THE FIRST season of the AFL Women's competition will see teams field 16 players, use a smaller football and play four 15-minute quarters plus time-on. 

The 16-a-side format (with six players on the bench) was tested in the season’s final AFL exhibition match series games between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne at Whitten Oval. The smaller ball was also used in that match.

The rules received AFL Commission approval after positive feedback from players and the broader industry. Some 80 per cent of players involved in the final match supported the changes. 

All other rules for the first season of the league would be in line with the laws of Australian Football, although the AFL is still considering the possibility of a cap on interchanges after consultation with clubs and coaches.

The AFL's general manager of game and market development Simon Lethlean said the new rules were the result of extensive research and consultation.

"Independent studies by Deakin University and RMIT helped form the view that the women’s game will be enhanced by reducing the number of players on the field, as well as the size of the football," Lethlean said.

"Analysis of (the final) match showed a significant reduction in stoppages while increasing disposal efficiency and scoring. 

"We want to ensure this is a great game to play and exciting to watch," he said.

The opening match of the competition is set to be played in the first week of February, with the fill fixture likely to be released in early November.