Touch Football is one of the only sports that was invented in Australia. It's a sport that's been formally recognised for more than 50 years. The sport's Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 2018.
The founding fathers of Touch Football were Bob Dyke and Ray Vawdon, of the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club, who invented it as a method of training for Rugby League and as a means of allowing retired players to keep running around in a competitive game.
By 1968, Touch Football had become a stand-alone sport when the South Sydney Touch Football Club was formed.
Bob’s involvement in the game started in the 1960s when with Ray Vawdon, he helped create the sport. They formed the South Sydney Touch Association in 1968 before founding the New South Wales Touch Association in 1972, and he was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Australian Touch Association in 1978. He was instrumental in the drawing up of the official rules of the sport and competition structures. He visited many ‘informal’ Touch Football gatherings sharing his and Ray’s vision assisting them form associations and structured competitions.
“We didn’t invent Touch, Touch was just something that was ad-libbed by people running around parks and beaches and it was something that was never harnessed into a competition. We thought we’d harness it," said Ray.
"We got a few players to go down and we finished up with six teams and that’s how it started and it grew from there. You wouldn’t believe how it grew. It was just something that went so easy, when the word got around ‘what do we do now, we’ve all retired from football’ well that was the answer, Touch.”
“Queensland, they came in next and then Tasmania and Victoria and then the others followed. And then we suddenly had a national spread. The first big game we had internationally was in 1976 where we took a team to New Zealand.”
As competitions grew and began to filter out from city centers, the need for uniformity arose. State associations were formed and in 1978 the Australian Touch Association (now known as Touch Football Australia) was founded. Two years later, in 1980, the first national championship was held. It was during this period that Touch Football began to develop its own unique set of rules and culture, to become a sport in its own right.
The rules, skills and concepts of the game have evolved progressively throughout the years, and Touch Football has developed into its own unique sport, attracting people from all walks of life, and for differing reasons.
Touch Football was originally devised as a method of training for Rugby League teams, however, it was quickly evident that Touch Football was an excellent sport for people of all ages, demographics and sporting abilities. It swiftly became recognised as a social sport in which men and women could compete together, and from that point the development and expansion of the sport was rapid.