opinion upset anyone. But it was only my opinion and not a reflection on whether you deserved a shot at the premiership or not❤️
— Meg Hutchins (@hutchy_25) March 22, 2020
Melbourne Demons player Bianca Jakobsson believed the league’s hands were tied because of the short-term nature of AFLW players’ contracts.
I think with the nature of the women’s comp being part time and contracts up soon. Means players would have to somehow keep training and still putting their life on hold for an indefinite resumption.
— Bianca Jakobsson (@biancajakobsson) March 22, 2020