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Physiological and Anthropometric Correlates of Tackling Ability in Junior Elite and Subelite Rugby League Players

Gabbett, Tim J1,2; Jenkins, David G2; Abernethy, Bruce2,3

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2010 - Volume 24 - Issue 11 - pp 2989-2995
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181f00d22
Original Research

Gabbett, TJ, Jenkins, DG, and Abernethy, B. Physiological and anthropometric correlates of tackling ability in junior elite and subelite rugby league players. J Strength Cond Res 24(11): 2989-2995, 2010-This study investigated the tackling ability of junior elite and subelite rugby league players, and determined the relationship between selected physiological and anthropometric characteristics and tackling ability in these athletes. Twenty-eight junior elite (mean ± SD age, 16.0 ± 0.2 years) and 13 junior subelite (mean ± SD age, 15.9 ± 0.6 years) 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 (stature, body mass, and sum of 7 skinfolds), acceleration (10-m sprint), change of direction speed (505 test), and lower body muscular power (vertical jump). Junior elite players had significantly greater (p < 0.05) tackling proficiency than junior subelite players (65.7 ± 12.5 vs. 54.3 ± 16.8%). Junior elite players tended to be taller, heavier, leaner, and have greater acceleration, change of direction speed, and muscular power, than the junior subelite players. The strongest individual correlates of tackling ability were acceleration (r = 0.60, p < 0.001) and lower body muscular power (r = 0.38, p < 0.05). When multiple linear regression analysis was performed to determine which of the physiological and anthropometric characteristics predicted tackling ability, fast acceleration was the only variable that contributed significantly (r2 = 0.24, p < 0.01) to the predictive model. These findings demonstrate that fast acceleration, and to a lesser extent, lower body muscular power contribute to effective tackling ability in junior rugby league players. From a practical perspective, strength and conditioning coaches should emphasize the development of acceleration and lower body muscular power qualities to improve tackling ability in junior rugby league players.

1Brisbane Broncos Rugby League Football Club, Australia; 2School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Australia; and 3Institute of Human Performance, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Address correspondence to Dr. Tim J. Gabbett,

© 2010 National Strength and Conditioning Association