Physiological and anthropometric characteristics of junior elite and sub-elite rugby league players, with special reference to starters and non-starters

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While several studies have documented the physiological and anthropometric characteristics of senior rugby league players, investigations of the physical qualities of junior rugby league players are limited. The purpose of this study was to investigate the physical qualities of junior rugby league players competing at the elite and sub-elite level, and determine if pre-season fitness measures were significantly different for the players selected to play in the first game of the season (i.e. starters) compared to the players not selected (i.e. non-starters). Thirty-six junior sub-elite and 28 junior elite rugby league players participated in this study. All sub-elite players were registered with the same junior recreational rugby league club, while elite players were members of a National Rugby League club junior development program. Subjects underwent measurements of anthropometry (height, body mass, and sum of seven skinfolds), speed (10 m, 20 m, and 40 m sprint), change of direction speed (505 test), estimated lower body power (vertical jump), and estimated maximal aerobic power (multi-stage fitness test) at the beginning of the competitive season. Elite players had better developed speed, change of direction speed, vertical jump, and maximal aerobic power than sub-elite players. Elite starters were taller and heavier than non-starters, while sub-elite starters were taller and had greater change of direction speed than non-starters. A high estimated maximal aerobic power was a common discriminator between starters and non-starters for both elite and sub-elite competitors. These findings demonstrate that some physical qualities can discriminate starters and non-starters in elite and sub-elite junior rugby league teams.

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Journal Article

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