Explainer: The AFLW Priority Selection Period

24 April 2023

Written by: Campbell Leo

What exactly is the PSP and how will it impact the league going forward?

Collingwood fans have been left shattered following star forward Chloe Malloy’s decision to play for the Sydney Swans in the 2023 AFLW season. The two-time All-Australian and dual Best and Fairest winner is a major acquisition for the Swans under the newly established Priority Signing Period (PSP).

But what is this new Priority Selection Period and how will it impact the clubs of the AFLW?

What is the Priority Signing Period?

The AFLW announced the introduction of the PSP following the conclusion of the AFLW’s seventh season and is aimed at helping the four newest expansion clubs in Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, and the Sydney Swans. Because these four sides entered the competition as new clubs, they entered the league with a disadvantage compared to the rest of the teams. The new rules give the four clubs the power to sign players from other clubs without needing to orchestrate a trade.

Sports reporter for 7 News Sarah Burt says it’s a new way to help subsidise what new AFL clubs may be lacking.

“It’s a way to try and balance out,” she says. “I suppose the skill level across the league. So, it means that the four newest teams were all able to, I suppose, draft some talent, and very high talent at that without having to trade anything back.”

The number of players the rest of the 14 clubs can lose throughout the PSP will depend on their final ladder position in the prior season. According to one 7 News report, clubs that finished first to fourth can lose no more than five players, clubs that finish fifth to eighth can lose no more than two players, and clubs that finished ninth to 18th can lose no more than one player.

While the four clubs won’t have to give up anything when signing a player in the PSP, the clubs who have lost players during the period will receive draft compensation that will be determined by the AFLW list committee. At this current stage, the PSP is only in place for this current trade period and will not be a permanent change.

Is the PSP fair on the rest of the league?

The PSP is only available to the four newest expansion clubs, which begs the question, is this fair on the rest of the league?

For context, the West Coast Eagles entered the AFLW as an expansion side in 2020. In the four seasons that the Eagles have played in, they have only managed six wins. In the most recent AFLW season, the Eagles finished 16th with two wins, placing them below two of the expansion clubs, Essendon and Hawthorn who won four and three games respectively.

AFLW reporter Sarah Black believes that the establishment of the PSP could result in clubs questioning whether the new rule holds an unfair advantage.

“I think West Coast and St Kilda are probably the ones to jump out as you could probably turn around and say, well, why wasn’t this? Why didn’t we have this as a tool to help build our list?” she says.

Sarah Burt, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that the PSP will create any inequality for the rest of the league.

“The idea of the PSP isn’t to particularly favour the four new expansion sides, it’s to try and spread the talent out across the league,” she says.

“I think the AFL would be opening up a can of worms if they started allowing teams that just finished lower on the ladder and weren’t expansion sides to pick up players without having to trade. I think you’d be opening up a can of worms and because you know what happens next year, whoever finishes lower on the ladder would be expecting the same thing.”

What clubs have been impacted by the PSP and what clubs have benefited?

Brisbane is the club that has been affected the most by the introduction of the PSP, when the Lions lost duo Emily Bates and Greta Bodey to Hawthorn.

“You immediately look at Brisbane who lost two players, Bodey and Bates, who are All-Australians, and you know, I think that’ll hurt them for sure,” Black says.

“They have a deeper list than most clubs, but you can’t take out two players of that quality without it costing you.”

On top of being a three-time All-Australian, Bates was also the 2022 AFL Women’s Best and Fairest, whilst Bodey was Brisbane’s leading goalkicker in 2022. Brisbane now has a tough challenge ahead of them as they attempt to avenge last season’s Grand Final loss.

Collingwood and Carlton have also been impacted by the PSP with the former having lost rising star Chloe Malloy and Carlton parting ways with Lucy McEvoy, a player who was seen by many as a future captain of the club.

Port Adelaide are another club that have benefited significantly from the PSP. Black thinks the Power have been “very smart” in their approach to the new system.

“You sort of need to look at each team’s individual needs and how they’ve gone about addressing that,” she says. “So, Port Adelaide were quite open that they needed to boost their key position depth.”

“So, they’ve got an All-Australian defender in the form of Janelle Cuthbertson, they’ve got an AFLW leading goalkicker in Ash Woodland, they were given a special provision to sign an underage player who’s a ruck, Matilda Schultz. So, I think they’ve been very calculating in how they’ve gone about it and they’ve done really well.”

Will the PSP be beneficial for the AFLW?

The goal of the Priority Signing Period (PSP) is to help balance the league. So far, the PSP has seemed to have fulfilled its purpose with top teams losing star talent and lower-ranked teams gaining it. Sarah Burt believes that the PSP will be beneficial for the AFLW.

“In my personal opinion, I think yes,” she says, “I think it’s important that particularly in the infancy of the league, that we share around the level of talent because otherwise, we’re just going to see huge disparities in the scoring in games.”


Article: Campbell Leo is a third-year sports journalism student. You can follow him on Twitter @campbellleo16

Photo: AFLW S7 GF AFLW logo by Josh Ryan is available HERE. The photo has been modified