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Exploring Talent Identification in Australian Rules Football: The Nuances of the Athlete Recruitment Process

Larkin, Paul; Bonney, Nathan; Dugdale, James H.; Kittel, Aden; Reeves, Matthew J.


Paul Larkin

Nathan Bonney

Aden Kittel

Matthew J. Reeves


The process of talent identification and recruitment is a key element of the elite athlete talent pathway. As such, it is important to understand the information and specific processes used by expert recruiters to inform talent identification decisions. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the perspectives of talent identifiers in relation to their conceptions of talent and the information they collect and interpret to inform their talent identification decisions. Participating in the study were 13 heads of recruitment at elite Australian Football League clubs. They were deemed experts in their field and were responsible for the selection and recruitment of players at their respective clubs. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews conducted via teleconferencing, with thematic analysis used to identify key themes. Thematic analysis of interview data generated two first order themes: (1) Understanding Talent and (2) Talent Identification Process. Four second order themes emerged from the data: (1a) Defining Talent, (1b) Athlete Attributes, (2a) Talent List Development, and(2b) Recruiter Tasks. From these second order themes, 12 associated third order themes were produced (e.g., projecting growth/athlete potential, initial identification process, refining the list, and the final decision). In particular, the findings highlight how the recruiters assess talent based on game performance and athlete intent (i.e., "giving 100%"), rather than performance at physical testing sessions, and the psychological profile of the athletes. Overall, the findings emphasize the complexity associated with elite-level talent identification and provide insight for practitioners and researchers aiming to understand and explain the talent identification process.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 16, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 18, 2022
Publication Date 2022-12
Deposit Date Jan 5, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 6, 2023
Journal Journal of Expertise
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 4
Pages 169-183
Keywords Elite performance; scouting; talent prediction; talent selection; expertise
Public URL
Publisher URL


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