AFL considering ‘virtual’ awards night for AFLW

The AFL has told clubs that it is considering holding a "virtual" awards event for the AFLW competition as the league is forced to think outside the square because of a ban on mass gatherings.

While the AFLW season finished unsatisfactorily last month because of the AFL shutdown caused by the coronavirus, headquarters remains keen to celebrate the achievements of the playing cohort in some manner.

Erin Phillips is a dual winner of the AFLW best and fairest.Credit:AAP

Since the inception of the national women's competition in 2017, the AFL has held a gala dinner event – coined the 'W' Awards – at which the league's best and fairest count is held, the All-Australian team is named, the mark and goal of the year awards are presented and the competition's Rising Star is crowned.

Adelaide superstar Erin Phillips has won two of the first three AFLW best and fairest awards – a medal which unlike the men's Brownlow has not yet been named after a person – while Emma Kearney won the 2018 medal after a stellar season for the Western Bulldogs. Kearney has subsequently moved to North Melbourne.

Correspondence between the league and clubs from late last month – seen by The Age – said that the AFL was working through options with respect to the AFLW awards, with a "virtual" aspect being contemplated.

The AFL on Thursday confirmed that the league remained keen to recognise the outstanding performances from a season, which was cut short.

"While the current situation is a challenge for the entire community, the AFL remains committed to celebrating the achievements of each club and individual following the 2020 NAB AFL women’s competition. We are presently working through a range of options to facilitate this," an AFL spokesperson said.

AFLW club sources also suggested that similar measures were being considered for AFLW club best and fairest events, which are generally more low-key gatherings than their male equivalents.

An AFLW season that heralded the introduction of four new teams ended in highly unfortunate circumstances.

The increasing threat of the coronavirus forced most round six matches to be played behind closed doors, before the league took the step of expediting the finals series – meaning the last two rounds of the season were cancelled.

The first weekend of the finals series was played, again without crowds, but the growing impact of the virus forced the league to be shut down with four clubs – North Melbourne, Fremantle, Melbourne and Carlton – still in the premiership race.

The AFL opted against declaring any of those four teams as the competition's premiers, particularly harsh on the undefeated Dockers.

"Given the twin conference structure and that the finals series was not completed, the AFL Commission has determined no premiership will be awarded for this season, following a recommendation from the AFL executive," AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said at the time the decision was announced.

The part-time nature of the competition has been attributed as a reason the three remaining matches could not be completed at a later date.

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