The landscape of women’s football in the west is set to undergo dramatic change next season.
The VFL Women’s competition will feature two western suburbs clubs – one newly formed and another re-branded.
VU Western Spurs have long been identified as the key driver of women’s football in this part of town.
The Spurs will continue to do their development work in the region with four teams still playing under that banner, but the most talented players will filter through the Western Bulldogs, which will enter into the VFLW competition in 2018.
A joint partnership between the Spurs and the Bulldogs has grown in the past three seasons.
The VFLW team will now be called Western Bulldogs, it will wear the famous red, white and blue colours, while playing matches at both the Victoria University Whitten Oval and Henry Turner Reserve.
Western Bulldogs director of football Chris Grant said it was a natural evolution in the relationship between the clubs.
“We have developed a fantastic partnership with VU Western Spurs over the years and it makes perfect sense for us to form a closer alignment,” he said.
“The partnership will allow female players to enter the system at youth girls level and have a pathway through to the Bulldogs VFLW team, and potentially the Bulldogs AFLW team.
“It also allows us to develop players, coaches, strength and conditioning staff and volunteers 12 months of the year, with opportunities for those in the Spurs system to receive exposure to the elite AFLW level to fast-track their development.”
VU Western Spurs president Karen Hayes said the partnership will make smooth the transition from local football to the big time for the west’s top talent.
“With AFL Women’s football continuing to take centre stage and the ambitious plans for the future of the game, the VU Western Spurs are very excited to be building on the already successful three-year partnership we have enjoyed with the Western Bulldogs to now create clear pathways into the VFLW and AFLW,” she said.
“This will establish a great foundation for our community club to extend exciting elite sporting opportunities for our current 160 players, together with future generations of women footballers.”
AFL Victoria has also announced that Williamstown will be admitted into the VFLW in 2018, along with Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Richmond and St Kilda.
Werribee has signalled its intentions to have a VFLW licence by 2019.