Player burnout: How much Rugby is too much?

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

As flexible Rugby contracts become more prolific, questions over player workload grow: How much Rugby is too much? rugby.com.au spoke to some players and coaches to find out their views on the risk of player burnout.

Bernard Foley

Current Wallaby, Waratah and Ricoh Rugby player

At the end of this Super Rugby season, Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley will have played more than a full calendar year’s worth of Rugby.
Between the 2015 Waratahs campaign, the Rugby Championship, the Wallabies’ run to the World Cup final and a stint with Japanese Top League side Ricoh, his longest break amounts to roughly a month.

Speaking to rugby.com.au in Japan, Foley says he feels better than ever.

“At the moment the body’s in good nick. Touch wood, there’s been no injuries,” he said.

“The way we stay refreshed is finding new challenges and finding something different and that’s exactly what Japan has been for me.

“(It’s) allowed me to refresh mentally allowed my body to focus on different aspects and to understand rugby a little more. Hopefully it’s been a beneficial and going back to the ‘Tahs and into Test season proved to be in a better position than I was last year.”

Mark Gerrard Japanese Rugby player

Mark Gerrard 

Former Wallaby, now professional Rugby player and coach in Japan

Former Wallaby Mark Gerrard has been plying his trade in Japan for the past four years and says players should be cautious when it comes to packing their schedules in.

“Going from the Super Rugby last year into a Rugby Championship and into a Wallaby campaign and the World Cup campaign, coming back into Japanese rugby and going into Super Rugby - just to say that I’m tired,” he said.

“My only concern is management of their workload. I think them individually they need to manage that.

"They know themselves, they’re professional rugby players, that’s the modern game. You’ve got to be up to it and manage it yourself.

“But in saying that I think they need to be careful in that component because a lot of footy it can eat you alive.

“You mightn't see it but it literally does.”

Wallaby great and Waratahs legend Matt Burke

Matthew Burke

Former New South Wales Waratahs Captain and Wallaby great 

Former Wallabies fullback Matt Burke has played both in Australia and overseas and is currently a commentator with Channel Ten.

Burke said management is the key concern over player burnout issues.

“I think it’s a good question because five years ago it was all about minimizing the number of games players were playing.

“Now we’ve got contracts that allow you to play in different competitions and players can play upwards of 40 games a year now.

“The game's getting tougher. The plus for the player is the money.

“The benefit there is for the individual . How they’re managed both here and in Australia is the key thing but both countries are paying good money for that athlete and they want bang for their buck. So I can see it actually being a tricky one over time.

Andy Friend on player burn out in Rugby

Andy Friend

Australian Sevens Head Coach and former coach at Canon and Suntory

Newly appointed Qantas Australia Men’s Sevens coach has been coaching in Japan for the past four years, at both Canon and Suntory.

Friend said the landscape of Rugby has changed dramatically in recent years.

“I think it’s a good question because five years ago it was all about minimizing the number of games players were playing.

“Now we’ve got contracts that allow you to play in different competitions and players can play upwards of 40 games a year.

“The plus for the player is the money. How they’re managed both here (in Japan) and in Australia is the key thing but both countries are paying good money for that athlete and they want bang for their buck.”

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