A traditional rugby league state is now the epicentre of Aussie rules female fandom, according to new research.

Roy Morgan Research said NSW led the country when it came to women following Australian rules football. The research was released after the Australian Football League (AFL) announced plans to introduce a national women’s league in 2017.

The Sydney Swans have the most female supporters of any AFL team, with about 451,000 women identified fans. Sydney’s other AFL team, the Western Sydney Giants, have 26,000 female fans.

Roy Morgan CEO Michelle Levine said while the growth in female support of AFL has been gradual, it “bodes well for the future of the women’s league that participation by and interest among younger girls is growing.”

Research indicates girls are participating in AFL in higher numbers, with 7.5 per cent of girls aged 6-13 now playing Aussie rules in schools.

Wollongong Saints recruitment officer Nicola Kennedy said Illawarra women’s league membership had doubled in 12 months.

“There’s more girls at competitions to actually try-out, whereas in the first few years it was a case of if you turned up you got in,” she said.

“Even if you look at the Sydney women’s league, there’s been a number of new teams entering the competition over the last couple of years.”

Ms Kennedy said Aussie rules had attracted women of all ages in the Illawarra.

“It’s definitely a mixed bag,” she said.

The Western Sydney Giants and the Sydney Swans have established female academies to support the growth in participation in AFL.

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