HomeAFLExclusive: Brisbane Lions Women’s CEO Breeanna Brock On AFLW Expansion Announcement

Exclusive: Brisbane Lions Women’s CEO Breeanna Brock On AFLW Expansion Announcement

Breeanna Brock

Exclusive: Brisbane Lions Women’s CEO Breeanna Brock On AFLW Expansion Announcement

In the wake of the AFL Commission announcing a potential expansion of the AFLW to 18 teams, and bringing the start of the season forward to December, Brisbane Lions AFLW CEO, Breeanna Brock, spoke exclusively to Ministry of Sport, to give her thoughts on the proposal.

Speaking on the reaction of the announcement, Brock echoed she was not completely sold on the idea.

“We generally have a very long off-season from the end of April to the beginning of November, but a lot happens in that period of time and it’s when we probably get the most opportunity to spend quality time with our athletes, it’s not a big rush, and we can make some good gains with them,” Brock told Ministry of Sport.

“Shifting that three-months ahead just shortens all of that planning time and prep time.

“I think it should not be [correlated with the men’s season].

“I think that the decision to move it [away from the men’s season] is the correct one.

“A lot of people externally think that girls games should be curtain raisers to the men’s game.

“We have completely different sponsors so in a stadium, how do you manage that, changing signage over a 20 minute crossover period?

“Most of the major stadiums in the country are not made to have four teams playing at them, we’ve got change rooms for [only] two teams.

“Just makes it all a bit tougher I guess, [there is] never a dull moment in AFLW,” she said.

Asked on the whether the proposal of each club having a male and female team by 2023 was a positive or a negative, Brock said it’s the long-term goal.

“It’s a positive, it’s the end-goal, I guess when this competition started it was only eight teams and we never really had a clear path or knowing where this competition was going to go, we still don’t with the addition of the extra four teams.” Brock said.

“Will we all play each other once?

“Will we still have two pools, [and] only play half a competition.

“We still don’t have any of that detail.

“We don’t know how long we will stay in this period of the calendar, so there are still a lot of unknowns with that.

“But I think that the clubs that we are bringing in are huge fanbases within our industry, financially sound, they are going to be great brands to add to what’s already a fantastic competition.

“It ends up making us the largest team sport for women to play as a league I think in the world, so a huge step forward,” she said.

When asked what positive steps this move would have on the grassroots aspect of the game, Brock said she could see the light from this perspective.

“Particularly for the South Australian (SA) market and the New South Wales (NSW) market, which still only have one club, the addition of those extra clubs in those areas will really help boost the continued growth of participation,” Brock told Ministry of Sport.

“Particularly in NSW being such a massive market for the AFL as a whole, so that’s fantastic.

“Bringing in Essendon and Hawthorn, two huge clubs, massive membership bases, so even if we were able to harness 2% of those membership bases, that would dramatically increase the number of people watching the games, attending the games.

“I think somebody said it’s like an addition of two million members.

“Our biggest challenge at the moment, is because our participation rate is rising so quickly, is that facility access, access to umpiring, access to good coaching, you know we can get people to the field, but have we got all the support structures around them to make sure it is a really good experience,” she said.

Speaking on the topic of whether the AFLW should gain more professionalism by making it a full-time league, Brock said people should be careful what they wish for.

“One thing we’ve got to be really careful of is that we don’t cut our noses off to spite our face,” Brock said.

“Everyone’s right on “let’s be full-time”, well what would that look like, that would be $60 000 [a season]?

“A lot of the girls that are currently playing have full-time jobs that pay them $80 000, but on top of that full-time job, they do their football commitment of between 20-25 hours and get maybe between $25 000 to $30 000.

“So they’re on a pretty good wicket then, earning around $110 000, for someone who is mature and got a proper career.

“So if that person then had to choose between giving up their full-time work for a $60 000 contract, I think we all agree that the sums just don’t add up.

“Saying we’re going to go full-time and then the reality of what those wages would look like are very different.

“It’s got to be considered,” she said.

Asked to give her advice to potential AFLW CEOs at the newly proposed clubs, Brock said there are a number of obstacles to overcome.

“The competition itself is so volatile, we’ve never had one season the same as the next, things always change, they evolve, we’ve had COVID, we’ve had expansion twice, now looking at a third expansion,” Brock said.

“You must be able to role with the punches, be able to move so quickly, change your plans, you’ve just got to be in that eternal growth mindset, because we’re in a competition, personally sometimes that’s a hard challenge.

“Particularly in a program that is semi-professional, so that means all our players work during the day and we train at night, so that’s a challenge.

“Just figuring out ways to do a lot with not a big budget.

“You have to sacrifice some things for the greater good, things that you’d love to do for the players and the staff that just isn’t achievable with the sort of budgets we have to work with.

“A multitude of things to survive AFLW,” she told Ministry of Sport.

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