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Correlates of Tackling Ability in High-Performance Rugby League Players

Gabbett, Tim J1,2; Jenkins, David G1; Abernethy, Bruce1,3

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: January 2011 - Volume 25 - Issue 1 - pp 72-79
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181ff506f
Original Research

Gabbett, TJ, Jenkins, DG, and Abernethy, B. Correlates of tackling ability in high-performance rugby league players. J Strength Cond Res 25(1): 72-79, 2010-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.

1School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia; 2School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Queensland, Australia; and 3Institute of Human Performance, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Address correspondence to Dr. Tim J. Gabbett,

© 2011 National Strength and Conditioning Association