Students put elite young footballers to the test

Students in the Bachelor of Exercise Science program played their part in the football future of elite under-18 players on 7 March by conducting fitness testing on behalf of the AFL.

About 480 players from the 12 teams who make up the TAC Cup competition ran through the measurements, time trials, and power and flexibility exercises that make up the nine tests in the fitness program.

The students' supervisor, exercise physiology lecturer Rob Aughey, said the tests were crucial for players, especially those in the TAC Cup competition, who are jostling for the attention of recruiters ahead of the pre-season draft at the end of the year.

"There were recruiters from 10 of the premierships AFL clubs present on the weekend, so that's an indication of how important these tests are," Dr Aughey said.

"Most clubs are looking for tall and athletic players, and that includes running midfield players, who tend to be able to fill a variety of positions these days.

"Along with football skills and psychological profiling, fitness testing forms the basis of how players are valued and selected. There are exceptions, but failure to perform well on fitness testing can be the reason players fail to make the cut at the top level. We find that even players who tend to be slow on their sprinting and agility tests usually do well on endurance."

Dr Aughey said that relatively few elite players who perform well on the fitness testing do not make good footballers. When that happens it's usually because they are poor kicks or not good decision-makers. Some clubs will still choose to select these players because they believe they can develop those skills.

Although the test results are confidential, a media report on the weekend suggests that local TAC Cup team the Western Jets may have a future AFL star among them. The Sunday Herald Sun reported that forward Jack Fitzpatrick, 17, who stands almost 2m tall, recorded his team's fastest 20m sprint time of 2.89 seconds during the testing regime.

Speed and height being highly sought-after traits, Fitzpatrick may well find himself up the top of the rookie draft list come October if he has a good season this year.

VU's exercise science students also assist with fitness testing for the Jets and the Victorian Women's AFL team. Dr Aughey and his colleagues also conduct regular testing of the Western Bulldogs as part of the partnership between the University and the Footscray-based team.

See all news