5 September 2023

Touch Football League kicks off with new rugby team and all-abilities competition

| Jen White
Start the conversation
Representatives of the 14 teams playing in this year's League.

Representatives of the 14 teams playing in this year’s Wollongong Touch Football League. Photo: Jen White.

Wollongong Touch Football Association has kicked off its 2023 season with an expanded competition and, for the first time, a program catering to young players with disabilities.

Vice President Tim Robinson said the association had partnered with the Disability Trust to launch its first all-abilities program, which would run alongside the I98FM Premier League, allowing participants to take part in skills sessions and games.

“There are many other all-abilities teams going around already and some of them are actually playing at a representative level which one day we’d love to get to,” he said.

“But small steps first. This year we will officially kick off our first all-abilities competition here at Wollongong, which is something that we’re extremely proud of.”

Disability Trust Senior Manager Michael Norris said the all-abilities competition would build on the successful Score Dragons program, which the trust has been operating for 14 years. That program has since expanded to Score Raiders and Score Storm in Melbourne.

“We wanted to create an extra opportunity for our participants to get involved in touch football, which is a great way to be a part of the local community, which is the most important thing, but then also develop the skills further than what they’re learning on a weekly basis here at the trust with the Score Dragons program,” he said.

READ ALSO Basketball journey comes full circle for NBL legends and former Hawks teammates

“Score Dragons enables people with disabilities to participate in rugby league, learn the skills associated and play touch football, so it’s a perfect match with the association.

“Our participants love rugby league, they love being out, being active and hanging out with their friends, no different than anyone else. So it’s great for them to do so on another day of the week, at least for that six to 10-week period.”

Michael said the all-abilities competition – which would cater mainly to 10 to 12-year-olds – was open to anyone, not just trust members.

“If we can make it really successful it would be an annual thing. We’d like to get 15 to 20 participants and anyone in the local community who wants to join is more than welcome.”

The Wollongong Touch Football League started with five men’s teams in 2018. This year it features eight men’s teams and six women’s teams, with the region’s best senior and junior touch players representing clubs from the Illawarra Rugby League and Group 7 Rugby League.

In another first for the league, the association has linked with Illawarra Rugby and welcomed the Shoalhaven Rugby Club to be represented in the men’s competition. The club has been undefeated since the middle of last season.

“We’ve had many of our Wollongong Devils players go on to represent in Rugby 7s and Rugby 15s pathways, including Rio Gold Medallists Nicole Beck and Emma Tonegato. It just goes to show that touch football can provide the key skills needed to represent in a cross code of rugby, just like those in rugby league,” Tim said.

Shoalhaven Rugby will join Corrimal Cougars, Wests Illawarra Red Devils, Thirroul Butchers, Dapto Canaries, Stingrays of Shellharbour, Jamberoo Superoos and Albion Park Eagles in the men’s division, while the teams competing in the Women’s Premier League are the Woonona Bushrangers, Corrimal Cougars, Dapto Canaries, Gerringong Lions, Jamberoo Superoos and Stingrays of Shellharbour.

READ ALSO Work underway on inclusive playground thanks to mum’s persistent lobbying

“This competition is awesome for our players who are going on to play in senior representative competitions that are coming up, and it’s fantastic to go and have really good hit ups here over the course of the 10 weeks leading into those representative seasons,” Tim said.

“But it also gives us a chance to bring some younger players through who are playing with these more experienced players which is great development for them so it also helps us at a junior level.

A number of top NRL players have taken part in the league over the past six years, including the Melbourne Storms’ Tyran Wishart, Brisbane’s Tristan Sailo and Adam Clune from the Newcastle Knights.

Games will be held on Monday nights for nine weeks, with a Grand Final night scheduled for Monday 30 October.

For more information and weekly fixtures visit the association website.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.