The NRL grand final is shaping up as a Sydney city showdown, but new research from the University of Sydney confirms country footy clubs breed more professional Rugby League stars than the major cities.
The research published in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching shows players who began as juniors in a country club are statistically overrepresented in the National Rugby League (NRL) competition.
Dr Stephen Cobley from the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences examined the ages and first clubs of NRL players’ between 1998 and 2010.
“The playing field isn’t even when it comes to clubs at a junior level,” Dr Cobley said.
“Our research reveals if you started out as a junior in a small country town the odds are stacked in your favour.
“Statistically, it’s more likely that you will go on to play at a professional level compared to a junior who starts their participation at a club within a big city.”
Rugby League is a sport based on strength, stamina, skill and agility but the research reveals it’s a numbers game too when it comes to first club location and town population.
The data appears to support the idea small rural communities have a more beneficial playing or social environment which helps to nurture professional players in the long-term.
While about 8% of the Australian population lives in a small town, more than 16% of professional NRL players started as a junior in a town with a population less than 10,000 people.
And while more than 21% of Australians live in a town or city with between one and two million people, only 6.57% of professional players had their start in rugby league clubs in cities of this size.
The research highlights how characteristics of the social environment can influence long-term patterns of athlete development and attainment in Australian Rugby League.
The next step in the research is gaining a better understanding of the coaching and playing environment at the youth level in these smaller communities.
Here are the numbers:
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