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Player match statistics in junior Australian football (AF) are not well documented, and contributors to success are poorly understood. A clearer understanding of the relationships between fitness and skill in younger players participating at the foundation level of the performance pathway in AF has implications for the development of coaching priorities (eg, physical or technical).
To investigate the relationships between indices of fitness (speed, power, and endurance) and skill (coach rating) on player performance (disposals and effective disposals) in junior AF.
Junior male AF players (N = 156, 10–15 y old) were recruited from 12 teams of a single amateur recreational AF club located in metropolitan Victoria. All players were tested for fitness (20-m sprint, vertical jump, 20-m shuttle run) and rated by their coach on a 6-point Likert scale for skill (within a team in comparison with their teammates). Player performance was assessed during a single match in which disposals and their effectiveness were coded from a video recording.
Coach rating of skill displayed the strongest correlations and, combined with 20-m shuttle test, showed a good ability to predict the number of both disposals and effective disposals. None of the skill or fitness attributes adequately explained the percentage of effective disposals. The influence of team did not meaningfully contribute to the performance of any of the models.
Skill development should be considered a high priority by coaches in junior AF.
All authors were with the Centre for Exercise and Sport Science, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia, at the time of the study. Robertson and Spittle are currently with Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.