Purpose: To develop position-specific career performance trajectories and determine the age of peak performance of professional Australian Football players. Methods: Match performance data (Australian Football League [AFL] Player Rank) were collected for Australian Football players drafted via the AFL National Draft between 1999 and 2015 (N = 207). Players were subdivided into playing positions: forwards (n = 60; age 23  y), defenders (n = 71; age 24  y), midfielders (n = 58; age 24  y), and ruckmen (n = 18; age 24  y). Linear mixed models were fitted to the data to estimate individual career trajectories. Results: Forwards, midfielders, and defenders experienced peak match performance earlier than ruckmen (24–25 vs 27 y). Midfielders demonstrated the greatest between-subjects variability (intercept 0.580, age 0.0286) in comparison with ruckmen, who demonstrated the least variability (intercept 0.112, age 0.005) in AFL Player Rank throughout their careers. Age had the greatest influence on the career trajectory of midfielders (β [SE] = 0.226 [0.025], T = 9.10, P < .01) and the least effect on ruckmen (β [SE] = 0.114 [0.049], T = 2.30, P = .02). Conclusions: Professional Australian Football players peak in match performance between 24 and 27 years of age with age, having the greatest influence on the match performance of midfielders and the least on ruckmen.
The authors are with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney, NSW, Australia. Sullivan, Kempton, and Coutts are also with the Carlton Football Club, Carlton, VIC, Australia. Ward is also with the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle, WA, USA.
LongoAF, SiffrediCR, CardeyML, AquilinoGD, LentiniNA. Age of peak performance in Olympic sports: a comparative research among disciplines. J Hum Sport Exerc. 2016;11(1):31–41. doi:10.14198/jhse.2016.111.03)| false
McIntoshS, KovalchikS, RobertsonS. Examination of player role in the Australian Football League using match performance data. Int J Perform Anal Sport. 2018;18(3):451–462. doi:10.1080/24748668.2018.1486116)| false
HeasmanJ, DawsonB, BerryJ, StewartG. Development and validation of a player impact ranking system in Australian football. Int J Perform Anal Sport. 2008;8(3):156–171. doi:10.1080/24748668.2008.11868457)| false
KalénA, ReyE, de Rellán-GuerraAS, Lago-PeñasC. Are soccer players older now than before? Aging trends and market value in the last three decades of the UEFA champions league. Front Psychol. 2019;10:76.
KalénA, ReyE, de Rellán-GuerraAS, Lago-PeñasC. Are soccer players older now than before? Aging trends and market value in the last three decades of the UEFA champions league. Front Psychol. 2019;10:76.3074588910.3389/fpsyg.2019.00076)| false
McIntoshS, KovalchikS, RobertsonS. Multifactorial benchmarking of longitudinal player performance in the Australian Football League. Front Psychol. 2019;10:1283. PubMed ID: 31214087 doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.0128331214087)| false
KwokO-M, UnderhillAT, BerryJW, LuoW, ElliottTR, YoonM. Analyzing longitudinal data with multilevel models: an example with individuals living with lower extremity intra-articular fractures. Rehab Psychol. 2008;53(3):370–386. doi:
KwokO-M, UnderhillAT, BerryJW, LuoW, ElliottTR, YoonM. Analyzing longitudinal data with multilevel models: an example with individuals living with lower extremity intra-articular fractures. Rehab Psychol. 2008;53(3):370–386. doi:10.1037/a0012765)| false
HopkinsWG, MarshallSW, BatterhamAM, HaninJ. Progressive statistics for studies in sports medicine and exercise science. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(1):3–13. PubMed ID: 19092709 doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31818cb27819092709)| false
SchulzR, MusaD, StaszewskiJ, SieglerRS. The relationship between age and major league baseball performance: implications for development. Psychol Aging. 1994;9(2):274–286. PubMed ID: 8054176 doi:10.1037/0882-79220.127.116.1148054176)| false
DawsonB, HopkinsonR, ApplebyB, StewartG, RobertsC. Player movement patterns and game activities in the Australian Football League. J Sci Med Sport. 2004;7(3):278–291. PubMed ID: 15518293 doi:10.1016/S1440-2440(04)80023-915518293)| false