Essendon Number One Ticket Holder and Olympic Gold Medallist, Kim Brennan, has officially announced the Club will make a submission for an AFLW licence to enter the competition in 2019.

Brennan made the announcement at today’s Essendon Women’s Network 20th Anniversary lunch and highlighted the Club’s four key pillars underpinning the submission, which include;

- Growing and developing pathways in remote Northern Territory communities, Tiwi Islands and Maningrida – This will include playing the first ever AFLW game in a remote indigenous community.

- Growing and developing the game in the fastest population growth corridor in Australia, the North West region of Melbourne – This will include a commitment to playing a home game in Craigieburn.

- Creating a unique athlete support program – Focused on developing people and career skills, supported by Essendon Women’s Network, strategic partnerships and Olympic Gold Medallist, Kim Brennan.

- Significant facility expansion – A proposed $18 million dollar facility extension to the existing footprint at Melbourne Airport to cater for an AFLW team and Next Generation Academy program amongst a range of other key aspects.

The Club’s submission tells the powerful human story ‘Two Pathways. One Dream’ and follows the journey of two extremely talented female footballers, Michaela Long and Georgia Patrikios.

Michaela and Georgia’s pathways are vastly different but both share the same dream of playing for Essendon in the AFLW.

Michaela is the sister of Essendon player Jake Long and daughter of Essendon champion Michael Long.

The 20 year old now hopes to Don the Sash and follow in the footsteps of her brother and famous father.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing for the Essendon Football Club, because it feels like home” Long said.

“Watching my brother at Windy Hill last week in the VFL was like going back to where I grew up and is the same safe feeling I get when I’m on Tiwi.

“We don’t have enough Indigenous women playing in the AFLW, and this has to change. Our people have raw talent, and I can’t wait to watch my nieces play for the footy Club I love.

“It’s great to have a pathway especially for the girls in the Northern Territory, we have so much untapped talent on Tiwi and over in Maningrida, and they are natural, talented footballers.”

Georgia is a star on the rise. She plays for the Calder Canons and is also a member of Vic Metro’s U/18 squad.

But the 15 year-old may have been lost to the game had it not been for the rise of AFLW.

“Like a lot of young girls I watched the AFL with my dad and dreamt of playing on the MCG, but with no clear pathway I turned my attention to basketball,” Patrikios said.

“But when the AFL established the AFLW it reignited my passion to play football and gave me something to aspire to.

“I know how much hard work I need to do over the coming years to make sure I’m ready to play at the elite level, and when that opportunity arises I hope I’ll be donning the sash alongside Michaela.”

The Club’s submission follows the journey of Michaela Long and Georgia Patrikios.

CEO, Xavier Campbell, said the Club’s submission has a strong focus on growing the game in the Club’s heartland and next generation zones.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to be part of AFLW competition, it was a huge success in its debut season and I know our members and supporters are extremely passionate about seeing Essendon represented on this stage,” Campbell said.

“We have conducted thorough research with the inaugural AFLW Clubs, have strong financial interest from new and existing commercial partners, consulted with a number of industry experts and key stakeholders, and through the key learnings built a strong framework we believe will help us establish a strong and sustainable AFLW model.

“If successful in our submission, we believe an AFLW team will have a huge impact on our ability to connect and grow the game in the north-west corridor of Melbourne and in our next generation zones of Tiwi Islands and Maningrida.

“Michaela and Georgia’s stories are compelling, and they are both wonderful role models to not only build a team around but to inspire women across the country who want to play for the Essendon Football Club.

“We want to be the most inclusive, successful and respected sporting organisation in Australia, and we believe fielding an AFLW team is an important step in achieving our vision.”

Campbell said the Club is committed to delivering the following outcomes;

- Redevelop and expand the Club’s current training base to ensure it has state of the art facilities for both its AFL, AFLW, VFL and, potentially, VFLW programs.

- AFLW Players will have access to 365 day development, coaching, medical and welfare services.

- A full-time dedicated Coach and Operations Manager will oversee the AFLW program from both a team and individual player perspective.

- Host first ever AFLW game to be played in a remote indigenous community.

- Explore the option to play future home matches at the Club’s spiritual home, Windy Hill.

- Play games in the north west of Melbourne at Highgate Reserve and potential double headers with the AFL team during the JLT series pre-season competition.

- Continued strong alignment with the AFL NT, Calder Cannons, Essendon District Football League and Riddell District Football League to develop women’s football talent at all age groups.

- A tailored AFLW welfare and athlete transition program developed in consultation with Olympic gold medallist, Kim Brennan.

- AFLW players assigned a ‘mentor’ from the Essendon Women’s Network to develop their off field careers and personal identity.

- Strategic partnerships to provide trusted women’s specific health and wellbeing services, including mental health programs to all of EFC’s female footballers and staff.

The Club expects a decision on its submission to be made by the AFL Commission in July 2017.