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Australia takes on New Zealand in men's, women's and open Tests in Mudgee this weekend and several of the players have welcomed the profile boost that has come out of an alliance between the NRL and Touch Football Australia (TFA).
Australia lost the previous Trans-Tasman series 2-1 with only the women's team beating their Trans-Tasman rivals, but the previous series in Mudgee was won by Australia in a 3-0 clean sweep in 2012. This will be the last meeting between the sides ahead of the 2015 Federation of International Touch (FIT) World Cup in Coffs Harbour in April/May.
"It's great to play in the company of the best players going around. This is why you put the training in and it's great fun," Men's Open Team member Matt Tope – an NRL game development officer – tells NRL.com
The alliance between touch football Australia and the NRL has allowed him to more closely combine his full time job with the NRL with his passion for playing touch at the elite level.
"It's brought together two of my worlds – working with the NRL and doing the development side of things and now being on the other side of the coin as one of the elite touch players and having to promote the game, now it's all intertwined," he says.
"It's a healthy thing for both sports."
Tope looks after the Cronulla region and works closely with the Sharks and says the new relationship with TFA is helping touch gain greater exposure.
"It's about making sure people know there's an elite pathway out there," he says.
"There's no better way to do it than having a base of players that have a connection with the game and that's where the NRL side comes into it. It's a great medium for us to get some exposure and for kids that are wanting to go a particular way that might not sit well with rugby league there's definitely a pathway of touch footy there for them.
"It's also a great way for mum, dad and two kids to play on the field at the same time."
Kylie Hilder, an NRL game development officer based in Foster and a member of the Australian Mixed Open Team, also welcomed the alliance between the NRL and TFA and says it has boosted the profile of the elite touch players, which has flow on benefits in terms of growing the game.
"Being able to have that connection with the NRL and touch football there's a bit of a connection with what I do in schools," she says.
"[Thursday] we had a clinic out here, for the first time we get to sit down and sign autographs like the NRL players would. Something like that means a lot to the players at this level, that we are an elite athlete representing our country, we do have kids that look up to us and show them that there are pathways, there's a bit picture at the end if they want to play touch football."
Maddie Studdon will line up for the Australian Women’s Open Team this weekend then back up for the women's all stars rugby league match the following weekend.
"I'm honoured to be able to play for the Australian open women's team – being put into this team at a young age is really good experience and I can't wait to get out there on the field," she says.
"Going to clinics [Thursday], talking to young girls coming up who want to play touch footy and talking about rugby league as well and how they're keen for that, the only thing they'd be scared of is tackling but that doesn't hurt – there's heaps of girls that are keen for touch and league!"
Studdon says there are plenty of young girls out there who are keen to get involved in both sports but just need to get the confidence up to give it a go. "The word needs to get out there more that these pathways are here," she says.
The squads are:
Australian Men’s Open Team
Willie Bishop – Collaroy, NSW
Stuart Brierty – Cronulla, NSW
Sam Brisby – Freshwater, NSW
Scott Buckley – Cambridge Park, NSW
Drumayne Dayberg-Muir – Ashmore, QLD
Terry Deegan – Horsley, NSW
Nick Good – St Clair, NSW
Tim Good – St Clair, NSW
Dylan Hennessey – Springfield, NSW
Michael Law – Townsville, QLD
Ben Moylan – Doonside, NSW
Rob Nakhla – Campsie, NSW
Pete Norman – Surfers Paradise, QLD
Matt Prowse – Cremorne Point, NSW
Steve Roberts – Caringbah, NSW
Matt Tope – Engadine, NSW
Australian Women’s Open Team
Kristin Boss – Little Bay, NSW
Elizabeth Campbell – Moggill, QLD
Danielle Davis – Cromer, NSW
Samantha Hopkin – New Beith, QLD
Jessica McCall – Towradgi, NSW
Sarah Peattie – Warriewood, NSW
Leah Percy – St Kilda, VIC
Ashleigh Quinlan – Seven Hills, NSW
Peta Rogerson – Mooloolah Valley, QLD
Catherine Sargent – Burpengary, QLD
Sarah Spacie – Camp Hill, QLD
Maddison Studdon – Tempe, NSW
Kimberley Sue See – Banksia Beach, QLD
Claire Tandek – Roselands, NSW
Marikki Watego – Cudgen, NSW
Louise Winchester – Blakehurst, NSW
Australian Mixed Open Team
Scott Bundy – Budgewoi , NSW
Simon Lang – Narraweena, NSW
Justin Mitchell – Indooroopily, QLD
Cameron Nicholls – Drummoyne, NSW
Sebastian Rey – Deception Bay, QLD
Michael Singh – Chinderah, NSW
Dean Springfield – Erskine Park, NSW
Dylan Thompson – Shortland, NSW
Trent Touma – Croydon Park, NSW
Kristy Brennan – Victoria Point, QLD
Kylie Hilder – Forster, NSW
Patricia Michaelopoulos – Croydon Park, NSW
Yasmin Meakes – Cardiff South, NSW
Elin Mortimer – Cabarita, NSW
Laura Peattie – Warriewood, NSW
Samantha Rodgers – Eastwood, NSW