Australian Football for the Uninitiated

(Last Updated On: August 27, 2016)

When you watch the two sports side by side, it’s hard to believe that Australian Football (more commonly known as Rugby League) and American Football originated from the same game.

Rugby League started in England before British colonists and the British military in Canada brought the game to North America. It, along with association football, became popular in American and Canadian universities where it evolved into American Football.

These shared origins resulted in a number of similarities between the two sports. For example, both sports involve the concept of a limited number of tackles/downs, and in both sports more points are awarded for tries/touchdowns over goal-kicking.

Rugby Training


But that is where the similarities stop.

Professional Rugby League in Australia consists of 16 teams, 26 rounds regular season, played for 80 minutes (two halves 40 minutes), 13 players plus 4 reserves with 10 available interchanges, time off for injuries.  One of the most noticeable differences when comparing Rugby League to American Football is that the same players participate both in offence and defence, without helmets, hard padding or protection.

The offensive team has six tackles per possession. When a tackle is made, there is a play the ball. At the end of the six tackles the team in possession must score a try (touch down), kick a field goal, or kick for field position.

Rugby League combines aerobic fitness (most players average over 6 miles of running per game with little or no rest) & high collisions and forces (most players are involved in over 50 tackles per game). As a result, athletes need to be much leaner than American Footballers, ranging from 200-250lbs, but also with a higher ‘relative’ strength, with professional players lifting between 1.5-2x their bodyweight across all major lifts.


As a result, Rugby League training involves a complex balance of skills & drills, fitness, strength & conditioning. At the professional level our training programs build foundation physical qualities through a series of progressive, high intensity strength and conditioning programs. The individual sessions address speed development, multi directional endurance, strength development, foundation power training and aerobic conditioning with a progression into more team based aerobic power development, specific anaerobic capacity and repeat speed endurance.

If you are looking to take up Rugby League visit Pro Training Programs for a comprehensive list of the physical qualities developed in our 2, 3 & 4 day/week Rugby League training programs.

Cameron West
Director at Pro Training Programs