Objectives: The current study retrospectively investigated the differences in anthropometric and fitness characteristics of junior rugby league players selected onto a talent identification and development (TID) programme between long-term career progression levels (i.e., amateur, academy, professional). Design: Retrospective design. Methods: Former junior rugby league players (. N=. 580) selected to a TID programme were grouped according to their career progression level. Anthropometric (height, sitting height, body mass and sum of four skinfolds), maturational and fitness (power, speed, change of direction speed and estimated V˙O2max) assessments were conducted at 13-15 years. Multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) analyzed differences between career progression levels controlling for chronological age. Results: 57.1% and 12.1% of players selected to the TID programme progressed to academy and professional levels in rugby league, respectively. Sum of four skinfolds (η2=0.03), vertical jump (η2=0.02), 10m (η2=0.02), 20m (η2=0.02), 30m (η2=0.02), and 60m (η2=0.03) speed, agility 505 left (η2=0.06), agility 505 right (η2=0.05) and estimated V˙O2max (η2=0.03) were superior within junior players who progressed to professional compared to amateur levels. No significant differences were identified between future academy and professional players for any measure. Conclusions: Findings suggest that lower sum of four skinfolds and advanced fitness characteristics within junior (13-15 years) rugby league players may partially contribute to long-term career progression. Therefore, TID programmes within rugby league should aim to assess and develop body composition and fitness characteristics, especially change of direction speed. However, TID programmes should also consider technical, tactical and psycho-social characteristics of junior rugby league players that may be important for long-term career progression.
- Talent development
- Talent identification