A comparison of fitness and skill among playing positions in sub-elite rugby league players

Tim Gabbett, Jason Kelly, Troy Pezet
Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 2008, 11 (6): 585-92
In rugby league, individual playing positions require a wide range of physical performance qualities and offensive and defensive skills. This study investigated the physical performance, anthropometric, and skill characteristics of specific playing positions in sub-elite rugby league players. Ninety-eight sub-elite rugby league players (mean+/-S.D. age, 22.5+/-4.9 years) participated in this study. Players underwent measurements of anthropometry (height, body mass, and sum of four skinfolds), muscular power (vertical jump), speed (10m, 20m, and 40m sprint), change of direction speed (L run), and maximal aerobic power (multistage fitness test). In addition, two expert coaches independently assessed the skill of players using standardised technical criteria. Hit-up forwards were heavier and had greater skinfold thickness than the adjustables and outside backs positional groups. Furthermore, hit-up forwards had significantly (p<0.05) slower change of direction speed than outside backs, and slower 20m and 40m speed than both the adjustables and outside backs positional groups. Hit-up forwards had a significantly greater (p<0.05) ability to 'hit and spin' than both adjustables and outside backs. The evasion skills (i.e. ability to beat a player and 2 versus 1 ability) of adjustables and outside backs were significantly greater (p<0.05) than hit-up forwards. Adjustables had significantly greater (p<0.05) skills under physiological game stress than hit-up forwards and better catching, ball carrying, and basic passing skills than the hit-up forwards and outside backs. These findings demonstrate that the physical performance, anthropometric, and skill qualities of sub-elite rugby league players vary according to playing position.

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