It is fitting that the 2018 National Touch League 2018 tapped off in Coffs Harbour today on International Women’s Day, since Touch Football Australia’s CEO Steve Mitchell points out that touch footy is the only team sport that’s always been played on an even field for women and men.
It’s the 50th anniversary of the birth of touch football – the first official competition was held in Sydney in 1968. And while five decades on, women are kicking serious goals in rugby league and other sports, female touch footballers have been highly celebrated since the start.
“Female touch players and teams have always been regarded equally when it comes to skill and ability, and treated the same,” says Mitchell.
“Touch is not about being a men’s sport, or a women’s sport; it’s about being a great sport for everyone. It’s one community for both genders and all ages, and you choose to play in mixed-gender teams.”
Samantha Rodgers, who is playing at this NTL for the NSW Scorpions in the Elite 8 tournament, the highest level of touch competition in Australia, agrees.
“I think it’s been great to see women’s sport take off, but it’s great that women’s touch has always been strong. Touch is just a community, it’s not split into men’s and women’s, we all play together.”
Rodgers also plays Touch for Australia, as does her boyfriend Sam Brisby.
“It’s great to have a partner in the sport and to see that we’re treated fairly and get the same benefits.”
“It’s all even, both men’s and women’s – we both sing the National Anthem, we’re both on the stadium fields, we get all the same facilities, it’s been great.”
Kerry Norman, a Touch Football Hall of Famer who has represented Australia 104 times as both a player and coach, and whose son Pete Norman is playing in the Elite 8 tournament here at NTL for the Queensland Titans, says it was an even playing field back in 1981 when she started playing.
“I definitely feel like the women’s game is valued. The men are always cheering on the women, the women cheer on the men, it goes both ways. There are no other team sports that have such a highly developed mixed-gender competition.”
“The male-female touch community being totally integrated is what attracts so many people to the sport. And it’s why you see so many people who’ve ended up meeting through touch,” she says.
Fifty-eight of the 123 teams at NTL 2018, which runs until Saturday 10th March, are Women’s or Mixed teams.