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Essendon VFLW could play in the NT

NT thunders into VFL Women's competition

A Northern Territory team will be part of the new-look VFL Women's competition next year.

AFL Victoria competitions manager John Hook announced last week that Diamond Creek, Eastern Devils and St Kilda Sharks would not remain in the league after a shake-up designed with AFLW in mind.

NT Thunder, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Richmond and Williamstown are the new VFLW clubs, while three other clubs will have different names.

Seaford transferred its licence to St Kilda to form the Southern Saints, while Cranbourne did the same with Melbourne and will compete as the Casey Demons from the 2018 season.

The VU Western Spurs will also now be known as the Western Bulldogs.

They join existing clubs Box Hill Hawks, Geelong, Darebin and Melbourne Uni in a 13-team competition, up from the 10 clubs that contested this year's second season.

Thunder will host six matches in the NT, with Collingwood, Essendon, Geelong, the Demons and the Hawks – which all have Next Generation academies there – certain to be five of the travelling clubs.

The other is likely to be one of Carlton, Richmond, the Saints or the Bulldogs.

Players and staff will stay, eat and recover at Darwin's state-of-the-art Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre and use AFLNT transport, meaning flights will be the main cost.

AFL Victoria chief executive Steven Reaper said the introduction of the NT team was a "great development opportunity" and would showcase the competition to "a new audience".

"A number of AFL clubs will utilise the chance to visit their Next Generation Academy region to build closer ties with the area and help support the development of women's football in the Territory," Reaper said.

"For the women's NT Thunder side, it will provide a state-league opportunity like the men in the NEAFL, with VFL Women's to now play a role in the NT women's talented player pathway."

The major appeal for AFLNT to field a team in the competition is that its local football league runs from October to March rather than the typical April to September window.

It will also help bridge the gap for NT players aiming to make the AFLW grade, according to AFLNT chief executive Michael Solomon and high performance manager Wally Gallio.

"What thrills me about the addition of NT Thunder to the VFLW competition is the professional environment our young, aspiring players will be exposed to," Solomon said.

"Like the men's NT Thunder outfit, they will be required to travel interstate, and will learn how to train and partake in active recovery to get the best out of themselves and for their teammates, which is a requirement for any player with their sights set on the AFLW."

The Thunder squad will draw from NT and South Australian-based Adelaide Crows footballers, as well as Darwin, Central Australia and remote regions such as Arnhem Land, Gove, Katherine and Tennant Creek.