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To evaluate the movement and physiological demands of Australasian National Rugby League (NRL) referees, officiating with a 2-referee (ie, lead and pocket) system, and to compare the demands of the lead and pocket referees.


Global positioning system devices (10 Hz) were used to obtain 86 data sets (lead, n = 41; pocket, n = 45) on 19 NRL referees. Total distance, relative distance covered, and heart rate per half and across match play were examined within and between referees using t tests. Distance, time, and number of movement “efforts” were examined in 6 velocity classifications (ie, standing <0.5, walking 0.51–2.0, jogging 2.01–4.0, running 4.01–5.5, high-speed running 5.51–7.0, and sprinting >7.0 m/s) using analysis of variance. Cohen d effect sizes are reported.


There were no significant differences between the lead and pocket referees for any movement or physiological variable. There was an overall significant (large, very large) effect for distance (% distance) and time (% time) (P < .001) between velocity classifications for both the lead and pocket referees. Both roles covered the largest distance and number of efforts at velocities of 0.51–2.0 m/s and 2.01–4.0 m/s, which were interspersed with efforts >5.51 m/s.


Findings highlight the intermittent nature of rugby league refereeing but show that there were no differences in the movement and physiological demands of the 2 refereeing roles. Findings are valuable for those responsible for the preparation, training, and conditioning of NRL referees and to ensure that training prepares for and simulates match demands.

Brightmore, O’Hara, Till, Emmonds, and Cooke are with the Research Inst for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, United Kingdom. Cobley and Hubka are with the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Amy Brightmore at