Exploring the effect of various match factors on team playing styles in the National Rugby League

Wedding, C., Woods, C.T., Sinclair, W.H., Gomez Ruano, M.A., and Leicht, A.S. (2021) Exploring the effect of various match factors on team playing styles in the National Rugby League. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 16 (4). pp. 976-984.

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Abstract

Objectives: This study examined the effect of match location, score-line, team quality and match outcome on the expression of team playing styles in the National Rugby League (NRL) across the 2015–2019 seasons.

Methods: Thirty-eight performance indicators (e.g. offloads, runs) from all NRL games (n = 2010) were collected. Match-related factors examined were location (home/away/neutral), match type (absolute score differential), team quality (end of season ladder position) and outcome (win/draw/loss). Factor analysis using principal component analysis (PCA) were run to identify team playing styles, which were inferred from the clustered dimensions (Factors) of team performance indicators. Discriminant analysis was then used to determine the effect of the match factors on team playing styles.

Results: PCA revealed nine Factors accounting for ∼54% of team performance variance. Discriminant analysis did not meaningfully resolve team playing styles for match type, team quality or location (∼34%, ∼46% and ∼58% classification accuracy, respectively). One discriminant function correctly classified ∼81% of matches based on outcome, including four team playing styles defined as ‘attacking play’, ‘linebreaks’, ‘handling errors’ and ‘conceded linebreaks’.

Conclusions: Team playing styles characterised by ‘attacking play’ and ‘linebreaks’, coupled with relative defensive efficiency showed the greatest association with winning regardless of team quality, match location or match type. Using similar sport analytical techniques, additional insight into the importance of various team playing styles over the time-course of a match may allow teams to further extrapolate the likelihood of success in real-time.

Item ID: 70759
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2048-397X
Keywords: performance analysis, rugby football, sport analytics
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2021
Funders: Australian Government Research Training Scholarship, North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2021 02:29
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4207 Sports science and exercise > 420799 Sports science and exercise not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2099 Other health > 209999 Other health not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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