IT WILL be status quo for the NAB AFL Women's competition in 2018, with the AFL delaying expansion until 2019.
Geelong and St Kilda had lobbied hard to be included in the 2018 competition, but the AFL wants a year of consolidation after a successful first season.
The AFL has identified talent identification and development, and building the fan base as priorities before adding to the eight-club competition made up this year of Adelaide, Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne and Western Bulldogs.
The 10 remaining clubs will be invited to bid for inclusion, with priority given to Geelong, St Kilda, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast, which were given provisional licenses last year.
A decision on expansion for 2019 is expected by the middle of this year to give the new teams, broadcasters and the wider industry time to prepare for the third AFLW season.
"Our primary objective is to provide women and girls with an equal opportunity to play elite Australian football and to increase the female participation and interest in our game," AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.
"We need to further invest in both building our audience and ensuring the talent pool can expand to be ready for the addition of new teams in 2019.
"Announcing the expansion teams later this year will allow the competition to finalise its list-build rules for the new clubs before this year's draft," he said.
The decision on whether to expand the competition in 2018 forced the AFLW free agency and trade period to be delayed. It will now start on Monday, May 15.
Almost 200,000 people attended the 29 AFLW matches this year, with a cumulative free-to-air and pay-TV audience of 5.64 million.
The Crows beat the Lions in the inaugural AFLW Grand Final.