Previous research has suggested elite Australian footballers undertake pacing strategies to preserve high intensity activity later in matches. However, this research used GPS with slow sample rates, did not express performance relative to minutes played during games and used lowly ranked players.
Therefore in this study movement was recorded by GPS at 5 Hz. Running performance was expressed per period of the match (rotation) divided into low-intensity activity (LIA, 0.10 to 4.17 m⋅s–1); high-intensity running (HIR, 4.17 to 10.00 m⋅s–1) and maximal accelerations (2.78 to 10.00 m⋅s–2). All data were expressed relative to the first period of play in the match and the magnitude of effects was analyzed with the effect size (ES) statistic and expressed with confidence intervals.
The total and LIA distance covered by players did not change by a practically important magnitude during games (ES< 0.20). High intensity running was reduced in both rotations of the second quarter, Q3R2 and both rotations of the fourth quarter (ES -0.30 ± 0.14; -0.42 ± 0.14; -0.30 ± 0.14; -0.42 ± 0.14; and -0.48 ± 0.15 respectively). Maximal acceleration performance was reduced in Q1R2, and each rotation of the second half of matches.
When expressed per minute of game time played, total distance and low intensity activity distance are not reduced by a practically important magnitude in AF players during a match. These data are therefore inconsistent with the concept of team sport players pacing their effort during matches. However, both high intensity running and maximal accelerations are reduced later in games, indicative of significant fatigue in players.