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Women's All-Stars match a recruiters' delight

Dream becomes a reality for women Stars of women's football explain what motivates them

RECRUITING managers and senior coaches will have reserved Saturday night in the diary as a mandatory appointment.

Granted, their notes on the best women players around Australia are already extensive, but the AFL women's All-Stars game offers another perspective on list-building.

What the Western Bulldogs-Melbourne match-up provides is a unique opportunity for the game's most astute judges to assess how a prospective signing performs against almost every other elite player around the country.

Although most of the players representing the two teams on Saturday are destined to be early selections in next month's inaugural AFL women's draft, reputations will be enhanced or, perhaps, slightly tarnished by what happens on the field.

Bulldogs midfielder Ellie Blackburn and Melbourne centre half-back Melissa Hickey are already guaranteed places in next season's AFL women's league as marquee signings.

However, they emphasised the competitive nature of elite players, the urge to play at the maximum tempo and standard in every game, irrespective of the stakes.

"This game will be really beneficial for everyone. It will be a high-standard match, with the marquee players and girls who will be part of the top end of the draft," Blackburn said.

Hickey said the sense of occasion and the uncertainty about whether it can ever be repeated will be driving forces for the players to perform.

"It’s the best of the best from across the country. It might well be the only time the best are showcased in one game, so it's really exciting," she said.

The AFL will use this year’s 10 exhibition matches to gather data for formulating rules for the national women's league starting in early February.

The Demons and Bulldogs will play 16-a-side, with six interchange players. The ball is slightly smaller than the one used in earlier exhibition matches in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and NSW. Also, the AFL's definition of deliberate-out-of-bounds will also apply for this nationally televised showpiece.

The rules were trialled during later matches of the exhibition series to assess their impact on reducing congestion and increasing scoring, and the league has consulted a number of AFL assistant coaches and opposition analysts for their views on the women's games.

"Deakin University will assess the impact of these rules in advance of the national women’s league and it doesn't necessarily mean these rules will be in place in 2017," AFL game development general manager Simon Lethlean said.