Match analysis and the physiological demands of Australian football

Sports Med. 2010 Apr 1;40(4):347-60. doi: 10.2165/11531400-000000000-00000.


Australian Football, the most popular football code in Australia, is a contact sport played by two teams of 18 players who contest play over four 20-minute quarters; the object of the game is to score the most points through goal kicking. Sixteen professional senior sides compete against each other in the Australian Football League (AFL) and, similar to other football codes, game demands at the elite level in the AFL have changed considerably in recent years. Early time-motion analysis studies highlighted the long periods of time players spent in low intensity activities (standing and walking). While recent studies utilizing global positioning systems (GPS) technology are somewhat in agreement with earlier findings, available evidence suggests that the game is getting faster. For example, 'playing on' after a mark (a feature of the game where players who catch the ball on the full from a kick longer than 15 m are awarded a free kick) is now much quicker. Indeed, rule changes in recent years have increased the flow and speed of the game; there has been a reduction in the time taken for umpires to restart play, and for players to kick-in (after the opposition kicks a behind) or take a set shot at goal. Nomadic players (a broad term for midfielders and ruckmen because they follow play over the entire playing field) cover slightly greater distances (12,310 m) than both forwards (11,920 m) and backs (11,880 m) in a game. Compared with players in other positions, midfielders are consistently found to spend the most time at higher intensities (running and sprint efforts with movement velocities > 4.44 m/sec), complete more high intensity efforts (approximately 98 per game), sustain them for longer and have shorter recovery periods between high intensity exercise bouts (approximately 90 seconds on average). 'Ruckmen' have similar but less intense running profiles, while forwards and backs generally have less game involvement but have a more intermittent running profile (longer recovery periods with shorter duration high intensity exercise bouts and less time spent in constant pace running). Endurance fitness remains very important for players at the elite level of competition, as does upper and lower body strength and power. In addition, given the increasing speed at which Australian Football is now played, repeated sprint ability of players is arguably more important now than it was in previous years. There are no significant differences in these measures between playing position. Similarly, speed over 10-40 m does not appear to differ between playing position. Establishing the reliability of distance and velocity-derived GPS data in highly specific game-related activities is needed; once achieved, GPS data have the potential to accurately inform coaches of the position-specific demands on their players and to drive the development of training practices that reflect the changing demands of the game.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Australia
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Soccer / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis