This study examined the relationships between tackling ability, playing position, muscle strength and power qualities, and match-play tackling performance in semiprofessional rugby league players.
Sixteen semiprofessional rugby league players (mean ± SD age 23.8 ± 1.9 y) underwent tests for muscle strength and power. Tackling ability of the players was tested using video analysis of a standardized 1-on-1 tackling drill. After controlling for playing position, players were divided into “good tackler” or “poor tackler” groups based on the median split of the results of the 1-on-1 tackling drill. A total of 4547 tackles were analyzed from video recordings of 23 matches played throughout the season.
Maximal squat was significantly associated with tackling ability (rS = .71, P < .05) and with the proportion of dominant tackles (rS = .63, P < .01). Forwards performed more tackles (P = .013, ES = 1.49), with a lower proportion of missed tackles (P = .03, ES = 1.38) than backs. Good tacklers were involved in a larger proportion of dominant tackles and smaller proportion of missed tackles than poor tacklers.
These findings demonstrate that lower-body strength contributes to more effective tackling performance during both a standardized tackling assessment and match play. Furthermore, players with good tackling ability in a proficiency test were involved in a higher proportion of dominant tackles and missed a smaller proportion of tackles during match play. These results provide further evidence of the practical utility of an off-field tackling assessment in supplying information predictive of tackling performance in competition.
Speranza, Gabbett, and Johnston are with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, Australia. Sheppard is with the School of Exercise and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia.