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Rugby League beats AFL to live player tracking maps

Tonight’s State of Origin rugby league match between New South Wales and Queensland will be the first Australian sporting event to feature live GPS player maps.

Channel Nine in conjunction with the NRL has announced the exciting addition of a state-of the-art GPS player tracking system, the Telstra Tracker, to deliver in-match technology to viewers in State of Origin I on Wednesday, May 31.

Live information including speed, distance covered, heat maps of where players have been on the field will all be incorporated into this Australian-first technology – and a first for rugby league broadcasting.

The Telstra Tracker is made possible through a collaboration between Nine, the NRL, NSWRL, the QRL along with a global leader in GPS player tracking, Catapult. Together they will unveil a system that NRL clubs and coaches have been using to measure players’ key performance indicators.

How player tracking works

Catapult’s system has been in use for the past few years across a number of different sporting codes, including Rugby League and Australian Football League teams. However, until now it has mostly been used for private club use in Australia.

Catapult’s technology was developed in Australia and uses small tracking devices strapped to each player’s back. These transmit signals to a Catapult’s local positioning system, ClearSky, which consists of multiple sensors situated around the stadium.

Catapult’s technology uses small tracking devices strapped to each player’s back.

Based on the strength of the signals, ClearSky can determine pinpoint player movement traces with next-level micro-movement analysis for measuring performance.

Since ClearSky uses a pre-installed stadium infrastructure, no satellites are needed and it is therefore not GPS at all. It also means that the system can be used in partially covered stadium’s including Suncorp Stadium, in Brisbane.

In the case of tonight’s game, the resulting data will be even more accurate than conventional mobile-GPS as it will use 20 beacons placed around Suncorp Stadium. The data is therefore expected to be accurate to within 15 centimetres.

What it takes to play

Executive Producer of Channel Nine NRL Ben Clark said, “We’re really excited to add the Telstra Tracker to our State of Origin broadcast. It has been a massive effort by all parties to make this happen, with viewers the big winners.”

“The data we’ll display will take the audience deeper into the inner sanctum of what’s available to players and coaches during a match and give everyone watching a greater understanding of what it takes to play rugby league at the ultimate level.”

Even in a partially covered stadium like Suncorp Stadium, the Telstra Tracker will be able to achieve position accuracy down to 15cm. Image: Google.

Nine Wide World of Sports Head of Creative Alex Rolls, says: “There are reasons all 16 clubs have been using this information to analyse players’ performances game in, game out.  We are excited that the Wide World of Sports NRL is partnering with the NRL to bring viewers closer to the action.”

“We’re going to compare hookers, who’s doing the work, who’s covering the most metres, who’s the fastest winger, and heat maps showing comparing the all the big Origin player match-ups.”

NRL Head of Strategy David Silverton says: “This is a very exciting initiative for the game which will have significant benefits not only for our fans but for players as well.”

“With this advanced technology, viewers will be able to access new insights into how the game is played and it will no doubt further highlight the unbelievable athletic qualities of the best of the best in rugby league.”

New South Wales will face Queensland at State of Origin tonight Wednesday 31 May at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and will be broadcast live from channel 9 from 7:30pm, complete with its new GPS player maps.

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