Six NRL Touch Premiership clubs revealed
The Parramatta Eels, Wests Tigers, Newcastle Knights, Gold Coast Titans, Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys will field teams in a new NRL Touch Premiership to be played this year.
Each club will have two teams – a women's and men's – playing in the tournament adding up to 12 NRL Touch teams in total.
Both men's and women's games will be 30 minutes in length and will be played prior to the main Telstra Premiership game, starting on Friday May 18. The touch games will be broadcast nationally, in a mix of live and delayed times.
"We're grateful for the support these clubs are giving the teams and the Premiership, and we believe it will be exciting for young touch players 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," Touch Football Australia CEO Steve Mitchell said.
"These players, both male and female, have been playing touch football non-stop since they were five or so, and the speed, the agility and the skill level is just phenomenal.
"Touch football is Australia's largest social sport, so it's not generally considered a spectator sport, but everyone who gets the chance to witness the elite level of the game is in awe of how entertaining it is to watch.
"We've seen so many touch football players – from Benji Marshall to Kalyn Ponga, Bevan French, Matt Dufty and Maddie Studdon, for instance – move from touch football into the NRL. So we're excited about giving our touch players a tournament that allows them to showcase their skills in this sport on a national stage."
There are currently almost 4,000 touch football players within the Parramatta catchment, and Eels CEO Bernie Gurr said it was great to give players a tournament to showcase their talent.
"As a club we are a strong supporter of touch football both as a contributor to the development of our players, such as Bevan French, and as an important avenue for our members and fans to stay involved in rugby league."
Knights CEO Philip Gardner said touch players now had the opportunity to play at McDonald Jones Stadium in front of red and blue supporters.
"We are proud to be part of the inaugural Touch Premiership," Gardner said.
"Touch is a very important pathway into rugby league, and we believe the more people we can encourage to play touch or rugby league in the region the better."
Cowboys legend and Touch Football Australia board member Brent Tate said it was a massive coup for the Townsville region to have sides included in the inaugural competition.
"Touch football is a hugely popular sport in our region so I am thrilled we will have a presence in the first ever edition of the NRL Touch Premiership," Tate said.
"This competition is a fantastic innovation, which will help grow the game of touch football not just in North Queensland, but nationwide."