The Western Region Football League will run a stand-alone women’s competition for the first time in 2018.

The WRFL combined with the Essendon District Football League for a joint competition last season, but with growing interest from WRFL clubs in creating their own competition and the increasing popularity of the AFL Women’s national competition, the WRFL and EDFL have decided to go their separate ways next year.

The WRFL’s most rapid growth is in its junior girls section, which grew from 10 teams in 2016 to 27 this year across three different age groups.

That number is expected to increase next year, with teams putting forward submissions for girls teams at under-12, under-15 and under-18 levels and some clubs venturing into girls’ football for the first time.

The senior women’s competition could have as many as 12 teams in its inaugural season, creating a clear pathway for juniors.

WRFL chief executive Matthew Duck said the league was committed to working with its clubs to expand participation opportunities for females in the west.

“We have identified female football as a key strategic item, so we will continue to collaborate with clubs to ensure female football is viable for not just next season, but for many years to come,” he said.

The WRFL will initiate a series of club development workshops to drive the development of female football. AFL Victoria female football development manager Chyloe Kurdas will facilitate the workshops during the off season.