Touch Football does its thing as part of the NRL’s recent south by south-west swing.
By Julian Buckmaster @JulianTFA
The action was fast and furious, end-to-end and showcased a number of NRL stars and athletes of today and tomorrow on the big stage at some of Australia’s best stadia.
The crowds were highly entertained; witnessing super competitive and exciting matches, high-level skills and speed and thrilling finishes both. Each instalment going down to the wire and with hearts in mouth’s and respective benches to their feet with not a lot separating both teams and score-lines.
The matches we refer were perhaps not quite the main attraction in the recent NRL forays to the Southern State capitals of Adelaide and Perth. Rather, the undercards prior to the big games. But it can’t be understated what great undercards they were!
With a selection of some of the finest talent across the southern or ‘Alliance’ states strutting their stuff on the hallowed pitches of Adelaide Oval and NIB stadium in Perth, the six-a-side format again delivered for all participants and those in attendance with equal part fun and entertainment to the fore.
For NRL’s Affiliated States Manager, Martin Meredith it’s a well-worn path and one in which the NRL wants to maintain and continue into the future.
“As part of the NRL’s Strategic Plan we have as a key priority on the calendar the staging of respective NRL Premiership matches in what we refer to as the Affiliated States’ cities of Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart,” he said.
“At every visit and junction we have been very pleased with the response by fans and the community and this year is no exception. To not only come out in force to watch the premiership matches but also be part of and support our wider connection to Touch Football Australia and the partnership overall,” he added.
“We’ve been able to achieve this in recent years at various centres: the Parramatta Eels against the Cowboys and Titans in Darwin and Alice Springs; Storm and Bulldogs in Hobart and more recently Manly and the Warriors in Perth and the Roosters and Storm again in Adelaide.
“The clubs have been terrific in helping to broaden the reach and audience base and they obviously see great value in travelling interstate and forming their own partnerships locally and attracting fans – new and old.
“And we remain optimistic that this will continue but it is great currently to see it embraced by the public in these centres and to pursue the joint opportunities, junior promotions and activations with Touch Football, just some of the benefits.”
Touch Football South Australia State Operations Manager, Kym Ireland spoke highly of the recent Roosters (home) v Storm (away) fixture and noting particularly the positive and flow-on effect it has on not only the growth of Touch Football in South Australia and the connection with the National Rugby League (NRL), but for Touch Football in general.
“The game was a great spectacle for Touch Football in South Australia and the alliance with the NRL,” he said having recently assumed the role with TFA. It shows the strong connection between Touch and Rugby League and how the sport is growing at a rate,” he said.
“This was such a fantastic opportunity to showcase Touch Football to the South Australian public on the iconic Adelaide Oval in front of more than 20,000 spectators. And a key highlight was being able to utilise the magnificent Adelaide Oval facilities in preparation and participation in the game; such an amazing experience for all those involved,” he added.
And as he relayed, as the alliance between TFA and NRL SA continues, exposure of this nature will only benefit both entities’ ability to grow participation for both codes in South Australia.
“The strong positive connection we have with the NRL and being able to showcase our sport in front of a crowd as big as the one in Adelaide speaks volumes of where the sport at large is heading.”
The Touch Football curtain raiser to the at the time top-of-the-table Round 16 NRL fixture at Adelaide Oval on 24 June was effectively an exhibition match showcasing the talents of representatives from South Australia’s respective mixed Alliance Cup and National Youth Championship teams.
Among a host of incredibly talented touch players, you can’t possibly host a high level match of this magnitude without the whistleblower of similar ilk or level. Cue Adelaide-based Amanda Sheeky, Australia’s leading female referee who officiated the match with typical aplomb.
Ultimately it was the Sydney Roosters that crowed the loudest and last snatching an incredible golden point win against the highly fancied Storm at the home of the Crows (and cross-town cousins, Port Power).
Building on the success of the combined event in the city of churches, a similar curtain raiser was staged ahead of the recent NRL blockbuster between Manly Sea Eagles and New Zealand Warriors at nib Stadium on 1 July 2017.
The Manly Sea-Eagles are currently in the second year of a three-year agreement to host matches in Perth; having previously hosted the Australia v New Zealand Test Match in October last year and all set to host Game Two of the 2019 State of Origin series.
The exhibition Touch Football match was part of the wider Friends of Rugby League (FoRL) format held across the country at different points of the year attracting the Federal, State and Local Government among other talents on the Touch paddock.
John Sackson the General Manager NRL WA, was positive in his praise and outlook for the joint initiative and connections ongoing.
“This was the second Friends of Rugby League (FoRL) game staged in Perth; the first being in October the day before the Australia v NZ Test Match,” John relayed after the match.
“It was again rewarding to see Touch Football WA and NRL WA combining together to attract an impressive list of Parliamentarians, Media and Sponsors.
“And playing alongside some of the legends of Rugby League including current Warriors coach and New Zealand greats, Stephen Kearney and Stacey Jones and a key figure in the Menzies’ Touch Football fraternity ex-Manly great, Steve.
“Everyone had a memorable time with the emphasis being on the fun of the game.
“Special congratulations could I add though to Josh Jerga, Senior Policy Advisor to the WA Premier, for earning the Best on Ground Award.”
Mr Jerga. Touch Football. The NRL – everyone’s a winner.