History of Touch Football
In the Beginning
The game of Touch had very humble beginings indeed. Used as a training technique for Rugby League teams during the 1950s and 60s it was never seen as a sport in its own right. Eventually more and more people turned to touch for a safe social game to play and it soon became inevitable that an official competition would be held. It was in 1968 that the first recognised competition took place with the formation of the South Sydney Touch Football Association at Pioneer Park, Malabar. The sport quickly took hold in a number of inner-city areas of Sydney and the New South Wales Touch Association was formed in 1972, catering for six affiliated associations and approximately 1500 registered players. The first country association was in Wagga Wagga, which was formed in 1973, and womens touch was first played at a representative level in 1979.
Touch appealed to ex-footballers retired from the game through age or injury and to players not willing or able to play regular football but interested in playing `footy'. An increased awareness in fitness in the adult population and the inability or unwillingness of former footballers to engage in another sporting activity, coaching, or nothing at all, all served to develop the game.
Touch Football Develops
Touch later spread to a number of other NSW country regions before it became an official sport in Brisbane. From there it spread to every other state and territory in Australia, and the Australian Touch Football Association was formed in November 1978.
Although the skills of the games are closely allied to rugby league and rugby union, all heavy body contact has been eliminated. For example, there are no tackles, scrums or hard kicking. The emphasis is on running and agility, with hand passing and catching as core skills.
With the formation of these Associations, rules began to be standardised, although an official rule book was not developed until late in 1980. In September 1981 the sports name was officially changed from `Touch Football' to `Touch', though to many the sport has also been known as 'Touch Rugby'. A number of other changes followed, including the introduction of an official touch ball, which is smaller than a League or Union ball and some major rule changes such as the move from 7 to 6-a-side.
Recently the Australian Touch Association has re-branded the sport as 'Touch Football' in an effort to clarify that it is a 'sport with a ball'. Whilst kicking is not a feature of Touch football, the use of the term 'Touch Rugby' lends itself to an impression that the sport may be of a hard, physical nature, which is far from the truth.
Elite Competition Emerges
The earliest interstate clashes in Touch occurred when the Brisbane Touch Association representative team played a NSW (South Sydney) team in 1973, 1974, and 1975. NSW wanted to have this match played ten-a-side but Brisbane would not allow this and the matches were played 8-a-side on a standard Rugby League field. One of the games in the series was played as a curtain raiser to an interstate Rugby League clash. In 1976, Touch was played as a curtain raiser to the Sydney Rugby League Grand Final.
The first National Championships were held on the Gold Coast in December 1980, and these championships cater for some 700 to 1000 players and officials.
Prior to the advent of the NTL, the NSW State Teams dominated the National Championships. The Mens' won the National Championships 11 times between 1980 and 1995, and lost only 3 games in that period. The NSW Mixed Open won 14 times between 1980 and 1995 including 41 consecutive wins from 1986 to 1994. The NSW Women's Open Team won the Nationals 12 times between 1980 and 1995, and only lost 2 games in that period. This team went for 41 straight games without a defeat from round 4 of the Nationals in 1980 to the final in 1986. By 1987 all states and territories were fielding teams in the National Championships. Fifteen years on from the first National Championships, the game had managed to progressively grow and develop. The 1995 National Championships had expanded from its original three divisions, to eleven divisions, which included 1500 players and officials. In 1997 the National Championships was replaced with the National Touch League ? a national tournament designed to be the pinnacle of domestic competition in Australia, allowing competitors to identify with a regional area
Touch Goes International
In 1985 the Federation of International Touch was formed in Melbourne with Canada, the USA, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia the inaugural members. The first recognised international game was a test series played between Australia and New Zealand at the South Melbourne Cricket Ground on 23 March 1985. The game has continued to expand overseas with the last World Cup in Japan attracting teams from, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, USA, Scotland, Singapore and Papua New Guinea, among other teams.