TFA Volunteer Of The Year Award 5 Web Hero (1)

Nominations for the Bristol Paint Volunteer of the Year award are still open. To nominate a volunteer to be featured as our Volunteer of the Month from your affiliate click here.

Like so many Touch Footballers it’s in the blood. The introduction to the game is forged through our parents, encouraging us to run around on a weekday evening in a family team. An oversized uniform down to our knees, chasing an oversize ball. Before you know it you’re hooked.

For Mitch Collins this rings true. His journey, like so many others started with his parents, particularly his dad. You see, Neil Collins not only played, but he also founded Southern Districts Touch Association, whom some thirty years later son Mitch would take on key voluntary roles including President, Secretary, and Administrator. So, Mitch really had no choice. It was in his blood.

But there’s more to Mitch Collins. Life Memberships are not common. They are reserved for those rare individuals that go well above and beyond the call of duty. What’s even more scarce is to find 30-year old’s being awarded Life Memberships. That’s because it takes a lot of contribution to be jammed into a few short years. But that’s exactly what Mitch Collins’ beloved Southern Districts Touch Association bestowed upon him for his services to the club.

As this month’s Bristol Paint Volunteer of the Month, we chat to Mitch to understand what motivates him to give back to the sport he loves.

Congratulations Mitch, tell us about your Touch Football journey?

Thank you, I guess Touch has always been a part of me. Some of my earliest memories are of our family team that my sister and I played in with our parents. Touch and Southern Districts have always been a big part of my life, my parents are both Life Members of the club, Dad of course founded it and my sister Kristi is now the President.

I guess the point of difference for me growing up in Western Australia (WA) is that Touch Football wasn’t that common, certainly not in the school system over here. I remember wanting to play at primary school but touch wasn’t offered. So, Dad stepped in and coached a team before school so we could play and that continued my love of the game.

Once I got to secondary school I was lucky to attend All Saints College which is a big Touch Football school in WA (over 20 students have gone on to represent WA from this college) which fuelled my representative passion and I was lucky enough to represent WA from there.

I love the sport and I guess my journey has and continues to be fuelled by this.

You’ve been involved in the administration of Southern Districts from a young age, what encouraged you to become involved?

It runs in the family!

Given my family’s history with this club it means everything to me and I want to ensure that it continues to provide a legacy to not just me but all those that volunteer or participate at the club.

I started volunteering in my late teens updating the club website to help the committee, progressed to President and now I’m the Secretary and temporary Administrator (we’re looking for a new Administrator if there’s an interested reader!).

Sport is a release for many and clubs create friendships, break down barriers and provide so many positive outcomes for the community, I’m passionate about ensuring this continues so this definitely motivates me to stay involved.

I actually urge more young people to volunteer at clubs. If you’ve got a good group of people around you it’s not as overwhelming time commitment as you might think and you’d be surprised at what you get out of giving back.

Southern Districts Touch Association turns 40 years old this year. Can you tell us a bit about the history of the competition?

Yeah sure, it’s a big year for us this year.

We were one of the first affiliates established in WA in 1982 by a group of South Perth Rugby League Club members (Dad included) who wanted to play Touch Football over summer.  

Since that time, we’ve become one of the stronger clubs over here thanks to our culture of volunteering, our focus on people and on development.

Forty-years later we’re still operating out of South Perth Rugby League club which has provided us great stability to build a strong connection with the community. We pride ourselves on operating like a business, we’re proud of what our product is and we sell ourselves accordingly.

Over the years this approach has enabled us to build a 40-odd team social competition that produces quality representative players. This has driven us to achieve success both domestically at WA State Championships where we can send up to 11 junior or 8 senior teams per event. We’re also proud to be the home club for a few Australian Emus representatives over the years, most notably former Men’s Open player Stuart Brierty. Not bad from a club in South Perth.

94252987 2935644943138247 2978371897776930816 N

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your role?

Attracting and retaining volunteers is always a challenge, not just for me but all sports and no doubt this will continue given the disruption caused by the pandemic.

In WA, getting juniors to participate is difficult given the popularity of AFL and other sports. I also coach the School Sport WA 12 boys’ team and it’s a tough sell to attract enough boys to pick up Touch over Aussie Rules etc.

Due to the heritage and social economic status of most of the kids that do pick up our sport (at representative level) cost is also a significant challenge for us – it’s not cheap to fly to the east coast and back for tournaments so I often find myself with other coaches organising swap meets to sell clothes, furniture and other items so families can afford to send their kids on these trips.

And your biggest achievements?

A few years ago Southern Districts was in a declining financial position, Sarah Green (President at the time), myself and others came up with the unique idea to run a beach touch tournament targeted at non-members to generate revenue to get the club back on its feet.

That competition and business grew over the next seven years to feature over 80 teams per year across two events, one in Perth and one in Broome and was purchased by TFA in 2021.

I’m really proud of what we built with Beach Touch. Primarily for getting the club back in the black in the early days but also for the business and event that in turned into.

On the field coaching the WA School Sport 12 boys’ team and losing a drop off (4-3) in my first year coaching at the Pacific School Games against ACT is a highlight. Even though we didn’t win I was so proud of our efforts. In WA we don’t get an age dispensation to play 13-year old’s as other states do, so we had a team of inexperienced 12-year old’s take it right to a more experienced opposition.

Receiving Life Membership from our club before I was 30 years old is something I’m immensely proud of. To be recognised by my peers and the club I love for my contributions is very special.

What do you believe has been the biggest improvement or advancement in the sport from your perspective?

I think the commercialisation of the sport continues to position Touch Football as a relevant and popular sport as it creates exposure, creditability, and awareness.

The alignment with the NRL, companies such as DoorDash getting behind the sport and the Kayo broadcast deal are examples of this. When people see our game played on TV with mainstream sponsors it helps us become a sport of choice especially in non NRL states through exposure, creditability, endorsement etc.

DSC 2948

What are your favourite Touch Football memories?

Well, I have never won a Men’s open title for Southern at WA State Champs after a decade of trying, so not that!

I’ll always look back fondly on seeing hundreds of people on a perfect summers day on Scarborough Beach playing in the event we created.  That was pretty special given the amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into that.

But I think most of all it’s the friendships made. My friendship circle is from Touch Football and I have countless memories from this group that the sport has provided me.

Finally, If you were to win the Bristol Paint Volunteer of the Year award and $15,000 worth of prizes towards a home or club renovation – what projects come to mind?

Well, we rent our clubrooms so I guess it would be my house, although if I was lucky enough to win I’d be inclined to see if Bristol Paint could help our club in some other way.

Principal Partner

Major Partners

Official Partners

Government Partners