Touch Football in Australia is booming due to its inclusive nature and non-contact format.
Office workers play it in the park at lunchtime. Families play it at the beach. Schoolkids arch their backs to squeeze past a lunging mate on their way to score. Friends join competitions and play at night. If there are enough people around, a game of Touch Footy could break out at just about any moment. And there are so many tournaments Touch Football Australia has enlisted the help of Stage and Screen to manage their travel.
These athletes may never score the winning try in a rugby league State of Origin match, but they’ll be having just as much fun. Touch Football is easy to play, totally inclusive and taps into the excitement and skills of the ‘Greatest Game of All’. Games are fast and exhilarating and retain all the skills and movements without the bone-jarring tackle, biff or nightclub incidents.
Touch Football Australia CEO Colm Maguire played in Australia’s victorious World Cup men’s team in Japan in 2003, overcoming not just New Zealand in the final but the outbreak of the SARS virus and an earthquake. They won in a thrilling, sudden-death Drop-Off – a golden try decider with steadily reducing numbers of on-field players.
According to Colm, the secret to Touch Football’s success is its social nature.
“Friends and colleagues can get together and have a game anywhere. And mixed competitions make it easy to get a team together. I play in a mixed team with my 10 and 14 year-old daughters. Age is no barrier either and you can play from the time you can pick up a ball until your seventies or beyond,” he says.
There are hundreds of competitions throughout Australia and each state has a Touch Football Association that will point you towards the touchdown line. Whether you want a social run around or a high-level competition, there is a game of Touch Footy for you.
Colm has big plans for Touch Footy too.
“We currently have 672,000 players – including 350,000 juniors - around Australia and we are aiming for a million by 2020. The split is about 55/45 males and females. The easy accessibility and non-contact format make Touch very popular and we often have families or groups of friends joining up together.”
The National Rugby League and Touch Football Australia entered into an historic partnership in 2013 to work together, build both codes and create a ‘wider rugby league family’. Their joint slogan: ‘A place on the field for everyone’ says it all.
“The partnership with the NRL has been fantastic for Touch. The two sports are naturally aligned and we benefit from their scale and profile and they get access to our extended, broad demographic. Lots of people play both codes,” says Colm.
Touch is a home-grown success story. The game was invented by South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club in the 1960s and has grown into a sport played around the world. The last Touch Football World Cup - held in Coffs Harbour in 2015 - saw 99 teams from 25 nations compete in nine divisions. And Aussies are pretty good at it too. Australia won eight of the nine divisions, beating the Kiwis in the Men’s Open, Women’s Open, Mixed Open and Senior’s Open Finals. Sweet! Australia also tasted success in four of the five age competitions. In fact, Australia has won every Men’s Open and Women’s Open World Cup final since the competition’s inception in 1988.
To find out more, or to join a team or a training program, visit www.touchfootball.com.au
Get involved and unlock your own sporting potential – there really is a place on the field for you.
By Mal Chenu