Touch is a minimal contact sport played on a pitch half the size of a rugby field (ie 50m x 70m). The game emphasises running, agility, passing, catching and communication. There is no tackling, lineouts, scrumming or kicking involved. This make it appealing to a wide range of ages and abilities, from juniors to masters and from slight to heavy builds.
The main aim of the game is for each team to score “touchdowns” and to prevent the opposition from scoring (One touchdown equals one point). Teams are made up of 6 players on the field at any given time, with up to 8 substitute players on the sideline. Teams are categorized into Mens, Womens and Mixed divisions (mixed = 3 male + 3 female players). Players can substitute anytime during the game and as often as they like.
Attacking players must perform a “roll ball” (between the legs) once they have been touched by a defender. Defenders must retire in a straight line 5 meters from the “roll ball” mark. After 6 touches, the possession changes to the other team for their turn at attack. Penalties are awarded for a variety of infringements including, forward pass, offside, touch-and-pass, roll-ball over the mark and over-vigorous play.
Touch started in Australia in the early 1960s as a social or “park” game and as a training technique for rugby league. It was not then viewed as a sport in its own right. It was formalised into a sport proper by the “Founders of Touch”, Bob Dyke and Ray Vawdon of the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club. On 13 July 1968 the “South Sydney Touch Football Club” was formed and the sport of Touch Football was born.
The first official game of Touch was played in late 1968 and the first official competition, organised by Dyke & Vawdon, was held at Snape Park, Sydney in 1969. From these humble beginnings the game quickly became a fully regulated and codified sport. It was first played in Brisbane in 1972 and by 1973 there were representative games. It had spread to New Zealand by 1975.
The establishment of the first national body, the Australian Touch Football Association came in 1976. A highlight came after the drawn Sydney Rugby League Grand Final of 1977 when the rematch needed a curtain-raiser and rugby league officials asked the newly formed ATFA to provide the prelude game. With a crowd of 40,000+ this game helped to raise the profile of Touch in Australia and was nothing short of spectacular according to Bob Dyke in the book “The Story of Touch”. Another profile raiser came in 1978 when the Sydney Metropolitan Touch Football side played the touring Great Britain national rugby league team in a high-scoring match, with the local team winning with a disputed touchdown on the siren. As more people began to play Touch more organised competitions developed.