Socceroos players were driven to exhaustion as they held on for a dogged victory against Tunisia, with indefatigable midfielder Aaron Mooy running for an incredible 11.99km – but how does that stack up compared to other footy codes?
AFL players have long been seen as Australia’s endurance kings as they rack up the kilometres in one of the world’s most demanding sports.
The Socceroos did their compatriots proud with a gut-busting performance in the second half against Tunisia, but they still wouldn’t even make an AFL team’s list of top 15 distances covered per match – such is the incredible 360-degree nature of Aussie Rules.
Then there is the NRL, where massive bodies throw themselves at each other, while smaller halfbacks run all around the park trying to steer the side to victory.
Socceroos defender Harry Souttar lies completely exhausted on the ground while teammates Kye Rowles and Milos Degenek celebrate after the side held on for a memorable 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday night
So how do our three biggest football codes stack up?
The Socceroos put in a huge second-half effort to deny Tunisia and keep their World Cup hopes alive in Saturday night’s 1-0 win in Qatar.
Statistics recently revealed in FIFA’s official match summary show six Socceroos covered more than 10km as Tunisia piled on the pressure in the second half. The Carthage Eagles managed 10 shots on goal in that term – seven of which had to be blocked or saved.
Australia made 273 pressures (62 more than Tunisia) in the game, forcing 88 turnovers and regaining possession 76 times in a remarkable performance. It was the difference in the game and kept our World Cup hopes alive.
Socceroos midfielder Aaron Mooy led from the front for his side against Tunisia, covering almost 12km
Relentless midfielders Aaron Mooy (11.99km) and Jackson Irvine (11.94km) led the way, while defender Kye Rowles covered 10.73km worth of ground.
Mathew Leckie’s (10.30km) efforts up and down the wing stood out, as the Melbourne City star ran 1.11km while sprinting at between 15-20km/hr, and covered 844m between 20-26km/hr.
The side certainly wasn’t at their best against France, with a meek second-half capitulation; but Mooy (12.40km), Irvine (11.38km) and Leckie (11.29km) never stopped trying. The latter also supplied one of the assists of the tournament when he set up Craig Goodwin’s goal.
A startling graph shows the mammoth distances Aussie players covered in the 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday night
The team covered less ground and didn’t have as many sprint attempts after a second-half capitulation against France, but it was still impressive distance-wise nonetheless
Irvine in particular deserves special mention.
The 29-year-old, who now plays with German club FC St. Pauli, was a huge reason why the Socceroos were able to qualify for the World Cup with an unlikely penalty shootout win. Irvine was left ‘broken’ and ‘finished’ after the clash which lasted more than two hours, running for almost 18km in the match.
When it comes to the EPL, English superstar Declan Rice plays big minutes, and managed to still average 7.55km across his long 36-game season; while Portugal and Manchester United midfield general Bruno Fernandes managed similar statistics – highlighting just how impressive the Socceroos have been.
Former GWS, Demons and Hawks running machine Tom Scully has long been the sport’s ground-covering king, and the marathon man may never be overthrown. The 78kg winger holds 10 of the top 25 distances covered in a game, and his record is a phenomenal 18.9km, all while racking up disposals and making tackles.
Former GWS Giants winger and pick one in the 2009 AFL Draft, Tom Scully, holds 10 of the top 25 distances covered in an AFL match
Andrew Gaff (17.6km), Ed Langdon (17.2km) and Sam Walsh (17.1km) are some of the league’s most proficient runners; and all run up and down the wing, predominantly.
Powerfully-built Norm Smith Medallist and premiership hero Christian Petracca typically covers up to 12.5km a game. Reigning Brownlow Medal winner Patrick Cripps, known more for his bulldozing work around the contest than his ability to cover the ground, will run around 11km per match.
In terms of maximum efforts, most AFL games will see players clock up as much as 3km of sprinting, high-intensity bursts. Lightning-fast Bulldogs defender Jason Johannisen has the record for most distance covered at or over 18km/hr, sprinting for an incredible 5km in a match in 2017.
Christian Petracca and Andrew Gaff are some of the league’s top midfielders, but record vastly different average distances covered given their varied roles
The maximum speed reached by an AFL player is 37.4km, by former Tiger and current Sun Oleg Markov, while pint-sized Docker Sam Switkowski reached 37km this season.
Fans can use the Telstra Tracker on the AFL’s app, which gives them a unique insight into just how incredible Aussie Rules athletes are.
Understandably, rugby league players cover far less distance than football or Aussie Rules players, given the game is more focused on collision and impact. NRL stars are also far bigger, with Sharks man-mountain Franklin Pele tipping the scales at 132kg this season.
Panthers superstar Nathan Cleary ran for 10.14km in his side’s preliminary final win over the Rabbitohs earlier this year, while Cowboys half Tom Dearden covered 11.34km in their golden point win over the Sharks.
Panthers stars Dylan Edwards and Nathan Cleary are stand-outs in the NRL for their fitnes
Hard-working fullback Dylan Edwards, perennially underrated by those outside the Panthers, clocked up 8.42km per game in 2022 – 283m more than any other No.1 in the game. That also includes the thankless task of kick returns, where he has to throw his 94kg frame directly into rampaging opponents, who may weigh up to 30kg more than him.
Unlike the AFL, players will typically only cover 600 or so metres at, or over, 20km/h per game.
It will come as a surprise to precisely no one that Bulldogs and Kangaroos flyer Josh Addo-Carr recorded the quickest time this season, reaching a maximum velocity of 38.7km/hr as he scored a hat-trick against the Titans.
Bulldogs flyer Josh Addo-Carr recorded the fastest speed of any NRL player in 2022, getting up to 38.7km/hr against the Titans (pictured)
The Socceroos will play their last game of the group stage on Thursday morning (2am AEDT), and need a win or draw to keep their Round of 16 hopes alive.
The NRL season will kick off on March 2 next year, while the AFL has not released its draw yet.