On 18th April 2018, Touch Football Australia (TFA) CEO Steve Mitchell and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg announced that a brand new NRL Touch Premiership will commence this year, whereby elite touch football teams aligned with NRL clubs will play touch football games as curtain-raisers to NRL games. And today, the six NRL clubs that will have teams in the Premiership’s inaugural year have been announced.
Three NRL clubs from New South Wales, and three clubs from Queensland, will have teams: the Parramatta Eels, Wests Tigers, Newcastle Knights, Gold Coast Titans, Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys.
Each club will have two teams – a women’s team and a men’s team – playing in the tournament, equalling 12 NRL Touch teams in total.
A 30-minute men’s game and a 30-minute women’s game will be played prior to the main rugby league event, tapping off from the NRL’s Round 11 on Friday 18th May 2018.
Branding, including uniforms, will align with the branding of each namesake NRL club.
The inaugural Premiership will consist of six games plus a final. Queensland teams and NSW teams will compete against each other in separate pools, with the winners from each pool progressing to the Premiership Final.
TFA CEO Steve Mitchell is thrilled to be working with the six clubs to bring the Premiership to life. “We’re grateful for the support these clubs are giving the teams and the Premiership, and we believe it will be exciting for touch players, particularly kids, in these clubs’ regions to see the sports come together, and to realise that they can aspire to play either elite rugby league or elite touch football.”
The touch games will be broadcast nationally, as a mix of live and delayed broadcasts.
Players are being selected from the current pool of elite NRL Touch Football players, who compete in the Elite 8 domestic tournament annually, as well as in international tournaments such as the Touch World Cup and the Trans-Tasman.
Why TFA CEO Steve Mitchell is excited about working with the:
Wests Tigers: “Tigers star Benji Marshall is just one of the many NRL players who came from a touch football background, and who credit their skills to touch. He’s been a strong advocate for the game of touch and that it’s a key pathway into rugby league, plus his brother Jordan Marshall-King is a current Australian touch player, so we already have nice links with the Tigers, and we look forward to working with the club to bring the new Premiership to life.”
Parramatta Eels: “Some Parramatta Eels players – for instance, Bevan French – came through touch football, and now credit their speed, agility and ball skills to touch. This NRL club has been extremely supportive of the establishment of our Premiership, and we look forward to working with them to bring it to life.”
Newcastle Knights: “Newcastle is becoming Australia’s home of international touch football – the city will host our next Trans-Tasman Test Series, in 2020 and 2022. As well as Newcastle having a passionate touch community, we already have strong links with the Knights in that some of their stars – Kalyn Ponga and Aidan Guerra – are some of the many NRL players who came from touch football.”
Gold Coast Titans: “The Titans’ Ash Taylor is a proud former touch footballer and advocate of the sport, and we already have a Gold Coast Titans team in our Elite 8 touch football series – the NRL’s Titans and Queensland Touch Football have been partners for about three years now. Our touch Titans have some of the strongest talent in the country, including Australian players Pete Norman and Marikki Watego. We’re looking forward to having our Titans, male and female, showcase their extraordinary talent.”
Brisbane Broncos: “We already have an elite touch Brisbane Broncos club in our Elite 8 touch football series, and they’re one of the strongest teams in the women’s competition – they’ve made it to the Grand Final in 2018 and 2017, and took out the title in 2016. We’re looking forward to having our Broncos, male and female, showcase their phenomenal skills.”
North Queensland Cowboys: “We already have an elite touch Queensland Cowboys club in our Elite 8 touch football series, and they’re the strongest team in the men’s competition – they’ve won the tournament three years in a row. A lot of exceptionally strong touch footy talent comes out of North Queensland, including former NRL Cowboys, Matt Bowen and Scott Prince, who both credit their touch backgrounds for the talent they took into rugby league. And Cowboys head coach Paul Green played touch for the Australia school boys team.”