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AFLW boss Nicole Livingstone announces surprise exit

AFLW boss Nicole Livingstone has made the surprise decision to stand aside after this week's grand final, saying the time felt right to leave the role.

Livingstone has spent the past seven seasons as the general manager of women's football, taking the AFLW from an eight-team competition at the end of its first season in 2017 to the current model in which all 18 AFL clubs have a women's side at the elite level.

Under Livingstone's leadership, the competition increased in length from seven rounds and one final to 10 rounds and a four-week finals series.

Additional rounds have already been locked in for future seasons.

The AFLW competition is now the largest employer of female athletes in Australia, with 540 players earning an average of $60,000 in 2023, which will rise to $82,000 by 2027.

Livingstone, 52, will depart her role at the AFL following Sunday's grand final between North Melbourne and Brisbane at Ikon Park.

The former swimmer who represented Australia at three Olympics is yet to announce where she will head next.

"After six years and on the eve of the completion of our best AFLW season to date, the time feels right for me to step away and support the AFLW competition from a different perspective," Livingstone said in a statement.

"When I sat with Gill (former chief executive Gill McLachlan) and Steve Hocking and Andrew Dillon in 2017 before taking on this role, we spoke about aspirations for AFLW.

"We wanted a league that was pride of place in the Australian sporting landscape and was respected for what was being created.

"We wanted to create an opportunity for every one of our 18 clubs to experience what having an AFLW program would bring to their club; athletically, culturally and commercially.

"Most importantly I wanted opportunities for girls and women to play, coach, umpire, administer and even broadcast our game.

"Australian Football looks different from when I started. Women involved in all areas of our game is now normal and no longer a pleasant surprise."

AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon praised Livingstone's contribution.

"When Nicole first joined the AFL, we had just completed one season with eight teams, a seven-game season and only one final," Dillon said in a statement.

"We had a groundswell of support and Nic turned that energy into a growing, sustainable and successful national women's competition that we see today."