Controversy over a negative experiential state among players, discussed as "burnout" in media reports, stimulated the New Zealand Rugby Union to commission research (including the present study) into players' experiences. Athlete burnout research to date has largely been limited to studies featuring cross-sectional designs. The purpose of this study was to examine changes in the key characteristics of burnout over a "rugby year", a 30-week competitive period involving two or more independent competitions. Players completed the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire at three different times during the 30-week competitive rugby year. Some statistically significant changes were observed in key characteristics of burnout across the competitive rugby year. Specifically players reported that their feelings of reduced accomplishment increased pre-competition to in-competition phases. Changes in exhaustion over time were associated with playing position. Burnout was also associated with injury, non-selection, rugby experience and team membership. Overall the results reflect that burnout is a dynamic experience and indicate that factors such as playing position, injury, selection and starting status are worthy of further investigation. (c) 2006 Sports Medicine Australia. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.