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Female footy participation on rise: AFL

AAP logoAAP 21/11/2016 Michael Ramsey

The number of girls and women playing Australian rules football has soared, according to figures released by the AFL.

Total female participation increased 19 per cent in 2016 to 380,041, AFL game and development manager Simon Lethlean said on Tuesday.

The number of girls playing Auskick grew by 21 per cent and 354 new community club teams were launched in 2016, with females now accounting for 27 per cent of all footballers.

It comes as the new AFL women's league prepares to kick off its inaugural season in February, with a number of games expected to be played as curtain-raisers to the men's pre-season clashes.

"(Women's footy) has been the biggest growth part of our industry now for three or four years," Lethlean said.

"That momentum has taken off. There are recognisable role models now and a competition starting in February. We expect that to really keep on increasing and it's an exciting part of our industry."

Male participation was up 10 per cent in 2016 to 1,024,135 but Lethlean said the somewhat softer growth was no cause for concern.

"I think our male growth is still solid ... 1.4 million (total) participants around Australia is a fantastic outcome. We intend for that to keep growing and we intend to keep investing," he said.

The fixture for the seven-week women's competition has been finalised but is yet to be released, with the AFL working to lock in broadcast deals for the games.

Melbourne marquee player Melissa Hickey said the AFL had become far more inclusive since her childhood.

"I grew up in the country, so I was the only girl in my grade five and six football team," she said.

"It probably wasn't quite the thing to do when I was a bit younger. I think that's the beauty of our women's league. It's becoming so common so the young kids know that pathway is there for them.."

Hickey also brushed off concerns female players could be at greater risk of concussion, with campaigner Peter Jess recently warning there was potential for a "catastrophic" injury.

"We're susceptible to the same injuries (as the men)," Hickey said.

"It happens but it's not something I'm concerned about."

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