It’s all in the eyes for footy’s tough guys
First published 29 May 2012
North Queensland Cowboys rugby league players Ashley Graham and Matt Bowen may have it, others may not – it is the innate ability of some rugby league players to predict an opponent’s change of direction.
The “anticipation” ability is the subject of a James Cook University Sport and Exercise Science student’s Honours project.
Sport and Exercise Science student Jonathon Connor was recently awarded the 2012 Toyota North Queensland Cowboys-James Cook University Honours scholarship to investigate the topic.
Mr Connor said his project, Anticipatory Skills of the stepping manoeuvre on rugby league players, involved identifying whether elite rugby league players could predict an opponent’s change of direction, or "step".
Mr Connor said the study would help determine who had this ability.
“It will hopefully give evidence as to whether some players have an innate ability to extract information, or ‘read the game’ in layman’s terms,” he said.
“This will then be compared to the under-20 players and novices who have never played before.”
Mr Connor said he would be using an "eye-tracker" to measure a player’s focus and performance.
Eye tracking is the process of measuring either the point of gaze ("where we are looking") or the motion of an eye relative to the head.
The eye tracker is small camera fitted to the head, similar to glasses, which measures eye movement.
Eye trackers are used in research on the visual system, in psychology, in cognitive linguistics and in product design.
Mr Connor said he hoped to identify whether there was a link between a player’s ‘quiet eye’, or ability to focus their attention and extract information, and their ability to predict the opponents change of direction
“More importantly, I hope to do further research into identifying where the playmakers are looking and how long it takes them to identify a potential ‘hole’ in the opposition’s defence.
“Also, I’ll be looking at research into where centres or fullbacks are looking right before they make a break through the oppositions defence.”
Mr Connor said he was surprised and grateful for the annual Cowboys-JCU scholarship which is awarded by the Cowboys coaching staff to a project deemed significant to the playing squad performances via the players preparation and on-field performances.
“I applied for the scholarship and presented my idea to the Cowboys who choose me I plan to have results by the end of August to present to Cowboys but will not be published till about March.”
Mr Connor said to his knowledge there had been some research using eye-trackers, but none within rugby league.
Mr Connor can be contacted on: 0407 735 553
JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175.