Daniel Harford has defended the AFLW competition. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Daniel Harford has defended the AFLW competition. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)

AFLW coach’s warning to league

AN AFLW assistant coach says the league needs to be careful as to what message it sends its clubs and players.

Collingwood AFLW assistant coach Daniel Harford said revelations the AFL had spoken to AFLW coaches about game style after the opening weekend of the women's competition weren't out of the ordinary.

But he did question whether the league wanted the women's game to be viewed as a legitimate competition or more as an entertainment product.

Carlton, in particular, is the focus of the league after employing a defensive mindset in its win over Collingwood on Friday night.

On Tuesday AFL chief Gillon McLachlan hinted he was concerned by Friday night's fixture that saw neither side kick a goal in the second half.

Gillon McLachlan.
Gillon McLachlan.

Harford highlighted eight more goals were kicked in the opening round of 2018 compared with last year but said he believed McLachlan's comments regarding the season opener were valid, saying his Magpies team were "garbage".

But he did have a warning for the league over its messaging.

"Philosophically I think the AFL need to be very careful about the message they send about to the AFLW competition, the clubs and the players, as to what they want the competition to be," he said.

"Do they want it to be a serious, competitive environment? Or do they want it to be a showcase of free-flowing entertainment/football?

"I think that's the philosophical question on the back of what's happened in the last 24 hours."

Carlton AFLW coach Damien Keeping won't coach the Blues this weekend. Pic: Getty Images
Carlton AFLW coach Damien Keeping won't coach the Blues this weekend. Pic: Getty Images

Harford said he believed both clubs contributed to Friday night's five-goal game.

"We tried to get the ball into free space a lot and just kept turning the ball over, couldn't pick it up, couldn't mark it and all of a sudden you get a pack of numbers swarm onto the ball," he said.

"We played a fair part of that as a team, and then you've got the way Carlton play with a bit more of a defensive structure behind the ball. Putting that together you get a pretty nasty product."

Harford said the AFL found itself "in a bit of a quandary" as there seemed "a lack of patience" with how the public viewed the game.

He said it was wrong to think players would quickly become consistent top-level stars after taking the jump from "park football" just 18 months ago.

"But the danger from the AFL"s perspective is if you start to encourage entertainment as opposed to winning, you haven't got much of a competition," he said.

"The clubs are quite annoyed about that."



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