Correlates of tackling ability in high-performance rugby league players

Tim J Gabbett, David G Jenkins, Bruce Abernethy
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2011, 25 (1): 72-9
This study investigated the tackling ability of high-performance rugby league players and determined the relationship between physiological and anthropometric qualities and tackling ability in these athletes. Twenty professional (National Rugby League) and 17 semiprofessional (Queensland Cup) rugby league players underwent a standardized 1-on-1 tackling drill in a 10-m grid. Video footage was taken from the rear, side, and front of the defending player. Tackling proficiency was assessed using standardized technical criteria. In addition, all players underwent measurements of standard anthropometry (height, body mass, and sum of 7 skinfolds), acceleration (10-m sprint), change of direction speed (505 test), and lower body muscular power (vertical jump). Professional players had significantly greater (p ≤ 0.05) tackling proficiency than semiprofessional players (87.5 ± 2.0 vs. 75.0 ± 2.3%). Professional players were significantly (p ≤ 0.05) older, more experienced, leaner, and had greater acceleration than semiprofessional players. The strongest individual correlates of tackling ability were age (r = 0.41, p ≤ 0.05), playing experience (r = 0.70, p ≤ 0.01), skinfold thickness (r = -0.59, p ≤ 0.01), acceleration (r = 0.41, p ≤ 0.05), and lower body muscular power (r = 0.38, p ≤ 0.05). When hierarchical multiple regression analysis was performed to determine which of the variables predicted tackling ability, playing experience and lower body muscular power were the only variables that contributed significantly (r2 = 0.60, p ≤ 0.01) to the predictive model. From a practical perspective, strength and conditioning coaches should emphasize the development of acceleration, lower body muscular power, and lean muscle mass to improve tackling ability in high-performance rugby league players.

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