NRL spotlight on elite-level touch football part of grand expansion plan
The Inaugural NRL Touch Premiership that kicks off on Friday at ANZ Stadium will be the first step in the NRL's grand plan to showcase the talent of elite-level touch footballers.
On Friday, the Parramatta Eels will face up against the Wests Tigers as a curtain-raiser before the main NRL event, when the Eels take on the Warriors for their round 11 clash.
This year there will be six men's and six women's teams that will participate. Three NRL clubs from NSW, and three clubs from Queensland, have teams in the Premiership: the Parramatta Eels, Wests Tigers, Newcastle Knights, Gold Coast Titans, Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys.
Touch Football Australia CEO Steve Mitchell told NRL.com with the amount of interest there has been there is definitely an opportunity for expansion, but first and foremost Touch Football Australia and the NRL want to ensure this year is a success.
"The response from the touch community nationally has been amazing," Mitchell said.
"There is definitely opportunity for expansion, as long as we get the product right. The athletes have a job to do and I'm confident they'll do their job.
"All of the affiliates have bought into it, the affiliates being the 360 competitions that are run nationally. They're super excited about the prospect of their athletes and their kids that have come through their pathways that are playing on these national stadiums and being broadcast."
With the way the NRL is moving forward in promoting the women's game with the announcement of the NRL Holden Women's Premiership, Mitchell says it was essential for the sport to showcase the talent of both their men and women that participate at an elite level.
"Touch football has been developing high-level elite men's and women's players for a very long time, this is just putting the spotlight on it," he said.
"There's a team for both genders, each club participating has an elite level female and an elite level male team and that's the beauty of the touch offering is the participation base.
"The participation base is almost genre neutral or just about 50/50, so we are very excited that we are able to promote the talented women that are in our game as well."