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The Perceptions of Elite Professional Rugby League Players and Staff on the National Rugby League Annual Calendar: A Mixed-Methods Study

  • Fazackerley, Lewis
  • Minett, Geoffrey
  • Clark, James
  • Kelly, Vince
Publication Date
Jun 13, 2023
Queensland University of Technology ePrints Archive


Background<br/>In recent years, the length of elite sporting competitions has raised concerns regarding player well-being, highlighting a need to review current match calendars. Therefore, this study aimed to explore the perceptions of elite National Rugby League (NRL) players and staff on the annual training and competition calendar from a player workload and well-being perspective.<br/><br/>Methods<br/>This study adopted a mixed-methods approach, using a sequential explanatory design. Phase one implemented a cross-sectional survey, and phase two utilised semi-structured interviews. Four hundred and thirty-nine elite rugby league players and 46 staff completed the survey. Eighteen elite professional NRL players and six football staff were interviewed, and verbal data were analysed into pre-defined topic summaries using qualitative coding reliability methods. Topics included in-season, off-season, pre-season and well-being.<br/><br/>Results<br/>Data analysis suggests that elite NRL players and staff believe players appear particularly comfortable with the current number of games; however, they are at their maximum capacity. Importantly, this study identified several minority groups that may require support to enhance player well-being. Players believe reducing the pre-season would negate fatigue experienced later in the subsequent season. Players and staff believe this timeframe still provides sufficient time to prepare for the upcoming season. Further, players were open to extending the off-season to 8–10 weeks and believed that extra time would allow for greater recovery from the previous season. Mid-season congested scheduling affects players following the intensified period and requires attention to alleviate fatigue.<br/><br/>Conclusion<br/>The results of this study convey important implications for the NRL, emphasising a need to review their annual training and competitive calendar, or to implement specific strategies to enhance the well-being of minority groups. The findings from this study should be considered when discussing the ideal length and structure of the match calendar to support players’ physical and mental welfare.

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