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Women to kick-off 2017 with two-month season

Highlights: WB v Melb women's game The best moments from Etihad Stadium
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 6: Kirby Hicks of the Bulldogs in action during the 2016 AFL Womens exhibition match between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons at Highgate Recreational Reserve, Craigieburn on March 6, 2016. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Kirby Hicks takes a chest mark for the Bulldogs against Melbourne
It will showcase the elite women players of which girls and women can aspire to
Simon Lethlean

• Meet the future stars of the women's game at the AFL women's football hub

THE INAUGURAL women's football league will kick off with a two-month season in February and March, 2017.

AFL clubs tonight were invited to apply for a licence in the inaugural eight-team competition, with April 29th as the deadline for submissions.

Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, already competing in this year's 10-game exhibition series, are the front-runners for two of the four Victorian licences.

Teams in SA, WA, NSW and Queensland will make up the rest of the late summer-early autumn season early next year.

The AFL women's league, with seven home-and-away rounds and finals, will be played as stand-alone games, NAB Challenge curtain-raisers and closers and integrated into the start of the 2017 season.

An AFL Commission meeting last Wednesday was briefed on the women's league model by Simon Lethlean, the league's game and market development general manager.

Bulldogs women get maiden win over Dees

Lethlean said broadcasters, such as Seven, Fox and Triple M, were on standby to cover the games, with at least one game televised live each round.

Each team will have a list of 25-players, with two designated marquee players and five pre-signed players. The rest will be selected from state-based drafts.

Players from Tasmania and Canberra will be aligned to the NSW team, with Northern Territory players available for the South Australian team.

"There were 165 new teams last year and we believe there are enough women to sustain a viable national competition,'' Lethlean said.

He said the state-based academies had assured the AFL there will be a pool of around 200 players with another 12 months of preparation and training.

The short season is designed to fill a "content gap'' immediately following the Australian Open tennis championships, and allow players to return to their respective local clubs in state leagues.

"The long-term vision is what it does for participation numbers rather than how many people watch round one. It will showcase the elite women players of which girls and women can aspire to, like my daughter who starts AusKick this year,'' Lethlean said.

The AFL Players Association will represent all players, who will be on one-year contracts, with the AFL funding player payments and match-day operations.

A PhD student is currently studying such aspects of the women's game as ball movement to assist the league to decide the rules, whether it be to introduce reduced player numbers and shorter quarters.

"We will be mindful of the heat at that time of the year, but we're not going to trick it (rules) up. We want it to be sustainable,'' Lethlean said.

The recent Bulldogs/Demons game was played at an intense and high standard. Picture: AFL Media