It’s official – the Black Diamond Women’s AFL will expand to 16 teams for 2018, including two teams entered from Newcastle City.

New entries to the competition come from existing Black Diamond clubs The Entrance Bateau Bay, and powerhouse Terrigal Avoca.

New formation clubs Wallsend-West Newcastle and Port Stephens round out the sixteen teams for 2018, with Newcastle City to help with the establishment of the former.

City has also been granted permission to enter two teams into the competition under the central club banner, with an internal draft to spread talent between the ‘Navy’ and ‘White’ teams for 2018.

Wal Bembic, BDAFL’s President, was pleased that the discussions could be confirmed for the next season, and is looking forward to “moving onwards and upwards with the leagues”.

“It’s a big relief to have everything settled, and it’s good to see so many teams set for the next season,” Bembic said. “It’s great for the clubs in general, and we’re really concentrating on keeping clubs healthy and keeping the footy competitive.”

“These moves are crucial to make sure that clubs can retain their juniors and remain strong in terms of numbers, which is part of the reason we have such a big women’s competition going forward.”

Investigations into other regional leagues showed that two-tiered systems saw rising juniors happy to travel to the top grade more readily, to “play what they saw as better footy”, Bembic revealed.

“We didn’t want clubs to be developing talents just to lose them to the club down the road, so we have made sure that we could keep just one league for the women’s grade,” he said. “Nearly every club has a first grade side so women can stay at the club. We want to make sure that developing clubs benefit from that focus.”

“Black Diamond AFL also wanted to cover a lot of different areas in Newcastle and the greater Hunter region so that there would always be a local club for people to play at. The focus now is on making sure that there’s a strong pathways to the top tiers.”

The move was also timely as Pippa Smyth moves into the ever-expanding  AFL Women’s national competition, and Bembic confirmed that the BDAFL’s focus was on getting women into the upper echelon’s of the sport.

“Working closely with AFL NSW means that we can have representative players heading to the top spots, with great opportunities to succeed,” he said. “It’s our concentration now to challenge girls to play the best footy they can so that they can move ever upwards.”

The expansion of the league isn’t the only change on the cards for Novocastrian footy however.

There will also be a new seven-man board made up of AFL NSW/ACT representatives and members would be elected to govern football in the region.

The competition will commence on April 7, 2018 with all grand finals to be held on September 1, 2018. The home and away season will run for 18 weeks with all teams playing 16 matches and having two byes.

The regular season will begin on April 7, and the home and away season will run for 18 weeks.

All teams will play 16 matches, as well as enjoy two bye weekends, before shortening to a top 7 elimination series in the final three weeks.