Backing a winner

Published: Monday 30th June 2014

No one has embodied the slogan ‘mate against mate, state against state’ more exhaustively than the School of Exercise Science, which can claim to have a foot in both State of Origin camps.

Course Coordinator (MHPS) Dr Craig Duncan has been working with the NSW team as Principal Sport Scientist while Exercise Science staff from the Strathfield Campus are working with the junior NSW representative players. On the other side of the border, Brisbane-based ACU PhD students are working with the Queensland juniors who play their NSW counterparts in the curtain raiser matches.

The NSW Rugby League created the role for Dr Duncan this year. He and his team of interns are collecting data on players during their preparation before the match as well as during game time. Testing includes GPS data, daily saliva and urine testing, and monitoring of sleep patterns to ascertain fatigue levels. Players from both teams have been trialling high-tech vests with an inbuilt tracking mechanism to measure their bodies’ performance and recovery during and after a game.

The players’ tracking allows coaches to examine their workload and manage fatigue, which is particularly important for the juniors, said Richard Johnston. The PhD student has been involved with the Queensland Under 16s, Under 18s and Residents development side.

“Training workloads for the squad and individual players are reported to the coaching staff each day to ensure that players are doing the right amount of training, not too little as well as not too much. The main battle over the week is getting players from numerous clubs to understand the systems and tactics the coaching staff want them to play.”

Training sessions are often as demanding mentally as they are physically as players come to learn new systems and plays, he said.

“In addition, a comparison between 16s, 18s, and residents is useful for administrators as this is the elite player pathway that players from QLD are likely to take prior to representing the full Origin side.

“Once this information has been collected over a number of training camps, coaches will have a template to follow in order to optimally prepare players for the Wednesday night game.”

Associate Professor David Greene and Craig Duncan are conducting a study on the younger age groups focusing on the physiological and psychological profiling of talented adolescent rugby league players.

The winner of the best of three match series will be determined on Wednesday if NSW wins the second game in Sydney, or will see a showdown in Brisbane on July 9 if Queensland triumphs in game two.