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Performance Analysis of Professional, Semiprofessional, and Junior Elite Rugby League Match-Play Using Global Positioning Systems

McLellan, Christopher P.1; Lovell, Dale I.2

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: December 2013 - Volume 27 - Issue 12 - p 3266–3274
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31828f1d74
Original Research

Abstract: McLellan, CP and Lovell, DI. Performance analysis of professional, semiprofessional, and junior elite rugby league match-play using global positioning systems. J Strength Cond Res 27(12): 3266–3274, 2013—The aim of the present study was to examine the positional differences in physical performance measures of professional, semiprofessional, and junior elite rugby league match-play using portable Global Positioning Systems (GPSs). Twelve professional, 12 semiprofessional, and 18 junior elite male rugby league players were monitored during 5 regular-season competition matches using portable GPS software. The mean total distance traveled during professional (8,371 ± 897 m) and semiprofessional (7,277 ± 734 m) match-play was significantly (p < 0.05) greater than that traveled during elite junior (4,646 ± 978 m) match-play. Position-specific total distance traveled and distance traveled per minute of playing time were significantly (p < 0.05) less for junior elite backs (5,768 ± 765 m; 74 ± 11 m·min−1) and forwards (4,774 ± 564 m; 82 ± 5 m·min−1) in comparison to those in professional (backs: 8,158 ± 673 m; 101 ± 8 m·min−1 and forwards: 8,442 ± 812 m; 98 ± 12 m·min−1) and semiprofessional (backs: 7,505 ± 765 m; 94 ± 8 m·min−1 and forwards: 6,701 ± 678 m; 89 ± 8 m·min−1) match-play. Maximum running speed, maximum sprints, and total sprint distance traveled by professional players were all significantly (p < 0.05) greater than those traveled by junior elite players but not semiprofessional players during match-play. Professional backs and forwards performed significantly (p < 0.05) more maximum sprints and traveled greater total distance during match-play in comparison to semiprofessional and junior elite players. The present findings demonstrate minimal differences in the physical performance measures of professional and semiprofessional rugby league match-play. The position-specific performance characteristics of junior elite match-play indicate that current junior elite player-development pathways may not provide adequate preparation for players transitioning into professional competition.

1Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia; and

2School of Health and Sport Sciences, Faculty of Science, Health & Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Queensland, Australia

Address correspondence to Dr. Christopher P. McLellan,

Copyright © 2013 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.